When New Hampshire designer Treena Crochet told us she was in the green zone, she wasn’t talking about a fancy spa sporting reclaimed timbers and an infinity pool of reconstituted bottle caps. Crochet meant the military kind of green zone. Luckily, the protests and shooting didn’t get under way until after dark, giving her time to speed back from the University of Bahrain campus to the safety of her home in the zone.
As Tom Cruise begins filming Rock of Ages in New York this spring, droves of idling extras will be pondering an all-consuming question: is the ageless actor wearing shoe lifts, as he was purported to have done while married to Nicole “now I can wear heels again” Kidman? Before we explain what this juicy query has to do with design here in New England, fly like a crow 187 miles due north to Wilson Farm in Lexington, Massachusetts, where the local Audubon chapter is showing off Squeaky the owl.
Is taste a moral issue? You might think so, given the outcry from a handful of designers over Boston’s spanking-new, $500 million Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts. According to the anti-Wing designers, the new addition is a lost opportunity, an unexceptional box interchangeable with upscale malls, hotel lobbies and corporate headquarters anywhere in the world. They say Guy Lowell, who master-planned the 1907 MFA, would have croaked had he foreseen that such an anonymous structure would someday force itself upon his neoclassic palazzo.
Picture it: three boys playing tag in a wide alley. They dart between garbage cans and cardboard boxes, hiding in long, late-afternoon shadows. “Home!” cries a blond tyke. Breaking away from the others, he gloms on to a utility pole, embracing the boys’ base as though it were the last marble column left standing in the sack of Rome. “Home . . . safe!” If only that deep sense of safety were so easy to come by for us grown-ups. What makes us feel safe, like we’re truly home? We often hear people say, “This place is my sanctuary”—the adult equivalent of that utility pole in the alley.
In the old days you know what pitted one neighbor against another? Pigs. Here in post-Colonial New England there were pigs born free as the new nation, happily foraging around the neighbors’ hard-worked gardens. The ensuing culture clash uprooted the community spirit as understaffed swineherds skirmished with overworked agriculturalists. Exasperated town fathers enacted countless regulations pertaining to reimbursement for crop and livestock loss and standards for fence maintenance—mainly in vain.
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.
The heady mix of summer rain and sea air on a Providence street. A trellis of concord grapes behind a suburban Boston Victorian. A battered trunk in an island cottage off Portland, Maine. Certain things can trigger memories so powerful they bring water to the eyes of grown men. These are the scents, sounds and spaces that transport us to childhood like the freshly baked madeleines in Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past.
“Run, it’s the Client from Hell,” says the meticulous young draughtsman to the office assistant. The Client from Hell breezes by them to corner a bow-tied gent we shall call Edmund S., the firm’s principle. E.S., as he’s known on Cape Cod and in Westport, Connecticut, wears a goatee with a purposeful Mephistophelean air. “Everything must go!” the client says. “It’s just awful. I need you to get rid of it.” E.S. raises an eyebrow, more amused than angry.
What do architects and designers do with their design muses? Do they go Dutch at Dunkin’ Donuts or stroll lazily around Luxemburg Gardens? And what do they look like, these design muses? Are they all from Central Casting? You know, those beatific caryatids locked for millennia in their roles as support columns for tourist-swamped Greek Temples? Are they, in fact, a kind of invisible support staff or are they equals, or lovers and superiors, cruel and impetuous when thwarted?
It's 2010. The party's over and we're sprawled on the sofa with a world-class hangover. A wall of problems looms overhead: war, poverty, disease, global warming, nuclear proliferation—each one a brick set by some devilish mason. How do we design our way over or around or through this wall? Where are the leaders going to come from?
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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.