Writing Workshop Acclaim

 

Breakout groups at the 2014 IFDA design writing workshop get serious.

Breakout groups at the 2014 IFDA design writing workshop get serious.

Louis is a great writer and teacher of writing. I can almost guarantee that you will walk away with tips you’ll use in your social media content and strategy!S. Bradford Smith, President, Architectural Electronics, Inc. | Audio Video Design, Security Design Consultants & New Elements | Westwood, Osterville & Nantucket, MA & Portsmouth, NH | www.avdesigns.com

I took part in four of Louis’ workshops back in the fall of 2014 to better enhance my academic writing for the purposes of marketing in the architecture and design world.

Held in four separate locations, Louis’ workshops bring you into new locations centered on some niche in the world of design. Through a roundtable discussion on what you’re looking to improve on, Louis caters his questions to each member of the group, asking for their reasons on why they want to become a better writer. 

What makes Louis successful in this endeavor, is in encouraging you to find your inner voice, by participating a collaborative group setting with many different participants. In a setting where everyone learns from each other, Louis guides the writing process in a calm fluid manner over the course of two hours.

Louis emphasizes better writing through many different exercises, while acknowledging different styles and methods.

He will often ask people to read their exercises out to the group in a professional setting. The act of moving to a new location every week helps the creative juices flow.

Louis showcases his expertise by often encouraging others to close their eyes and imagine a setting where one has only been for a few minutes. Through hearing others reflections and Louis’ own, the act of creative writing becomes much less fragmented and has allowed me to slow down, flourish, and find my inner voice.

Thank you Louis! — Cameron King | Business Development + Outreach Coordinator | PAUL LUKEZ ARCHITECTURE |Somerville, MA | www.lukez.comContinue Reading

I attended all of Louis Postel’s workshops last year and it was fabulous to learn about the writing process from such a talented writer. I felt Louis provided a collaborative and supportive environment as we all shared ideas each week.

“By the end we had drafted a founder’s story, two project descriptions and two proposals. We learned what was unique about each of our businesses and how best to convey our stories clearly, concisely and with a little spice.

If you have trouble writing about yourself or your business, Louis will get you started in the right direction! — Marilyn MacLeod, Designer | Artist, Lee Design, www.leedesign.biz

As a photographer for interiors, I was encouraged to write about my unique skills in a way that would capture the interest of my target audience.

Workshop participants were reminded of the importance of rewriting and editing our work. I appreciated the individual feedback from Louis on my writing. This was a great workshop for me as I take my business to the next level. — Elaine Frederick, Photographer, Providence, RI

I participated in the 2014 workshop and am glad that I did. It was a marvelous opportunity to learn from Louis Pastel.

He helped to structure the writing and put my wandering thoughts in order. It was especially important for me being not a native English speaker. The workshop were intensive, very creative and used a lot of non-trivial teaching techniques.

Everything was tuned up to the specific auditors – mix of artists, architects, interior designers, decorators and web designers. However when my husband, who is a software engineer, joined the class for one of the sessions he found it useful and entertaining as well.

My feeling is that everybody found something new and interesting to learn.Tamara Wolfson | Muralist | www.aplusmurals.com

I attended a few of the writing seminars led by Louis Postel as part of an educational series offered by IFDA. Although each one was available as an individual session, after my experience at the first one, I wanted to attend as many as I could fit into my schedule.

Louis taught by using techniques that were easy to understand and remember. By creating an inviting and non-judgmental atmosphere, he was able to help each participant use simple strategies to enhance their own writing.

No matter what role a person has in a company, they have to communicate by writing. Louis is able to hone each person’s skills to make their emails, letters, and promotional literature more impactful.Beezee Honan, Designer Bath, Salem, MA

As a designer, I’m so focused on the visual part of my job and that is how I communicate with my clients.  There’s a lot of intuitive thinking about what I show people and what I don’t.  The hardest part comes when someone asks me to explain – in words! – how I came to that design decision and that’s where the writing workshop really helped me. 

I simply did not have the tools to organize my thoughts. Pathos! Ethos! Logos!  How to start at the beginning – the challenge – and get to a Solution. I didn’t realize I was skipping over steps.

