Q & A with the Architects of our Best Outdoor Space

Learn how to adapt their winning strategies to your own outdoor spaces.
Todd Childs

The husband-and-wife team of Erik Vogt and Marieanne Khoury-Vogt work in tandem as the town architects for Alys Beach. While other architects do projects for the development, it is the job of the Vogts to ensure that each project adheres to the codes of Alys Beach’s iconic design. Assistant Home Editor Todd Childs picked Marieanne’s brain on all things Alys Beach.

Q: Clearly, Alys Beach stands alone in style. How would you describe your approach to the design philosophy of the development?
A: Our job is to implement the vision of the master planner and the developer. We try to facilitate the marriage of the courtyard/patio home with the needs of a modern community using architecture inspired by the white masonry of Bermuda.

Q: How would you say that Alys Beach differs from other developments along the coast of the Panhandle?
A: Well, the one comment we consistently hear is, “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” There is a serene nature. It’s restrained and elegant, but it also works with the natural environment. The sun and sky combined with the stark white of the buildings so it just seems like a part of the environment rather than an addition to it.

Q: Alys Beach has an interest in Green practices, right?
A: The developer had a strong commitment to Green practices for this project. Every team member looks for ways to incorporate these practices for big and little things.

For example, we built a lake on the property, and we aerate the water. This allows the natural iron in the water to settle to the bottom. The remaining water is then pumped back out to provide drip irrigation to all of our common areas. This iron-free water won’t form brown stains on the white walls. We try to focus on landscaping with plants that are drought- and salt-tolerant and will flourish without a lot of special attention. Also, we try to limit the use of pesticides that are not all-natural. So in the play areas, children can run around barefoot without their parents having to be the least bit concerned about chemicals or harmful agents in the grass.

Q: Does that attention to environmental issues extend to building practices?
A: Certainly, we try to adhere to the standards of the Florida Green Building Coalition. We try to encourage the use of as many sustainable practices as possible. Also, as regards the weather, our buildings are reinforced beyond what building codes require. We use impact-resistant glass. Any shutters you see here are aesthetic. So if homeowners are away and a hurricane is imminent, they don’t have to worry about shuttering the windows. The exteriors are strongly reinforced, and the nature of the island architecture that was used works with that. The eaves are very shallow and naturally offer less surface to catch wind and lift the roof.

Q: We’re impressed. What do you see as the future evolution of Alys Beach?
A: Well, the architecture and urbanism will certainly evolve. We don’t want to be static. I think you will see as we develop the beachfront properties that more architectural styles will be represented―Spanish, for example. There will likely be an introduction of more color and possibly different materials like wood roofs in the preserve area, where they would be a logical fit. There will be vibrant retail frontage. Some wonderful things will be happening.