Kovac Design Studio is a multidisciplinary architecture and design practice focused on the realization of meticulously crafted, highly personalized projects

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

Luiza Kapreliants

Growing up in a small town in the severe climate of Russian Siberia, Luiza decided to move to Moscow to pursue her architectural education. She earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Moscow Institute of Architecture (State Academy) - the oldest and most highly regarded architectural school in Russia, where they still luckily instill the craft of drawing by hand in all students! After graduation and working on various residential buildings in the historical heart of Moscow, she continued her education at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), which is almost the antithesis to her Russian academic education. When she's not drawing colorful sketches, you will most likely find her by the pool or at the beach contemplating life and telling scary (funny) stories about Siberia.

David Garnett

David is a native of the glorious San Francisco Bay Area. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from UC Berkeley and 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 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!

Joanne Engelhard

Born and raised between Lima, Peru and Miami, Florida, Joanne started noticing design at a young age. The juxtaposition of the diverse architectural styles seen in Peru and the modern high-rise buildings of downtown Miami sparked her interest in architecture. She went on to study at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Graphic Design. There, the beautiful mansions along St. Charles Street ignited her passion for residential architecture. Looking to stay in a warm (but less humid!) climate, Joanne packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles to join the Kovac Design Studio team. In her free time, you can find her at home (probably reading), at the beach (definitely reading) or checking out new restaurants, music venues, and vintage shops (not reading but with a book in her purse).

Kevin Johnson
Associate

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 of 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 Jourdanais

Michael is originally from the quintessential, coastal, New England town of Newburyport, MA. Growing up, he spent his time catching lobsters and traveling throughout Europe with his family. At 8 years old he was hand sketching the Notre-Dame Cathedral and taking extensive notes in his journals on his thoughts of european architecture (and pastries). Years later, his pursuit and love of architecture lead him to Vermont where he received his Master of Architecture degree. With over a decade of experience in high end residential design in New York City, he packed up his two dogs and headed to Los Angeles for more opportunity and sunshine! Michael has a keen eye for design details and a love of warm, modern aesthetics. In his free time, you can find him on endless road trips exploring any and all of the magnificent National Parks or catching up on science fiction with his pups!

Samantha Mendez

There are three things you know about Samantha after you first meet her: she was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area, she always has something planned to keep boredom at bay, and she knows where to find the best Mexican food. Samantha's love for the city she grew up in is only matched by her passion for art and design. Her father's career in architecture helped foster Samantha's initial enthusiasm for art and eventually led her to her degree in art with an emphasis in Painting and Photography from San Diego State University. After graduating, her interest in art and design merged into a career in interior design. When she isn't gushing over furniture design and stone slabs, you can find Samantha checking out live music in Highland Park or hunting down the perfect plate of chilaquiles.

Michael Kovac
Founder/Design 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.

Paola Gomez-Pineiro
Thomas Schneider
Managing Partner

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 have received numerous design awards. He is a natural problem solver who cherishes, and is enriched by, the lasting relationships formed during the life of each project 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.

Noelle Kichura

Growing up in a small Vermont ski town, Noelle knew early on that she wanted to travel and learn as much about the arts as she possibly could. After earning her Bachelor's from Boston University, she pursued her Master's in Design History, Theory, and Curatorial Studies with a focus on modernist architecture from Parsons School of Design in New York City. While there, she gained a rich breadth of design experience ranging from teaching to research, writing, archiving, and exhibition dressing for various institutions including the Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Arts and Design. She moved to Paris to complete her postgraduate research in conjunction with the Fondation Le Corbusier, taking on creative projects that took her to London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and beyond. Upon finishing her degree, Noelle moved to Los Angeles where her interest in design history and all aspects of its mediation led her to join Kovac Design Studio as their Director of Communications. She is fascinated by the intersection of space and emotion and spends her free time hunting vintage furniture, painting, listening to too many podcasts, and missing Vermont Maple Syrup.

Jay Lee

Having received his Bachelor’s degree from Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea, Jay went on to earn his Master’s in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, during which he collaborated with Perkinson, Will, and SOM in Chicago. Between programs, he worked for the Construction Administration in the Korea Army Corps of Engineers and Design Competitions at Gansam Partners. Upon finishing his degree, Richard Meier & Partners in Los Angeles brought him onto their San Diego Federal Courthouse project, and the construction was completed with enough time for Jay to get a taste of Southern California's beautiful weather. He excelled at the role of Project Architect for the Changsha Civic Center, Ward Village and One Beverly Hills projects, after which he focused his attention on running smaller projects before joining the team at Kovac Design Studio. He is a registered architect in Illinois and California, and when not keeping busy with work he enjoys racing, hiking, and snowboarding.