The workshop really helped me analyze and then share in a much more confident way.  (I missed it when it was over!). — Susan Corson, Susan Corson Designs | www.susancorsondesigns.com

Linda Vantine at the IFDA 2014 Writing Workshop

Linda Vantine at the IFDA 2014 Writing Workshop

 “ Louis Postel’s Writing Workshop is a perfect launch, inspiring you to discover how  to express what has made you proud. It gave me the confidence to take the next step in writing a powerful, distinctly precise , yet natural statement. Louis guides us in ways to tell a story by what is important, with a feeling of appropriateness, happiness, and excitement. I highly recommend taking every class in the series. You will feel at home at each new venue, and you will learn from everyone in the class.”

 Linda Vantine, ASID

www.VantineInteriorDesign.com

I find Louis Postel’s writing workshops enormously helpful in framing the way to tell the story of my client’s projects and efforts. His experience and insight is an invaluable resource. And the fact that he is open-minded, witty and charming doesn’t hurt, either! I highly recommend Louis Postel’s writing workshops for anyone who wants to craft a better story and sharpen their narrative skills.

Cheryl Savit

PR/Marketing Coordinator

Feinmann, Inc.

Owner, Savvy Words

 “Louis Postel’s guidance in his Executive Writing Workshop helped me to uncover and to become comfortable with my own mission statement and founder’s story. I can tell the long form of that story as background while a client is selecting one of my textile creations, or can easily access the “elevator speech” version as I hand out my card.  My mission is clear in my mind, so it can be clear to a client.  Thank you Louis!”

 Lauren Teller

www.silverlininglifestyle.com

www.happyhead.today

Writing for Results with Louis Postel

Writing for Results with Louis Postel

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When Clarity Meets Creativity

Louis Postel in white shirt leading a writing workshop at the Boston Design Center last year

Louis Postel in white shirt leading a writing workshop at the Boston Design Center last year, sponsored by the International Furnishings and Design Association of New England

When Clarity Meets Creativity

Introducing Writing Workshops for Designers, Architects, Makers, and Builders with Louis Postel, Contributing Editor and Writing CoachContinue Reading

♦  Louis Postel is available to travel nationally from his Lexington, MA home base.

If you are interested in booking Louis Postel for a presentation or workshop, please contact Broadview Marketing at info@broadviewmarketing.com

Or call Jennifer Driscoll at 401.965.8237.

Over the years Louis Postel has written and/or produced feature articles, columns, captions, custom magazines, niche magazines, blogs, blurbs, advertisements, and even a few films.

Credits include: Showboats International, New England Home, Robb Report, Wynn, Boston Magazine, Worth, and Design Times.

Designed expressly for Architects, Interior Designers, Builders, Suppliers and Marketers in the design profession, Louis Postel offers workshops that teach the essentials of academic and professional writing.

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Postel’s Latest Trade Secrets

Louis Postel by Rockwell, Mixed Media

From Trade Secrets by Louis Postel published in New England Home

Back in April, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston introduced a show called D is for Design (through February 22). The curators juxtaposed works on paper from its own collection, a refreshing and synergistic mix  of design, art and architecture — disciplines that in our specialized, super-efficient world feel unnaturally compartmentalized.  Each practitioner was awarded a letter, just for fun — L for stained-glass-window maker John Lafarge, and R the architect Aldo Rossi, who gave us the Alessi tea kettle. 

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Steinberg Feb 3 2014-61

Kitchen designer Sarah Steinberg of Maine is liking Quartzite.

Excellent idea, but why stop there? Why not alphabetize everything.  New England 2014 certainly merits a letter designation, at least its first two quarters — namely, a capital U for  highly Unusual weather.

Who can forget the Polar Vortex of January and February clipping us from the Artic flip side of global warming? It was so cold for so long, many of our heartiest designers, builders and architects, among others, took to constructing custom igloos in their backyards. How do we know this? When the snows finally melted, emptied bottles of Sam Adams and Grey Goose began to appear on lawns from Portland to Hartford.

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The Design Comedy

First published in New England Home May/June 2014 | Trade Secrets by Louis Postel

Deep in the dark woods of design Dante first described in the Inferno 1308-1321.

Deep in the dark woods of design a professional might easily find herself lost in mid-career. After all the meetings and memos, calculations and re-calculations, what does it all mean? What do I really want?What do my clients want? What does the world want?

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She (or he) was so sure for so long…and now not so sure, despite all her successes. Like Dante on the slopes of 13th century Florence, she’s about to embark on a journey through the inferno. But not alone.  She has modern day spirits to guide her wherever her work life takes her Bar Harbor, ME; Lake Winnipesaukee, NH; Little Compton, RI; Boston Garden where gathering shades of designers past crowd its paths.

