Kovac Design Studio is a multidisciplinary architecture and design practice focused on the realization of meticulously crafted, highly personalized private residences, and mixed use spaces.

About

Over our more than two decades of experience, we have honed our expertise working with a wide range of constraints and creative challenges. Our values, forged by years of frequently invigorating, and occasionally humbling experiences, are simple. We are not ivory-tower designers. We are committed to the environmental integrity of our work. We strive to provide the highest level of service to our clients, and to imbue our projects with meaning and enduring quality.

Team

Shawn Brown
Senior Associate

Shawn is a New York licensed architect, designer, educator and avid adventure traveler. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech and an Master of Architecture from Cornell University where he stayed on to teach architectural design before moving back to New York in 2005. With over 16 years of diverse professional experience practicing and teaching architecture and design in New York and California, he brings a unique design perspective to the table. In addition to working with several leading architecture firms before joining Kovac, he also held the role of Design Director for NY Projects, where he collaborated with internationally renown architects and designers on several collections of design art and furniture. While his aesthetic predilections for craft, detail and beauty have always underpinned his work, he also believes that beautiful design is an extension and reflection of its user and therefore develops every new project with that in mind. Primarily focused on high end modern residential design, Shawn has been recognized both academically and professionally winning international design competitions and jury selections for his completed works. It’s not all work and no play however. When not designing, he may be exploring the world with a camera, a motorcycle, and perhaps a fine bourbon (but not while riding of course).

Anton Ellis

Anthon grew up in Wisconsin drawing skyscrapers and sport stadiums at an early age, which triggered his passion for architecture. He later received a Master of Architecture from Kansas State University. During his graduate studies, he attended Ghost Research Laboratory, a design-build educational program in Nova Scotia. His experiences at Ghost and other hands-on initiatives have influenced his interest of pairing modern detailing and materiality with local vernacular craft. When he’s not in the studio or watching the Packers, Anthon enjoys shooting over-par, international travel with his wife, welding, exploring National Parks, and just soaking up Los Angeles’ eternal sunshine.

David Garnett

David is a native of the glorious San Francisco Bay Area. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from UC Berkeley then went on to work and teach at the University of Detroit Mercy, helping community groups revitalize and rebuild their neighborhoods. Eventually he moved to Los Angeles, obtained his Master of Architecture from UCLA and has since become a California licensed architect. David has worked on numerous residential, commercial and institutional projects of various scales before joining the Kovac Design Studio team. Off duty, David relishes competitive trail running, triathlons, and inhaling sawdust in his workshop. Otherwise, you’ll find him coaching his daughter’s soccer team or cutting up endless orange slices for the team!

Anne Frances Han

Anne hails from the East Coast but as a person who is perpetually cold, she feels confidently that she was meant for a life in SoCal. Anne grew up in a small university town where her mother always described her as a “big tadpole in a small pond.” Attending the very university in her hometown, it wasn’t until her time studying abroad in Rome that she first got to escape the “small pond.” She earned a Bachelor of Architecture as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Penn State University. She spent time working in Connecticut before moving to Los Angeles. In her free time, she volunteers as the preschool teacher at her church, serves as a mentorship chair at AWA+D, and serves as the Director of Children’s Ministries at a medical missions organization which volunteers at orphanages in Mexico.

Robert Hunt III

Robert hails from the great mid-west and joined Kovac Design Studio after earning his Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture from THE Ohio State University. He appreciates the finer things in life especially rock n’ roll, college football, and comic books. The latter is a major influence in Robert’s work, informing both his design process and the architectural scenes he so beautifully renders. In the limited time he is not either watching or thinking about college football or building models in Sketchup, Robert enjoys soaking up the LA weather on long runs and drives with his wife, Jess, and two dogs, a Maltese and Yorkie-Poo.

Kevin Johnson

Kevin grew up minutes from the ski resorts of the Colorado Rockies and is, unsurprisingly, an avid lifelong snowboarder. He eventually found time to get a four-year degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and later graduated at the top of his class with a Master in Architecture from the University of Texas in Austin. His professional experience is diverse; he has worked on a pedestrian bridge in Austin, affordable housing in Santa Monica, and a school of music at UCLA. He is also an avid surfer, mountain biker, and guitarist, and says he enjoys woodworking although nobody we know has seen anything he has made.

Michael Karp

Michael, our office manager, has long indulged his interest in architecture by working in related fields. His enviable resume includes work as a location manager for the motion picture industry, a location photographer (in the course of which he was privileged to shoot many important residences in Palm Springs and Los Angeles), and as an office manager for an award-winning general contractor. A proud Boston expat and Syracuse University alumni, Michael remains an outspoken supporter of his eastern teams despite moving to the Left Coast (some would say too outspoken).

