Early this week, as we were resuming work after the holiday break, an associate exclaimed: This year marks the firm’s 25th anniversary, we should celebrate the occasion. Indeed, being in business for a quarter-century is a significant milestone, but how can one revel without reflecting on the path’s profound challenges.
After spending a decade designing waterfront and inner-city projects from Long Island, New York to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I landed in Virginia Beach, Virginia in February of ’93, tasked to manage the construction of an oceanfront home I designed for a client from Santa Cruz, CA.
New to the area, I rented a room at the Royal Clipper Inn on Atlantic Avenue. The client made space in his firm’s copy room for me, ironically at the same time, SNL’s “Copy Guy” skit was popular. (And yes, everyone called me “copy guy.”) After finding a home in Shadowlawn, my partner, Monique, relocated from Philadelphia, our former hometown.
We immediately established JRML, an initialism for Jon Rizzo and Monique Libby. I was responsible for “exterior design,” and she, for “interior design." Since ’93, Monique and I, along with a talented roster of associates and interns, have designed hundreds of custom homes, communities, kitchens, and baths, additions, residential and commercial interiors, and hospitality projects from Hampton Roads to as far south as Mexico.
Over the past 25-years, some of the highlights we have enjoyed include winning ten design awards. Helping shape the interior design curriculum at Tidewater Community College. Mentoring young designers through employment, summer internships, and TBA/HGTV design competitions. And having our work featured on network television and numerous shelter publications.
Was the journey easy? Not always. As design and construction are symbiotic, we suffered every case of unbridled greed and concomitant economic decline from the 1990s S&L crisis, to the Dot-Com bust of 2000, and the Great Recession of 2007. Through each crucible, our sought-after creativity, problem-solving skills, and business acumen saved the firm.
To Monique and I, designing is the “art of the lonely leap.” As seasoned designers, our success directly correlates with the intrinsic ability to know when, after much thought and research, we arrive at the optimal solution that satisfies a client’s needs. And how is this confirmed? Why from the smile-inducing notes we receive, containing prose that commends our effort, and reaffirms that our choice to pursue design was worthwhile and gratifying.
Cheers to another 25 years, and sincere thanks to every client for allowing us to do what we love!