Trade Secrets is no such visionary spirit guide, no poet Virgil, but we did take it upon ourselves to ask for some direction about where the industry is headed. We began with all 67,443 members of LinkedIn’s Interior Design group and 25,491 members of its Architecture + Interiors group. Where we asked lay the future of design?

“In tranquility, simplicity, and naturalism,” said Pari Ya Bahmani, who studies architectural engineering in Zanjan, Iran. “In imagination,” said designer Andrea Houk in Washington, D.C. Jeanette Cataldo, closer to home in Saugus, MA heartily concurred. “In functionality,” said Lim Pay Shin, an interior designer in Singapore. “In awareness,” said Monique Menard, a designer in Montreal. “Awareness of our clients’ basic needs and aspirations and at the same time to be aware that we need to be doubly creative in our designs respecting the environment.”

Beth Marie Robinson

Beth Marie Robinson

“In authenticity,” advised Orange County, CA designer Paula Oblen. “It drives me crazy when you see these young couples on TV home shows. As long as they’ve got a granite countertop and some stainless steel appliances—that’s it—they’re happy. No thoughts about layout, storage, lighting, traffic patterns. I guess it’s our job to educate when we can.”

“In a Renaissance,” said designer Dibby Flint of Kennebunkport, ME and Milton, MA, “which is to say in  renewed respect for classical design coupled with creativity infusing every space.”

Peter Wooding

Peter Wooding

“In value, but also in beauty and function as part of the creative process—those have to take a high priority,” said Peter Wooding of Providence, RI. “We have a strong conviction that aesthetics is not cosmetics, but something that goes much deeper to the very heart of the way people experience an environment.” A professor at RISD, an interior designer, as well as an industrial designer, Wooding’s flatware for Dansk, lighting for Nessen, and seating for Jofco might inspire anyone to find his way out of the dark wood where mid-career design doubts linger.

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More Trade Secrets

We defended "An appeal to the Great Spirit"
Louis as Dante by Valery Rockwell, Mixed Media

Louis as Dante by Valery Rockwell, Mixed Media

On the New MFA wing and More

from Trade Secrets by Louis Postel first published in New England Home

Art or office park?

♦ It is not for us to argue that taste is a moral issue.

Still, what’s with this handful of nervy designers knocking Boston’s spanking new, $500 million dollar American Wing at the MFA? What side are they on in Boston’s bid for cultural supremacy and tourist dollars? How will their critiques brace us for the brutal battles that lay ahead for the honor of hosting blockbuster shows of Monet, Mummies, and Mapplethorpes?

The anti-Wing designers’ argument boils down to this: the new wing is a lost opportunity, an unexceptional box interchangeable 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.  We can certainly understand this position, but can equally sympathize with the pro-Wing designers insistence that it’s time to abandon the pretentious, musty and pseudo-aristocratic Palazzo fantasy  and move on.

One anti-Winger recalls how as a young girl habitually late for her art class she was scampering along the MFA’s palatial five hundred feet of freezing, wind-blown granite facing Huntington Avenue. The Indian, the Great Spirit of Creativity beckoned her with outstretched arms. Up the marble steps to John Singer Sargent’s luminous rotund she sped. In the rotunda she found herself entranced, marveling at how she had been transformed from a shivering waif in Boston’s February dusk to an Italian princess! It was magic.

No such magic was in store in the MFA’s New Wing for our princess waif. This particular anti-Wing designer/architect complained bitterly about the stairs leading to the new galleries brought her to an inauspicious set of fire doors and a tight landing where she was to confront the steely jaws of a freight elevator. This was nothing she would even dream of doing. “Creating a welcoming transition from one space to another is an essential part of the design vocabulary,” she explained.

Now let’s transition from this pro and anti Wing controversy – this tempest in a Paul Revere teapot  — and consider how design vocabularies are extending themselves to the home.

What a challenge: creating change from room to room, outside to inside, public to private that is warm, welcoming and rational. The pressures on built space to perform per every square foot, to “maximize its potential” are huge.  How often are we going to descend palatial staircases in ball gowns, anyway? The design vocabulary keeps changing to reflect these realities.

