Shared aesthetic boosts Del Mar couple’s relationship in both business and marriage
By Claire Harlin
Driving around North County, one may notice a similar style among projects like the Beach Haus condos in Solana Beach, the homes of Boca Del Mar, the Stratford Woods condos on Stratford Court or the immaculate home on the northern-most coastal edge of Del Mar, which can be seen prominently by Dog Beach-goers as waves spray onto its windows at high tide.
Those structures’ modern, clean white lines reflect the signature style of architectural firm Batter Kay Associates, headed up by longtime residents Michael Batter and Janice Kay, who are both partners in business and in marriage. The couple has designed more than 200 homes during their nearly 40-year career together. Most of their projects adorn the North County San Diego area, and they continue to attract clients who seek them out with a distinct style in mind — that of a Batter Kay home.
“Most people know what we do and come in because they want something like that,” said Batter in a recent interview. “We’ve had people who thought we would do another kind of building, mainly back in the early days, but we always said, ‘No, there’s other people who can do that.’”
The couple’s style has, for the most part, embodied the same characteristics over the decades — modern, with sharp corners and white in color, as to provide contrast between indoor and outdoor spaces — and, luckily, the two come together with a common style.
“Maybe that says something about why we’ve lasted,” Batter said with a joking nudge to his wife.
Kay added, “We don’t really know any different … We work over the table, discuss things and give and take, but it’s much easier when you know what the other is thinking.”
Perhaps the two developed their similar sense of style from the same place that both their relationship and their careers were born — Harvard University. Batter remembers meeting Kay when he walked into one of the drafting studios to tell someone they had a phone call, and while the couple didn’t remember all the details, they knew it was from that day when they began dating. Batter was from Connecticut and Kay was a Del Mar native, and he said when he moved to Del Mar to follow her after school, he wasn’t sure that it would be permanent.
“It was a whole new world to me,” he said. “I sublet my apartment thinking I may go back, or that maybe Janice would change her mind and come to the East Coast.”
Kay retorted, “Never.”
“Obviously she never did,” replied Batter, “and I never wanted to leave in the end.”
During their Harvard years, many edgy architects had a presence at the Ivy League architecture school, which was at that time headed up by well-known architect Josep Lluis Sert, and Batter said it’s likely his company’s style can be in part attributed to that. The couple has also kept the traditional method of building three-dimensional models, a strategy that has in large part been lost to the emergence of computer design programs.
“We find that you can see a lot with the use of a model, even though people don’t really draw and make models anymore,” said Batter. “Computers work well and they have a place, and we still have the capabilities to use computers or do computerized walk-throughs when the client wants that.”
When the couple started their firm in 1975, Del Mar was a place of innovation when it came to modern design.
“Back then it was progressive,” said Batter. “Del Mar was known for its modern design.”
However, elsewhere shed roofs and cedar siding were commonplace back then, which Batter said “made it fun in those times.”
“It still is fun,” Kay added.
And in keeping the marriage fun, the two still connect on their common passions, traveling together and getting to see amazing architecture and art all over the world that they both admire.
“We both are really interested in one aspect of the world and that’s design,” said Batter, adding that they love to collect furniture and art. “I guess that’s what’s kept us together, professionally too. We have a shared aesthetic.”
For more information on Batter Kay, visit
- Office location: 2195 San Dieguito Drive, Del Mar, 92014; email@example.com.