With Matt Kocyba, VAKOTA architecture and Rozlyn Cmiel, Cobalt Interiors
Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
What are clients asking for these days?
Personalization, innovative space planning and project management.
Rozlyn Cmiel: Personalization and innovative space planning – We seek to understand our clients, how they live, what is meaningful to them, what their version of beauty looks and feels like and then create a home that reflects their best selves. The journey that leads us there is full of looking at things in an exciting new way, finding interesting points of inspiration and considering our planet along the way. My approach to space planning, furniture selection and color schemes is: modern simplicity, less clutter, more mindfulness.
Matt Kocyba: Project Management – Managing a project involves listening to the client about their needs and guiding the design, along with them, through all the decisions that need to be made, whether it’s a 20,000 sq. foot home or a small stair design.
Our homes are everything: An escape, the center of our well being, where we connect with family, a place to rejuvenate, work space and school space. With our combined expertise we can meet all these needs.
Our clients explained to us, that it was especially helpful to them “having the architect and interior designer working together closely, which ensured that our home would be everything we dreamed of. Both brought new ideas and a perspective we could never have had on our own. There are so many special and unique aspects of our home–all of us working together as a team made it possible.”
Please tell us about the project. What did the homeowner ask for and how did you come up with your ideas?
Matt: The client was looking for a slightly industrial look, so I introduced the exposed decorative rafters concept to make the structure prominent in the design. The client wanted to bring more natural light into the spaces, and I wanted to break up the long horizontal roof. The best way to achieve both was to add dormers. It’s about working out the exterior design and the interior design space in tandem to make the form and function happen for both. A shed dormer above the entry gives it the feeling of a grand entrance and brings light to the interior. The Living Room also needed some interest and natural light. This created a balance to the exterior and a playful undulating visual when you look up at the ceiling on the interior. One dormer distinguishes the Foyer space and the other the Living Room space.
Rozlyn: This was a collaborative journey that ultimately lead to a unique style that reflected the aesthetic of the couple. Their styles and the way they envisioned themselves living in their home, informed all decisions. For the interior design, the clients were slightly at odds with each other, one asked for an industrial look and the other wanted something more classic. Our unifying elements became the simple, sleek, modern silhouettes of the furniture. Interwoven in the final design is a bit of classic elegance as seen in the shimmering coffee table and the graceful handmade ceramic lamps. The industrial elements were interesting to add: the future heirloom, hand crafted dining table with metal struts and a repurposed 1920’s NYC streetlamp pendant, industrial yet with a simple, elegant shape. We successfully blended styles while having moments of wonder, surprise and laughs along the way.
The space planning focused on a relaxed living space to spend with family – the cozy sectional sofa sitting area. Areas that were designed for casual entertaining are the large kitchen with waterfall island and dining table. Private spaces for rest, rejuvenation, wellness and work from home are separated from the public areas.
Tell us how you got into architecture/design. Where did you study? What in your background/growing up brought you to your career?
Rozlyn: My parents had the strongest influence. I grew up with my real estate developer father and my stylish, elegant, trendsetting mother. They loved to entertain and traveled the world. Together, they designed and built the modern homes I grew up in. Inspired by their travels, they incorporated artisan and global inspired details into their designs. I grew to have a strong interest in the decorative arts and studied Art History. I honed skills while working at an esteemed Greenwich-based interior design firm, Connie Beale, Inc. There, I learned to design in a variety of styles which enabled me to be diverse and design for the client, not producing and reproducing the same look. Projects included primary homes in Greenwich and NYC, as well as vacation homes in locations such as Bermuda and Sun Valley.
Matt: It was my mother who saw me as a problem solver and suggested architecture as a career. I studied in Charleston, SC at CSU after receiving a Track and Field scholarship and majoring in Pre-Engineering. Later, I transferred to continue my education in the Architecture program at KSC in New Hampshire. One of the most influential courses during this time was Architectural History, which I took with a local Architect, Daniel V. Scully, son of Vincent Scully, who was a Sterling Professor of the History of Art in Architecture at Yale University. I learned the influence that the art of architecture has had on the world.
Explain your collaboration.
Rozlyn: I admire Matt’s work and to put it simply: we like the same things. Matt and I can re-think and re-imagine a space and seek to repurpose whenever possible. This city loft-like, yet classic space in Greenwich was a brilliant vision of Matt’s. The space from a 1960’s ranch to a modern space has a timeless aspect to it. His designs are complicated, yet simple. Always brilliant, impressive and transformative.