Jeff Stein is currently on sabbatical from his position as Dean of Architecture the Boston Architectural College.  Like Thoreau, Stein quips, he’s now mainly at home by Walden Pond with some months to think and write.  Stein, for one, heartily approves of the transitions and treatments of space in the New Wing. “It’s not like the usual faceless, darkened galleries with stuff in them. I enjoy its scale – how it allows for many different views.”

“A transition is not like slicing an apple in half. Now you are in one place and then you are somewhere completely different. It needs to evolve.  You recall that house we did for your folks in Cambridge: front yard, porch, house reaching out, inside a place to take off your boots. The black and white tiles made it a little formal. It was welcoming but did not presume an instant intimacy. A curved staircase brought you to the second floor living area over your mother’s studio. The staircase itself was narrow. There was a feeling of compression going up. Then it opened on this brilliant space filled with light from a long, exposed south wall. You were a different person than when you were outside a minute ago.”

An appeal to the Great Spirit before the MFA

An appeal to the Great Spirit before the MFA

After an arduous decade turning around a spy satellite company, Carey Erdman changed careers five years ago to interior designer.  Guests transitioning to his roof deck in the South End are often amazed at what they find — a lush container garden Erdman created “like a whole extra floor.”  In his clients’ homes, he has used botanicals in other ways to mark transitions:  One example: “We can alter the perceived depth of the space by placing dark, coarse plants in the foreground beckoning you into the room and fine textured, lighter plants on the far side.  Some coarser plants might be a large fiddle leaf, split leaf philodendron or even a hybrid banana; the more finely textured, lighter leaves might include dracaenas or aralias. We can signal a change of purpose or energy in a space with botanicals, as well: grouping lush, tropical plants around a soaking tub for a spa-like, private feeling; or bright, blooming plants in a breakfast gazebo to provide a sense of fresh energy as you start your day.”

Wendy Valliere and friends

Designer Wendy Valliere has offices in Stowe, VT and Nantucket while spending a lot of time in Europe. “We just did a large apartment on Boulevard St. Germain in Paris and now we’re totally restoring a Georgian castle on a 1,000 acres outside London.” Valliere offers her own way of creating a welcoming transition: “I love to introduce a home with a ‘view corridor.’ That is to say, a clear visual trajectory from the front door to a significant feature: a beautiful outdoor space, a grand staircase, a fantastic fireplace. From there, it’s important to have flush thresholds throughout the home, so as not to punctuate the space unnecessarily – as well as to have consistent surfaces. Colors and textures work best when they move quietly from room to room, all the while propelled by a common thread (such as an animal print, crewel, a wild shade of green) that harmonizes with the feel of the entire home.”

Sandy Lawton is a Builder and Architect with Arro Design as well as a teacher with Yestermorrow Design/Build school in Warren, Vermont. Lawton is part of the avant-garde that is using tough fabric in which to pour concrete for architectural structures instead of the hard-to-recycle, rigid plywood forms we are used to seeing.  One fabric-formed house Lawton is doing with students on the Yestermorrow campus was uniquely curvaceous and inviting, even half-finished. What stood out in particular was the transition from outside to in, marked by the front door casing.  Lawton or his students had imprinted a Baroque, burnt out velvet into the fabric form itself, perhaps on a simple whim – but the pattern left behind was as welcoming as concrete has ever been.

PRISM Award-winning designer Michael Cebula sees less concrete and more color:  “When transitioning from one room or space to another, it’s important to maintain certain similar elements, particularly regarding color and lighting. In terms of color, repetition of key hues creates an atmosphere of comfort and calm. A color-scheme evolution can maintain a feeling of continuity by featuring the same colors in different aspects. For example, if a foyer was painted in an earthy red tone, an adjacent room could present that same red in a printed fabric or decorative accent piece. This technique ensures harmony between the studies, while allowing them to be part of a larger progressive plan.

“In much the same way,” adds Cebula, “lighting choices should sustain a level of relevance to each other, not only in style, but also in degree of brightness. A steady, soft light makes differences less jarring and eases one into a new design environment. It’s also advisable to illuminate some chosen art pieces. This method of presentation not only creates a mood in the space, but its continued use throughout the rooms will tie the design concepts together.”

