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The Color Purple
Remember way back in June: the loose knots of beautiful design people gathering at South Boston’s Artists for Humanity Epicenter, the snap-to-it parking valet rushing to meet and greet, the bare-shouldered bar-tenderess stirring up blueberry tart cocktails courtesy of Cold River Vodka in Maine, more intermingling throngs, more air-kisses, the streamers of buttery-yellow orchids by Winston? Many remember. And along with such spirit and good-feeling that uplifted us at this publication’s 5 Under 40 party, we also recall sadness this summer. Endless footage of pelicans smeared with deadly grime, of balls of tar washing up on Gulf Coast beaches, of tired-looking men and women mourning a way of life that may be gone forever.
How did we let this catastrophe happen? How did we lose our connection to nature and to our fellow humans to this degree? It’s sad and scary but it’s also an opportunity for designers and architects to lead the way in restoring our sense of connection—to nature and to each other. And it’s amazing how the 5 Under 40 embrace this challenge. Reconnection is more than a common theme, it’s everything to the next group assuming positions of influence and power: re-connection to nature, to family, to the senses. Creating objects is secondary or tertiary. Cases in point: At 5 Under 40, there were rugs designed by the honorees, produced by Landry & Arcari and offered for sale in a silent auction. Each beautiful, each unique. But would anyone bid? So many in the crowd were young people still paying off grad-school loans. Woodmeister co-owner Kim Goodnow good-naturedly bid high for all, starting a friendly bidding war throughout the evening. Woodmeister’s Chief Sustainability Officer Dan Paquette acted as the emcee, ushering in over the babble of the crowd this new breed of designers and architects bent on re-establishing our connections: architects Hansy Better Barraza and Stephanie Horowitz, interior designers Meichi Peng and Patrick Planeta, and furniture designer Quentin Kelley.
Making global connections is Jeff Arcari, son of Landry & Arcari’s Jerry Arcari, who just returned from motorcycling around Pakistan to find himself holding a blueberry tart cocktail under a canopy of orchids. Arcari was in India and Pakistan combing dusty backgrounds in search of weavers. How dangerous is it along the Afghan border? “Well, I try to look like a native,” he says, pointing to one of his own innovations: an Aubusson patterned after scarves he saw Afghan women wearing and asked refugee weavers to scale up in Pakistan.
Making connections through design can be more complex than quantum physics. There are many stakeholders in addition to the client. Outgoing ASID president Lynda Onthank launched a partnership with the Room to Dream Foundation with a long list of stakeholders all centered around a very brave, chronically ill four-year-old client named Jonathan. Ranking high among Onthank’s stakeholders were the colleagues she represents: “I wanted to do the project myself before recommending Room to Dream to the ASID membership. I had to know what was involved.” One of her clients stepped forward with an anonymous donation, and Doug Hanna of S&H Construction in Cambridge, Massachusetts, volunteered the construction. “Jonathan was living in what was really just a screened-in porch,” Onthank says. “We partitioned his room in two, building a wall to give Jonathan some privacy and providing an ADA-approved space for the round-the-clock nurses. We created the remaining space for family visits.”
If there is one connection designers and architects are reluctant to make it’s to a particular style. “I’m more interested in meeting the needs of the client,” is the common refrain. And for good reason—no one wants to be typecast. All the same, what designer doesn’t maintain connections in a certain direction? There are even strands of connection to the future. Nader Tehrani, an MIT professor and architect/partner at Office dA in Boston, sees a complex of new technologies guiding his work. The result he says isn’t a particular style but a “thicker plot.” The ever-increasing number of “skins” or cladding for new homes may not evoke a particular style but will almost certainly be stylish. Where else besides on Paris runways can you find so many choices involving color, texture and pattern, not to mention durability and sustainability? And what about high-fashion pleating and darting for the clothing of homes as well as humans? Tehrani’s integrating those techniques into his thicker plot as well.
Fashion and interior design do intersect. “Purples, especially dusty purple” will connect the two disciplines this fall, predicts designer John Berenson. “We’re seeing purples in all the stores at Copley,” he says. “Saks is featuring it on corduroys for men and Hugo Boss just did their window in it.” Berenson was in the Boston Design Center recently when the elevator opened onto the Robert Allen showroom. “There I saw the color!” Berenson says. “They had painted the entry area the dusty purple that’s all over Copley and that I have been forecasting for fall interiors.” If you want to try this at home, the paint color at Robert Allen is Sherwin-Williams’s Exclusive Plum (#SW-6263).
Design takes on a certain radiance connecting one generation to the next, connecting young hands to an experienced eye. Allison Perry Iantosca of F.H. Perry Builder was brought up in the business by her dad, Finley H. Perry, who was just awarded Legend of the Industry 2010 by the Home Builder’s Association of Massachusetts. Says Iantosca about her first memory of Dad the not-yet-legendary builder: “Sawdust. The smell of sawdust. A workshop that was a wonderland to small eyes and hands. A work bench with glue blobs, tools splayed, carpenter pencils and the awkward and rough lead tip, a wood burning stove. A flannel shirt, spilled coffee... and sawdust.”
For Lucy Dearborn of the new 8,000-square-foot Lucia Lighting Showroom in Lynn, Massachusetts, LED technology marks a new era, not just in sustainability but in aesthetic possibilities. “We’re now able to commission fixtures never seen before,” she says. “Our design clients want something unique: signature fixtures, chandeliers and walls sconces. We just made a hanging piece of distressed bubbles in charcoal and topaz with silver leaf. An LED is sitting on top, but you can’t see it. There’s no glare and no visible source for the light. It’s like Cinderella’s slipper glowing magically.”
In closing, suffice to say that our connection to the world is often a play of sad and glad. Architecture critic David Dillon died at sixty-eight this summer. That’s the sad part. Dillon lived architecture with all his heart, writing the book on leading Boston design firms such as Kallman McKinnell and Wood and Ellenzweig Associates. Now here’s the glad part: he also taught, and turned a lot of students on to design who otherwise might have remained oblivious and connection-less. “He was wonderful for our kids,” says Amherst College art professor Carol Clark. “David made a point of taking them out of the classroom to actually experience architecture. Many had no idea they were even in a built environment until David showed them.”
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New England Home showcases the unique architecture and superior design and building that define the luxury home in New England. From cutting edge lofts to historic dwellings, New England Home is your guide to the very best of New England style. Each issue includes beautifully produced images of our area’s most amazing homes, along with profiles of artists and artisans and all the latest resources and design trends.