Karen Kitayama

Karen received her Master of Architecture with a concentration in History Theory and Criticism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning. She received her B.A. in Architectural Studies and Art History at UCLA.  While at MIT, she participated as a researcher for OfficeUS, the US pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. Previously she worked for various firms and cultural institutions. When not researching or designing, Karen’s interests include being out in the ocean longboarding or scuba diving, or lounging at home with her Pomeranian and American Eskimo.

Michael Kovac
Principal

Michael was born into an Air Force family in coastal Maine, and his extensive travels as a youngster included long stays in Okinawa, Japan. Early influences – aviation, aircraft, and exposure to non-Western cultures – would later subtly inform his work. Michael’s family eventually settled in Las Vegas, from whence he subsequently escaped to the saner confines of the USC School of Architecture on a Trustee Scholarship. Early in his career, Michael worked in the office of noted modernist Jerrold Lomax, before founding Kovac Architects (now Kovac Design Studio) in 1988; he soon earned a number of commissions for high end health clubs, commercial spaces, and detail-rich residences. Michael is passionate about design and innovation; not only in architecture, but also in industrial design and lighting. To this end, he is directing the office’s work on a line of lighting for mass production, as well as several pieces of furniture to be available in more limited release. Michael is, as they say, ‘outdoor-sy’, and experimented with just about every outdoor sport REI sells gear for before settling on mountain biking, stand-up paddle-boarding, and downhill skiing. He and wife Karina, a pediatrician, met while trail riding. She keeps his elbows bandaged, and her excellent vegetarian cuisine has moderated his penchant for hot dogs and In-N-Out Burger (or so he claims). They share a love of nature and sustainable living, and moved into Sycamore House, the firm’s first LEED Platinum project, in the Spring of 2010.

Tyler LaFontaine

Tyler discovered his passion for architecture after being asked to renovate his parents’ home in Hampton Roads, VA at the age of 15. Following his dream, he received a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech and has utilized his skills to discover the interplay between architecture and environment ever since. When he’s not busy sketching or making models, Tyler can be found playing inner-tube water polo, breaking it down on the dance floor, or just enjoying a day at the beach.

Jaclyn Merlet

Jaclyn was raised on idyllic Cape Cod, the oldest of three daughters in a DIY family, at an early age she was ingrained with an enthusiasm for architecture and design. While always a New Englander at heart, Los Angeles indulges her interests in SoCal modernism, vintage furniture finds and the beaches are a close second to those back home. Jaclyn earned her Bachelor of Science at Smith College and a Master of Architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle, with her thesis on LA River rehabilitation evolving into a lifelong pursuit.

Alex Morris

Alex was born and raised on Eastern Long Island and his interest in architecture stemmed when his parents’ renovated and doubled the size of their house in the early 2000s. He continued onto Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, earning both his Bachelor of Science and a Master of Architecture. Following Superstorm Sandy and the effect it had on the local area, he began focusing on resilient design strategies and dedicated his work and research on this topic during his graduate thesis. Following the completion of his degree, he was fortunate to be awarded the Thesis Award for his work on the subject. His professional experience since graduating has been primarily single family high-end residential, developing and designing the beach houses he marveled at growing up near the ocean. An avid explorer, you can expect to find Alex training for his next triathlon along the coast or out hiking the many valleys, canyons and mountains of the southwest.

Cecilia Quintero

Cecilia grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, where she graduated from El Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) with a degree in architecture. A licensed architect in Mexico, she partnered at a design/build firm and later headed her own residential practice before joining Kovac Design Studio. Growing up with a twin brother twice her size, Ceci’s quick wit and rigorous athletic regimen were developed by necessity at any early age. Known by friends and collaborators for her gentle and soft-spoken nature, Cecilia loves flamenco, fashion, kickboxing, and being the tallest woman in the office.

Daniel Rodriguez
Senior Associate

Daniel hails from idyllic, politically harmonious Caracas, Venezuela, and joined Kovac Architects after graduating from USC, where he earned a Master’s in Construction Management. Due to visa intricacies, Daniel’s first stint at the office was brief, and he returned to Venezuela in 2000. There he spent three years teaching at the Central University of Venezuela and running his own design/ build studio. Daniel rejoined the growing Kovac Architects team in 2003, where his drive, professionalism, and rock-climbing prowess have earned him the title of Senior Associate. With over 20 years of professional experience, Daniel has worked on a myriad of projects ranging from corporate logos to an unrealized Concert and Opera Hall for the Venezuelan National Archives Building. He also holds a B.Arch from the Simón Bolivar University. In his free time, Daniel loves doing art projects with his two children, Mateo and Kaia. If his accent confuses you and you find yourself asking whether he said yellow or Jello, the answer is probably Jello. Dark Cherry is his favorite.