In addition to color, lighting and art, Kristin Drohan’s design vocabulary accentuates French doors.  “They’re a relatively inexpensive way to communicate a transition, yet feels luxurious,” says the Concord, MA based designer.  “French doors define the space and diffuse sound without visually shrinking the dimensions. This can be done in unexpected places.  Recently, I added double French doors inside a master bedroom to define the sitting area from the sleeping.  The doors also served as one extra threshold this mother of four little girls could use to escape the household mayhem.  On another project, we installed French doors in a wide upstairs hallway.  Doing this in a hall feels quite grand and again diminishes noise.  I regularly install French doors at an entrance to a finished basement. Adding light accented art beyond the door beckons one to explore something special on the other side. “

IFDA Rising Star Rebecca Wilson of Needham, MA starts with first impressions: “When I’m designing the entryway, I keep in mind how it will set the tone for the rest of the home.  It should be warm and welcoming, and to create that mood I imagine what a guest would need in the space: adequate lighting both general and soft lamp light,  a good quality rug to absorb moisture and spare the floors, an umbrella stand, a place to sit and take off wet or snowy boots, a surface to put a purse or gloves on when removing coats, a mirror to check hair and makeup.

“When transitioning from the first to the second floor I look for ways to draw the eye up – an art series along the stair wall, a piece of furniture, a painting or a pretty mirror at the top of the stairs.  This gives the sense of being carried along from one level to the other. “

 

Indeed, Ms. Wilson a pretty mirror would work to draw the eye up. From that perspective, it’s a simple step to imagine transitioning from floor to floor by way of the MFA’s Grand Staircase. One’s eye is inexorably drawn up by Sargent’s MFA murals: Orestes and Hercules, Science and Philosophy unveiling Truth. Or, as fans of the New Wing might prefer, one can step up to the unaffected and perhaps more honest transition of fire doors and a freight elevator.  Taste, after all, is not a moral issue.

 

NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

 

Residential Architect magazine short-listed Hutker Architects this January in its first-ever tribute to “Architects we Love.”  We are fine with this as long as it’s remembered that we loved him first, naming Cape & Islands- based Mark Hutker to New England Home’s Hall of Fame way back in November.

 

For the second time in two years, Nantucket-based interior designer Kathleen Hay won “Best ­International ­Interior Design” in the 2010 International Property Awards.  The World’s Best awards – sponsored this year by Bloomberg Television, Google UK, Kohler, Maserati, The ­International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times – had over 60,000 entries from 110 countries in the twenty-one categories. A glance at Hay’s “Off-Shore Breeze” project with architect Lisa Botticelli in the September/October 2009 New England Home bears out designer’s “World’s Best” title. http://www.nehomemag.com/article/offshore-breeze

 

Let no one accuse Habitat for Humanity International of giving out easy grades or honors. Of its 1500 US affiliates just two a year receive Habitat’s Clarence Jordan award.  This year one of the coveted Clarences  went to  Green Mountain  Habitat for a passive house project in Charlotte, VT. Design credits go to architect JB Clancy of Boston’s Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects where NEH 2007 Hall of Fame inductee James Volney Righter is  senior partner.

 

 

 

2007 Hall of Fame inductee James Volney Righter

James Volney Righter is the senior partner of

 

Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity has won a national award for its first home under construction in Charlotte, honoring the home’s innovative character, creativity of design and affordability.

Habitat for Humanity International gives the Clarence Jordan award annually to just two Habitat affiliates — offices serving a specific area –out of about 1,500 in the United States.

The award, named after a man who built affordable homes in partnership with poor families in Georgia in the early 1970s, is unique because winners are chosen by vote of Habitat’s other affiliates, making it an acknowledgment by peers who know the work involved.

Architect J.B. Clancy of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects Inc. of Boston developed and donated the home’s design in partnership with Schneider and Green Mountain Habitat. After the home’s modular structure was delivered by Preferred Building Systems in September, a network of volunteer individuals and businesses continued to donate work, materials and money. Green Mountain Habitat Passive House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Has Traditional Marketing Hit a Dead End?

Jerry Danzig, Postel-Ink Copywriter
by Jerry Danzig, Postel-Ink Wordsmith

Jerry Danzig, Postel-Ink Copywriter

Upscale, discriminating consumers zip through TV advertisements.

Listen to commercial-free online and satellite radio.

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Check Caller ID before answering a telephone.

Deploy ever more effective pop-up blockers and spam filters.

That’s why one old/new form of marketing has proven so valuable at breaching the shields put up by today’s hype-weary and hyper-wary shoppers.

