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James Knafo Architect, Inc. 

Story by Mary Lee Ptacek

Clean, modern design is the forte of architect James Knafo, whose successful firm in Naples, Florida has thrived because of his commitment to his clients. Knafo believes that the strong relationships he forms are the best part of his job. “I’m really very fortunate to have worked with wonderful clients, from individuals to organizations and corporations. It’s a very enjoyable process when that trust develops between clients and myself. We work as a team to build the lifestyle that they’re dreaming of.” His projects reflect this commitment to the client’s vision, which he has prioritized over the course of his career.

Knafo came to Naples in 1997 to work with a classmate from Syracuse University. “After working with him for six years, I decided that if I was ever going to start my own business, I needed to do it then before another two-year project started.” Motivated by a desire to have control over his own projects, Knafo started his own firm out of the spare bedroom of his home. When his son was born, he moved his office to downtown Naples, where his firm has operated since 2003.

The work of James Knafo Architect, Inc. spans an impressive range. With projects ranging from elegant family residences to massive organizational headquarters, Knafo’s exceptional commitment to modern design is evident. Recently, Knafo and his team worked on the community center for the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples. “The organization very professionally made sure that I was given all of the resources I needed to design a successful project for them and to ensure that our relationship with the community would be very successful in supporting this project,” Knafo stated.  The community center design features clean lines, stunning triangular ceiling inlays, plenty of windows, and state-of-the-art security features. “The resulting building is definitely a product of the organization putting their program together very comprehensively and being sure that the whole design process was very well-organized,” Knafo stated. 

Knafo believes in prioritizing the client’s vision above all else. “Before pencil goes to paper, I’ll ask myself: what makes this client unique in regards to other clients? What makes the program of this building or house unique from other buildings or houses? What makes the site unique from other sites? Taking all of those unique features and trying to synthesize them into a design is the way that I approach it.” 

While the client and the site are the two most important factors in Knafo’s design process, his architectural philosophy has been shaped by many factors, including his study abroad experience. “By studying in Florence for a year, I gained an intimate knowledge of Renaissance and classical architecture. It helped me understand why it was appropriate for that period of time and that location. It also taught me that it was not appropriate for modern times and location. That’s why my work tends to be much more modern and not as adorned as classical architecture. You have to learn the rules before you can break them, and studying all the rules in Florence taught me all the rules about classical architecture.” Knafo knows which rules to follow and which to break, and he has utilized this knowledge to develop stunning modern buildings for his clients. 

Knafo’s commitment to the client’s vision and his approach to each unique site have led to the successful completion of many projects in the Naples areas. In addition to mastering this specialized process, Knafo is the only architect in Collier County who is also a licensed builder. His company, Concierge Contracting, only works on the projects that he designs, which is a major benefit for Knafo’s clients as it allows for seamless communication. “I can design your project for you and I can also build it for you,” Knafo states. Concierge Contracting only builds the projects that he designs, which means their resources are focused exclusively on his clients. This commitment to the client, from the initial design to the final touches, sets James Knafo Architect, Inc. apart from other design firms and construction companies working today.

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