Matt: Rozlyn and I share the same southern coastal style inspirations with a contemporary flare. By coincidence, that comes from spending time in Charleston. We work well together. We both like a simple rustic-contemporary mixed style of design. We agreed on the direction of the style with her interiors complementing the architecture seamlessly. Rozlyn is a great collaborator, she finds out what the client wants and then we talk about my intent for the design. She designs in tandem with the architecture to complement it. We would bounce ideas off each other, which allowed for us to move through the design and keep in sync with a cohesive style.
Talk about the interior details that pertain to your expertise.
Matt: In order to distinguish the kitchen space, I changed the exposed rafters with scissor trusses to lean toward the industrial look. By using a natural Douglas Fir, it would complement the harder surface of the counter tops with a softer, warmer material above. I’m always seeking to balance soft and hard or warm and cold materials with each other. Throughout the house, I designed slight stepping in the profiles and subtle details in the trims and the columns by using reveals and recesses to have shadow lines. It creates a sense of layering and overall texture. I configured trim at the dormer walls in a pattern that resembles traditional recessed wall paneling, but is scaled back and simplified, so you recognize it, but still works with the contemporary style around it. In all the bedrooms, I put in a simple stepping profile for a fairly flat crown that was applied to the ceiling instead of the wall. In the end, I would call this new style created “Conservative Contemporary.”
Rozlyn: I love designing areas for the small moments in life. Those are the ones that count. The custom bar is a favorite design. It creates an intimate corner, where the host might share a favorite new wine or a fun drink with a guest. The clients and I teamed up on this design, which was the joining of many elements. It came out beautifully. We were finishing it right before the Covid shutdown. Once the glass makers in Brooklyn were able to get back on their feet and open, we added the last piece: the custom antiqued mirror. I was thrilled to receive a photo text from the client of the bar with the glass in place and the bar set up, ready to pour some drinks. What a fun message to get! I love the view of the trusses reflected in the antique glass.
What are your suggestions for home buyers in the area? Are there particular new trends that people should tune into?
Matt: Homeowners buying an existing house should live in it first to feel out the layout, function, flow and enjoy their property before renovating and/or adding on to it. They need to figure out their needs and what fits or doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Our team at VAKOTA architecture will listen and work with them closely to provide the best design and customize it to fit their lifestyle.
Rozlyn: Homeowners need to make the most of the accessibility to the outdoors. We feel differently when we are surrounded by the beauty of nature. When remodeling or building a new home, think about ways to bring nature in with the views. Be creative, thoughtful and innovative in designing your home. Create a home that supports a more relaxed pace. It’s the everyday moments that count. Take advantage of wall space to enjoy art in your home. Seek a guide to assist you on the journey toward a secure and grounded space. Our homes should have a positive impact on our lives. To that end, space planning takes on more importance and function and will be seen in a new light. We will need to understand the clients’ needs based on purpose. Examples are gathering spaces, relaxation zones, Zen areas, private spaces and work from home/ remote learning from home. Kitchens remain the center of communing and wellness. Some spaces may be multifunctional.
How did you two get to working on this project? Give us a little background on the homeowners and how they came to find you.
Matt: I had been recommended to this client two years prior for the smallest project I’ve ever designed, a stairway.I’ve learned to take on work, no matter how small the design scope is because you never know what will become of it for future work. When the client purchased this new property – a dated looking Ranch style house, he contacted me to design the renovation of three rooms on the interior and give the exterior some curb appeal, including renovating the entry portico. As the design progressed, we were touching every room in the house. At this point, the client asked if I knew any interior designers and I recommended Rozlyn.
Rozlyn: Cobalt Interiors and VAKOTA architecture had worked together on a 6,000 square foot NYC showroom which included a café, conference rooms and workspace. I credit the clients with realizing that there was a synergy between Matt’s work and my own. I was very happy when I was asked to join the design team. The clients were great to work with.
Matt, tell us about the exterior details.
Matt: The most impactful elements on the house front façade was the addition of the vertical window trims. By extending the trim vertically from the roof eaves to the bottom of the siding it breaks up the long horizontal lines of the clapboard siding and it makes the facade appear taller. Custom brackets and a shallow trellis over the garage doors were also introduced, plus one over the office windows on the pool side of the house. The new flat roof portico added a more substantial formal look to the entry with its pilasters and columns that mimic the interior column design. The house is accented with copper flashing and half-round gutters that go well with the cedar shingle roof. It has a finishing contemporary touch with stainless steel cable railings.