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The Value of Editorial Solutions

Louis Postel has a Trade Secret

Louis Postel has a Trade Secret

Custom editorial strategist Louis Postel and direct response copywriter Jerry Danzig have an animated conversation about the value and history of custom publishing, design and editorial.They discuss copy length, the quest for credibility, and why it makes sense to take extra good care of your very best customers.Continue Reading

Jerry:         

Jerry Danzig, Postel-Ink Copywriter

Jerry Danzig, Postel-Ink Copywriter

                       For years in direct response, I would hear people say, “Why is this letter two pages or four pages or whatever?  Why does it go on so long?”  Because it works.  I mean, people scan, but when they’re interested in something, they will read.  So on the net today they say, “Chunk something, put it in chunks.”  So there are small pieces on the page; you don’t frighten people away.  But your best prospects will click on those chunks and read and read, because they want to make an informed decision before they buy something.  And that is as true today as it was 50 years ago. I think we were talking yesterday about David Ogilvy.  Ogilvy was from his earliest days a great proponent of direct response and long copy, and in fact, he was the guy who wrote a famous ad for Rolls-Royce.  I wonder if you remember this one from way back when; it had a very long headline.  I think it had 16 or 17 words in the headline, which is unusual.  And the headline read something like, “At 60 miles per hour, the loudest sound in a Rolls-Royce is the clock ticking”. Louis:         

"Portrait of Louis Postel by the Water" by his wife, Valery Rockwell. Mixed media 2012  Valery Rockwell,  mixed media, 2912

“Portrait of Louis Postel by the Water”
by his wife, Valery Rockwell. Mixed media 2012
Valery Rockwell,
mixed media, 2912

                      Oh yeah, right. Jerry:                                It was a huge success for them.  Obviously, not everybody goes and buys a Rolls-Royce every day of the week.  You have to have some pretty good reasons (and a lot of cash!)  And this was really a startling fact, and apparently it was true.  But back in the 60s, you may also recall that Shell Oil was one of the earlier proponents — or practitioners — of custom content, with their Shell Answer Guide campaign, which I believe Ogilvy was instrumental in creating.  How does one gas station, one chain of gas stations, differentiate itself from another?  Well, they gave useful information.  Here’s how to prepare your car for winter.  Here’s how to keep the tires running the longest.  Here’s how to get the best gas mileage.  All that kind of good stuff. It was very cheap for them to make these little booklets, and you may remember these.  These were small and yellow — they had a bright yellow Shell color — and we all know that yellow is the marketer’s favorite color!  There was a whole series of these.  And obviously it was cheaper to print these and give them away at the stations than to give dishes or bronze sculptures or whatever else somebody else might have been giving — or green stamps.

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Write for Reentry Expands

Write for Reentry: My Comeback Story

Write for Reentry: My Comeback Story

For the past year we have been facilitating workshops for women inmates in pre-release.

The focus has been writing the story of how they have made changes in their lives. I write too – about the changes I have made in my life, which puts us all on a more equal footing.

Now I’m excited to announce that we are launching a similar program for men next month.

I feel the impact has been profound so far, but it’s time to scale up for it to have any significant impact on recidivism among the nation’s 2.5 million inmates.

Let me know your thoughts.

All best, Louis

 

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Good Works | The 1993 Aids Crisis

goodworks.1

Highlights in the Roger Rabbit room, designed by Freya Surabian, included the “Bennie the Cab” chair, custom-made by McLaughlin Upholstery, and the trompe l’oeil Roger Rabbit headboard, hand painted by artist Jane O’hara.

A TIP OF THE CAP

Designing for Children with AIDS from Design Times, April 1993  ♦ ♦ ♦

Text: Sarah Wright | photography David Foster

Driving onto the grounds of the old Matapan Hospital in Boston is like driving onto the grounds of St. Elsewhere. There is a flat, dry field in front; on the left are two sagging clapboard houses; in the back, on a slight rise, looms the grim, brick, factory-style hospital itself, now known as the Boston Specialty and Rehabilitation hospital.

Not very chic. 

But between the two sagging houses sits a suburban dream: a brand-new, H-shaped ranch house, complete with swings and slides and fresh landscaping all around. This is the newly erected CAP House, home of the children’s AIDS Program, which provides respite care for 12 children infected with the AIDS-causing HIV virus, and day care for up to 20 more. It has large windows with white trim. It looks very chic indeed.

