Glen Oxford has been designing some of America’s most original and coveted houses for decades. MILIEU’s Editor-at-Large, Shannon Bowers, spoke to him at his Nashville office about architecture and why it matters to him—and to all of us.
How did you discover your passion for architecture and when did you start your career?
It happened in high school, while working at a manufacturing facility assisting design engineers in creating circuit boards for the equipment at the facility. I was intrigued at seeing them designing, drafting and producing the circuit boards all within a day. So, I attended a local technical school in the architectural engineering department. After graduation, I enrolled in Auburn University’s School of Architecture. In my work now, I travel almost every week. In my travels, I always seek out architecturally significant sites. I can’t tell you how many times I have visited Taliesin West and Arcosanti while visiting Arizona, The Egg in Albany, New York, or the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. I love design and the history of design.
Tell us about your firm, Oxford Architecture, and the team you’ve assembled.
Oxford Architecture is a small firm. I am currently the only licensed architect in the firm and I’m proud to say that I’m licensed in 47 states. I have two project managers that should be licensed shortly, a senior project manager and a few assistants. Our projects range from residential to all types of commercial, including restaurants, retail stores, offices, and also specialty projects.
Describe the architectural process from start to finish in a typical ground-up project.
For residential projects, we start by interviewing the client while they are interviewing us. We want to make sure the chemistry is solid between the two parties since we’ll be together for the duration of the project and, hopefully, beyond. Once we decide that we want to work together and the business part is complete, we discuss their needs and desires, how they live, work, and travel. I might ask them, “What is the first thing you do when you wake up? What is your day-to-day routine? What you do to relax?” We then present our ideas, sketches, and thoughts. Receiving feedback is important; some clients really get into the process and give back great detailed information. From the completion of the design, we move into the finishes and details. This is a very exciting phase, since you can feel the project coming alive. Then to see it start coming to reality during construction is where you see the details come together. Interior design is a major part of the success of a project, as well as landscaping and lighting.
How do you make projects and spaces personal to each client and context?
Through the programming and design process, you identify areas that your client feels close to and want to integrate into their new home. We have a current project under construction where the clients want to reuse some of their furniture. These are nice pieces and we designed areas to fit these pieces. Art is another major factor that needs to be thought out—for placement and lighting. Another client is in the commercial kitchen business and he wanted to incorporate some notable appliances, something we knew at the beginning of design and, so, we incorporated these items.
What is the role of an interior designer in your projects and how do you all collaborate?
Having a designer on board from the beginning is very important to the success of a project. I have been fortunate to work on several projects with Rozanne Jackson, my wife, founder of Rozanne Jackson Interiors and The Iron Gate. We share offices together so we are able to meet any time of day to discuss projects. She has other clients, of course, and works with other architects as well, and we work with other designers. But while working on projects together, we are always thinking of the design. During the weekends at home, I often pull out sketches and we sit down and discuss some things, such as how the furniture works in a room or even about the lighting outside. We are more relaxed at home and we can leave it and come back when another thought comes to mind.
What elements make a project particularly meaningful and memorable to you?
Elements, or details are very important. A view from a space, the alignment of elements that nobody will see unless studied, lighting, especially on the exterior, can make or break a design. When executed properly, you end up with an amazing feel. Site alignment is key, too. We have one project on the Florida Coast where I designed every room on the upper two levels to have a view of the Gulf. Again, you don’t notice this until you have stayed there long enough to notice.
How has the designing and building process changed in the current “COVID climate” and what do you see happening currently that will affect projects in years to come?
We still meet with clients in person, wearing masks and taking precautions. On local projects, I have requested hand-sanitizing stations and masks be onsite for the protection of the client, workers, and our team. Travel is a bit inconvenient. We have been driving to some sites. Our business has not slowed down and we are seeing more families moving to Nashville from the Northeast, the Pacific Coast even from the Midwest.
Finally, what’s the one thing that every architectural project requires?
Having the right team members in place from the start is of the utmost importance. And second is “Patience”.
For more information, please visit oxfordarchitecture.com or call 615-256-3455.
We are excited to announce that Oxford’s new home in Alys Beach, Florida, in which he designed with his wife, will be featured in the coming MILIEU FALL 2020 issue. Subscribe now for this issue to be mailed to you.
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INTERVIEW BY SHANNON BOWERS
ARCHITECTURE BY GLEN OXFORD
Photography courtesy of Peter Vitale for MILIEU Magazine.