Gabrielle Sacknoff

Gabby is the office’s undiscovered competitive eating champ; born in New York, she spent time in Puerto Rico and mostly grew up in Arizona. She credits the geographical and cultural diversity of her formative years for her interest in urbanism and communal spaces, and her adventurous palette. She has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arizona- during her tenure there she participated in the 2009 Solar Decathlon and studied somewhere called Orvieto, Italy. As a transplant to the West Coast, Gabby enjoys the easy access the mountains (snowboarding), beaches (for “beaching”) and food trucks. Her challenges at work include learning how to eat Honeycrisp apples quietly.

Thomas Schneider
Senior Associate

Thomas is a California-licensed architect who has worked across projects of multiple scales including high-profile residential, commercial and adaptive re-use projects. Born and raised in Sao Paulo, and trained in Canada, Germany, and LA, Thomas brings an international perspective to what he designs and builds. In his 20-year career, Thomas’s projects have been honored in significant publications, and with design awards. He is a natural problem solver, cherishes/values , and is enriched by, the lasting relationships formed during the life of each project’s - from conception, to construction. Thomas has taught and lectured, and has been actively involved in community and non-profit organizations. In his free time, of which there is little with a set of twins at home, he flees to the outdoors, always energized by the wonders of LA.

Chris Trettin

Chris “The Trettin” graduated with a B.Arch from Iowa State University and first traded the cornfields of the Midwest for the Big Apple, where he practiced for several years before switching coasts. To say Chris is unflappable would be an understatement. He is respected by his colleagues for his almost superhuman tranquility, which is coupled with a laser-like focus on his work. Agile and efficient with a touch of class, if the devil is in the details; Chris is your savior. Chris’ interests include his mustache, Ducati, and iPhone, he also has a nostalgic appreciation of American muscle cars, and enjoys golf, cycling, and being outdoors.

Derek Woods

Derek spent his time as a child roaming the many construction sites of his parents' log home company. Engaging with the architecture as it was being composed established a deep connection with design and fabrication. Growing up in the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, he earned the title of valedictorian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. With great importance placed on travel and new experiences, he traded his snow-pants for board-shorts and moved to Los Angeles, where he received a Master of Architecture degree from UCLA. While seeking architectural licensure, Derek has developed a multitude of architectural experiences from small, private residences abroad to large scale theme parks across the country.

Ioanna Zachariou

Ioanna was raised in Lebanon alongside her four siblings. Being the eldest meant she had first dibs on reading her dad’s comic books, a great privilege! Born into a family of architects and having witnessed first hand what it does to a person, her parents thought she was crazy when she claimed the profession as her calling. She holds a D.E.S. from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts, in Beirut; and for the past seven years, has put her multicultural heritage to use in enriching her work. When not taking notes of architectural details while exploring the city of angels; you can find her immersed in a book, looming over her oven crafting delicious baked goods, or playing with rescues at the local dog shelter.

Our Process

1. DISCOVERY
Our projects are as unique as our clients. At the beginning of each project, we listen thoroughly to each client to understand their unique requirements. Believing that “a problem well-defined is half-way to being solved”, this allows us to develop a nuanced program, which we further refine with the client to ensure that the end product is perfectly in tune with their way of life.

2. DESIGN
Our work is guided by principles, rather than by a preoccupation with a particular form or formula. We explore each site’s characteristics to better understand how they can be optimized, taking advantage of topography, views, sun angles, and prevailing breezes. Constraints become virtues. Our work is crafted to be warm and inviting, to maximize the potential of each material, to have a richness of detail, and to heighten the user’s experience. As our work progresses, multiple iterations of each design are developed and reviewed with the client.

3. DOCUMENTATION
We believe it is essential to understand materials and construction options fully in order to assist our clients in deciding where their budgets are most wisely invested. No stone is left unturned when developing details and preparing documents; research, digital modeling and mock-ups are all a part of the process.

4. BIDDING AND PROCUREMENT
In addition to producing documents, we advise clients on their selection of a qualified builder, and carefully review and compare bids for accuracy. We understand the importance of comparing contractors and sub-contractors for their experience, the quality of their work, and their commitment to delivering projects on-time and on-budget. Beginning as early in the process as possible, we work closely with builders to ensure details are worked out in the most cost-effective fashion, and potential pitfalls are spotted. Finally, we draw on our experience to help locate the fabricators and suppliers necessary to achieve the aesthetic goals of the project.

5. REALIZATION
Our design team remains actively engaged throughout construction. Though we endeavor to anticipate all situations in advance, our active involvement in the construction process allows us to proactively address unforeseen circumstances if they occur. We hold routine site meetings with the project team, and stay in close contact with both the on-site construction supervisor, our consultants, and the client. For geographically distant projects, site visits occur as often as schedule and budget will allow, and progress is monitored via webcam.

6. HABITATION
The only constant is change, and so our engagement after completion extends beyond merely responding to routine maintenance issues. We understand that our client’s needs are dynamic, and that their buildings and spaces need to evolve with them. While we strive to build adaptable, flexible structures, technology, family dynamics, and stylistic attitudes change. If the need arises, we look forward to the opportunity to be involved.