Opened on this site in September 1992, the CAP house was designed and decorated by more than 20 members of the Boston-area design community. Each space in the 10,000 square foot house (including six bedrooms. two bathrooms, a play therapy room, kitchen, dining room, diapering room, and laundry room) bears the design signature of a contributing individual or firm.

Altogether, the designers donated time and materials equal to about $500,000, says designer Charles Spada, who coordinated the CAP designer’s project with designer William Hodgins of Boston. Construction, maintenance, and other costs, amounting to about $1.2 million, were paid for by the city, state, federal, and private funds.

Hodgins and Spada, both known for their lush, high –end, white-on-white decorating styles, have done a similar project four years ago when they organized designers to donate time and materials for The Hospice at Mission Hill, an AIDS hospice in Boston. But the CAP house is not a hospice, and it certainly doesn’t look like one. It doesn’t look like a hospital. It doesn’t even look like a house that might sit near a hospital. It looks like a home in the kind of suburb where kids leave their bikes on the lawn: an all-American white-bread suburb where nobody talks about AIDS.

Lisa Bonneville designed the flowing wall graphics and the built-in cabinetry for the play therapy room. A one-way mirror opposite the fold out couch allows staff members to observe the children at play. The other members of the design team for this room were Marian Charfield, Marcia Connors, Charlesanna Detra, and Jackie Whalen, all from ASID/NE ENGLAND.

Lisa Bonneville designed the flowing wall graphics and the built-in cabinetry for the play therapy room. A one-way mirror opposite the fold out couch allows staff members to observe the children at play. The other members of the design team for this room were Marian Charfield, Marcia Connors, Charlesanna Detra, and Jackie Whalen, all from ASID/NE ENGLAND.

The children inside don’t look sick, either. They CAP home is for relatively healthy children, newborn to six years old, who are infected with HIV. Referred here by area hospitals or by the state Department of Social Services, CAP children must need only minimal medical care. (there is a day nurse on duty and a night nurse on call), and they must be able to play actively with other kids.

Walking into the CAP house is like walking into, well, a design magazine. To the right of a reception desk is the day care center, designed by Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz of Boston, awash in sun and bright colors. New books, big pillows, and small-scale furniture– what could be finer? At mid morning, the clatter of children getting ready for snacks sounds comforting normal, as if these were ordinary children, albeit upscale place .

Of course, they’re not. Since the program began in 1987, four CAP children have died. But the designer’s goal at the new CAP house was seemingly to divert the children’s attention from their plight. In many rooms, walls and ceilings are painted with starry skies, puffy clouds, flying animals, and hot air balloons. To adult eyes, the feeling they impart is “Anywhere But Here.”

Similarly, CAP architect Julia Smith, of Buck, Smith & McAvoy in Boston, designed the house with a back door because, she says it “felt more homey” that way and because ambulances need to come and go “without upsetting the kids.”

This thoughtfulness on the children’s behalf reveals itself throughout the CAP house. But the effort was heart-wrenching, and some designers admitted they had to focus on matters other than the fate of their little clients to keep them going through the two months it took to design and outfit the interiors.

Freya Surabian, of Surabian Design Associates in Winchester, Massachusetts, used the cartoon movie Who Framed  Roger Rabbit? as a theme for the bedroom she designed. For fun, she created a “Bennie the Cab” chair, complete with a stuffed steering wheel, and had Roger Rabbit himself hand-painted on a wall and a headboard. “It was sad to think this is the last place a child might see.” Serabian admits. Instead, she thought about “beating the Disney bureaucracy.”  which was reluctant to permit her to use  its trademarked cartoons characters.

Richard Eustice, of Atlantic House in Boston, designed a bedroom that evokes a peaceable kingdom of farm and jungle animals. The window curtains have a whimsical creature motif, and a freestanding armoire is painted to resemble a barn, complete with a weathervane and a moon on top, “I designed the walls and furniture to provide texture and variety,” Eustice says. “I hoped they’d hold the interest of a child lying in bed.”

 Celeste Cooper chose pale taupe walls with white trim to set a soothing, cozy tone in this bedroom. The “chalk-written” border with its “Winken, Blinken, and Nod” rhyme and the pastel geometric designs on the three simple armoires underscore the innocence of the space.

