Project Alys Beach Residence
Architect Khoury & Vogt Architects
Alys Beach is a Traditional Neighborhood Development in the Florida Panhandle whose architecture fuses the indigenous beach-combing cottages of Bermuda and the welcoming open-air courtyards of Antigua, Guatemala, the colonial capital of Central America.
Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico on scenic Route 30A, the resort town is located between its older New Urbanist siblings, Rosemary Beach and Seaside. The three were designed by the town planning firm of DPZ and Partners.
Some 30 of the resort town’s pristine white stuccoed residences and several of its public buildings and outdoor spaces have been designed by the wife-and-husband team of Marieanne Khoury-Vogt and Erik Vogt.
They began as the town architects and now run their own boutique firm, Khoury & Vogt Architects. They also make their home in Alys Beach.
A Dreamy Vacation Home
One of their latest projects, a 4,950-square-foot vacation home with a soaring atrium and infinity-edge rooftop swimming pool, was commissioned by an Atlanta couple who wanted a relaxing retreat where they could hang out with their three daughters and son, all of whom are younger than 10.
“They were entranced by Caliza Pool, an Alys Beach amenity we had designed years earlier,” Khoury-Vogt says, adding that they are avid outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy biking and swimming. “And they had one mandate for us—they wanted water everywhere.”
The location of the larger-than-average beach-side lot—it is 5,100 square feet—proved fortuitous for the design team, which also included architect Jason Hill, the project manager. It borders a park on the south that the architects had designed a few years earlier and fronts the long axis of a public pedestrian walk on the east.
“The parti of the house’s volume along the street is arranged to reflect these two urban conditions, with the main two-story façade centered along the eastern walk and the entry zaguan forming a monumental portico on axis with the long park,” Khoury-Vogt says.
Inspired by their clients’ vision of a spa-like retreat, Khoury & Vogt Architects created a spare, sculptural design with an abundance of indoor and outdoor spaces and a neutral, calming color palette of whites and grays.
“We restricted the palette of materials and forms,” she says, “and relied on generally neutral tones and repeating design motifs.”
She points to the simplicity of the plaster stair halls, which are designed to capture and accentuate the play of natural light on their sculpted surfaces.
The heart of the house and its most architecturally significant feature is the grand-scale tetrastyle atrium, an exotic and unexpected element.
“It was important for the family to have a generous space that connected directly to the public rooms of the interior, but could contain outdoor elements like a pool, spa, and fireplace,” Khoury-Vogt says. “The courtyards at Alys Beach are commonly designed as galleried and landscaped spaces, modeled on Central American precedents, but we looked back to more ancient Greco-Roman forms, where the court is much more room or hall-like.”
The square atrium the team designed is first encountered by guests as they enter. It is reached via a gated entry from the open zaguan, which is defined by a series of arches.
Four tall columns within support a wooden roof with an open compluvium at its center that allows rainwater to fall into the sunken impluvium. Decorated with a mosaic inlay of dancing fish, the impluvium doubles as a shallow play pool for the children.
The atrium’s wooden ceiling is composed of spaced wooden boards whose edges are cut into the shape of stars, a motif that is repeated throughout the house. Below this “night sky,” stainless- steel curtains whose beads resemble raindrops define the central opening, which also can be viewed from the upper terrace.
“The beads can be tied or braided, which the children love to do,” Khoury-Vogt says.
A raised spa pool, embedded in a recessed iwan at the court’s western wall, overlooks the space. It is flanked by tall arched alcoves in linen-white stucco that serve as intimate seating spaces.
The interior of the house is arranged like a necklace around the atrium court. On the east side and aligned with the zaguan and park beyond, the living and dining rooms and kitchen form a barrel-vaulted great room whose scalloped ceiling is studded with beams of white oak.
“These rooms are designed for relaxed living,” Khoury-Vogt says.
The dining room’s modern white-oak table is connected to the kitchen’s white marble island, forming a two-level functional sculpture that plays off the kitchen’s plaster range hood.
“They didn’t particularly want a large kitchen, so this space is more modest,” Khoury-Vogt says, adding that there’s an adjoining pantry for extra storage space and a built-in cabinet in the living room wall that houses a wet bar.
Formality really takes a vacation in the sleeping quarters. The rear master suite, a private retreat with its own landscaped court, is on the first floor, behind the atrium’s spa.
A circular window, with the home’s signature star motif, forms the headboard of the bed. Like the connecting sofa, it is custom designed in wood and plaster, integral with the surrounding walls.
A double-height stair hall leads to a guest master suite at the front over the living room and the children’s wing over the master suite.
“We used more color and lower ceilings to create a more intimate feel in the daughters’ rooms,” Khoury-Vogt says. “And with Shirlene Brooks, the decorator for the house, we created a built-in platform for three queen-size beds in one room so each girl could invite a friend for a sleepover.”
The atrium roof forms a wooden terrace between the two wings, which leads to a stone-paved terrace over the entry that has a metal vine-covered trellis.
An additional flight of steps leads to the residence’s final surprise—a tiled infinity-edge swimming pool that, from its surface, seems as though it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
The architects are pleased to note that the family uses every room in the house. “As architects, that’s the greatest compliment we can get,” Khoury-Vogt says.
The first day the owners spent in the house, they sent a photo of their three girls gleefully jumping into the rooftop pool.
“They were in mid-air,” Khoury-Vogt says. “It perfectly captured the home’s exuberance.”
ARCHITECT AND INTERIOR DESIGNER Khoury & Vogt Architects (Erik Vogt & Marieanne Khoury-Vogt, Principals; Jason Hill, Project Manager)
FURNISHINGS Shirlene Brooks
BUILDER Davis Dunn Construction
POOL CONTRACTOR Cox Pools
LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR PLC
STEEL-TROWELED STUCCO A&S Stucco
EXTERIOR MILLWORK AND GATES E.F. San Juan
PAINTING AND STAINING Lockrem’s Painting
CUSTOM METALWORK Creative Metalworks
MASTER BATH FLOOR AND CUSTOM VANITIES Medusa Stone
DOMINICAN SHELLSTONE Marmotech