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).

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.

Justin Li
Kylle Roehm

Hailing from Arizona, Kylle always had a passion for drawing and creating which lead her to pursue architecture. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arizona where she had the opportunity to volunteer for Freedom by Design, which fostered in her a desire to articulate design through craft and attention to detail. Working in Tucson during school and after graduation, Kylle gained a better respect and understanding for the desert landscape and designing with a sense of place. But after many years in the desert she looked forward to something new in California (which is much more tropical), and relocated to Los Angeles where she joined Kovac Design Studio. When not at work, you might find her building her own furniture, drawing, traveling, or spending time on her newest hobby- trying to spend as much time by the beach as possible.

Robert Hunt III
Associate

Robert hails from the great mid-west and joined Kovac Design Studio after earning his Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture from 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.

Lynn Tarbox

Lynn grew up in Connecticut, but escaped the suburbs soon after graduating high school to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. While at Drexel, she spent four years working for a local firm specializing in multi-family residential and adaptive reuse projects. After graduating, she decided on a whim to pack her things and move west in search of palm trees, sunshine, and modern architecture (all a rarity on the East Coast). Since relocating to LA, Lynn has worked on a wide range of project types, but enjoys custom residential design the most. When she’s not diving deep into the building code (she is a California Licensed Architect), she’s probably at home gardening or cooking or out and about trying new restaurants and enjoying live music.

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 went on to study at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, earning both a Bachelor of Science and 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 research to this topic during his graduate thesis and was fortunate to be awarded the Thesis Award for his work on the subject. His professional experience since graduating has been primarily focused on single family high-end residential projects, 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 when not at work.

Erik Yarosh

After growing up in the small town of Bedminster, New Jersey, Erik moved to California to study architecture at Cal Poly: San Luis Obispo. Since graduating, Erik has accumulated a wide variety of creative experience ranging from high-end residential to public art, commercial, and music festival design. Erik is a LEED accredited professional and is actively pursuing licensure. When not focused on architecture, he enjoys the sport of ice hockey as well as the diverse Los Angeles music scene.

Anh Vo

Anh grew up in the tropical heat of Sai Gon, Vietnam. After graduating from Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture with a Bachelor of Architecture, she worked for nearly four years at a respected local design firm where she earned a wide range of experience in projects of various scales from concept to construction. In 2016, Anh decided to pursue her Master of Architecture degree at the University of Southern California where she worked hard to graduate later as a member of the Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society. Anh is also LEED Green Associate accredited. She has been enjoying everything this SoCal adventure has exposed her to, such as the cool weather (that's right, cool weather compared to Vietnam), and endless food options around Los Angeles.

Natalia Kleszcz

Born and raised between Cracow, Poland and Vienna, Austria, Natalia got a creative spirit from her parents, who both were were avid fashion and design enthusiasts. A love for travel and appreciation for brutalist and modern architecture ultimately led her to study outside of her mother country. Natalia holds a dual Master's Degree in Architecture and Urban Planning from the Cracow University of Technology, certified by the Royal Institute of British Architecture, as well as one in Architecture and Construction Design from KEA in Copenhagen. Bored with Eastern European rainy weather, Natalia got a one way ticket to Los Angeles in hopes of using her experience to invent unique spaces with a high attention to detail. When she’s not busy designing residential projects, you can find her exploring iconic architecture in the Hollywood Hills, hunting vintage furniture (chairs in particular!), and dancing to the melody of her favorite records with friends.

Christos Kyratsous

Christos grew up in a family of doctors and lawyers but decided at an early age that his true calling was in neither field. A bit artistic in nature, he went on to study Architecture at the prestigious Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. Nine days after his graduation he got on a plane and flew to Los Angeles to work with Craig Hodgetts to design Elon Musk’s Hyperloop as part of UCLA’s SUPRASTUDIO program, the full-scale mockup of which was showcased at Dwell On Design’s 2015 exhibition at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Later that year, Christos earned his Master's degree from UCLA and has been working on highly detailed single-family residential projects ever since. In his free time, Christos enjoys exploring the City of Angels for the best coffee shop, being out and about with his wife and daughter, and FaceTiming with his family and friends in Greece.

Tyler Johnson
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 since moving to the US 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.

Thomas Whitehouse

Thomas Whitehouse was born and raised in Long Beach, California. He continued his hometown tenure when he attended and graduated from California State University of Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts in Design. Thomas holds the title of In-House 3d Visualizer as well as Eternal Optimist. Thomas has always had a keen interest in architecture for its finer details, lighting, materials, and composition. When he’s not smiling at the office, his hobbies include hiking, photography, and travel (while smiling).

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.