Celeste Cooper chose pale taupe walls with white trim to set a soothing, cozy tone in this bedroom. The “chalk-written” border with its “Winken, Blinken, and Nod” rhyme and the pastel geometric designs on the three simple armoires underscore the innocence of the space. Schumacher fabric featuring farm and jungle animals inspired Richard Eustice’s design for this bedroom. Wendy Wilson of Design Workshop in Waltham, MA, fabricated the laminate work. The beds and rocker have a hand-rubbed oil finish.

The most elegant bedroom in the CAP house was designed by Celeste Cooper, president of The Cooper Group in Boston. It is a study in soft-spoken chic. Speaking from her car phone somewhere between Boston and New York, the award-winning Cooper said, “Just as the chicest rooms tend to be neutrals. I started with taupe and white. “Three armoires painted as festive pastel beach cabanas would both cheer the children and encourage them to keep the room tidy, she added.

Along with a committee of four other members of the New England chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, Lisa Bonneville designed the play therapy room. The freestanding and cupboards can display toys and as hiding places. Children coping with a terminal illness need a “safe place to express anger, loss, and fear,” Bonneville says. “High on the playroom wall runs a row of small, pink framed, trompe l’oeil windows. Near the ceiling, painted clouds flutter by. Again, there’s a sweet glimpse of heaven.

The CAP home’s eerie beauty — all its pastel colors and sky imagery — is heightened by the absence of ordinary kid-prints. Thanks to good structural design, it’s as silent as an ashram just a few feet away from the playroom. Thanks to ongoing city, state, and private funding, as well as various health codes, the place is kept scrupulously clean. And thanks to the tragic nature of the HIV infection, no one child gets a long time to leave his kid-prints here.

On the other hand, adult staff members— 24 women and four men — get plenty of time to settle in. The program seems to inspire both love and loyalty in the caretakers. According to CAP director Thelma Hyatt, the program’s turnover rate is much lower than that at other state chronic care facilities. So what are the spaces like for the devoted staff? Where are the tokens of our commitment to them?

A walk through the CAP house as it was designed for adults reveals some of our biases about AIDS and health care. The adult work areas in the house are simply inadequate. While the children’s spaces are innocent and cheerful and bright, staff members get the squeeze. Two staffers are now working in a room originally designed as a janitor’s closet. Others share windowless cubicles — spaces created by scrimping and saving, then laughed off with classic helping- profession sarcasm: “It’s so convenient to have that big plastic bag with a hundred boxes of hospital tissues take up half of the staff lounge,” says one staff member.

Here lurks the ghost of St. Elsewhere, haunting our suburban paradise. These are the same cramped quarters the caretakers had back in the old CAP wing at Boston City Hospital (the CAP home from 1987 until 1992). The truth is, the new CAP home was designed as a showcase for the Flynn administration’s five-year plan, “Rebuilding Boston,” and chic playrooms provide a better show than realistic office space for nurses and social workers. (The underlying political nature of the CAP program was illustrated last summer when Boston Mayor Ray Flynn abruptly changed the house’s name from “Imani House,” based on a Swahili word meaning “faith,” to the “Kirk Scharfenberg House,” in memory of the Boston Globe editor, and Flynn friend, who had just died of cancer. The CAP staff had not been consulted.) The question persists: In the age of AIDS, who take care of the caretakers?

CAP director Thelma Hyatt is pleased with the house and optimistic about the program’s future. “I was reduced to tears when I saw the children’s room at the opening,“ Hyatt recalls. But now she hopes that some of the same energy and creativity that went into making the children’s spaces will be used to improve the lot of the people who must care for AIDS victims.

“We have to teach people to see the parents with HIV-children need a respite, that a vacation from all that strain is a necessity, not a luxury,” she says.

Hyatt herself finds peace in her family and in her religion. “I get overwhelmed at times, like anyone, “ she says. But that’s adulthood; it’s no reason to get discouraged. To anyone interested in working on a project like CAP, she echoed all designers’ advice: “Do it,” they said in one voice. “Do it now.”

 AUTHOR

Sarah Wright is a freelance writer based in Cambridge, Mass. Her magazine articles have appeared in House Beautiful, Vogue, and New England Monthly. The photographer, David Foster, maintains his studio in Boston.

from Design Times, April 1993 | Nancy Zerbey, Editor | Conrad Warre, Art Director

Louis Postel, President | Sidney Cheresh, Chair

 

 

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Avon Masterpiece Calling

Simply Perfect first appeared in New England Home July 2013 by Louis Postel

Daryl D Evans Partner & Master Craftsman

Cabriole legs, Louis XVI legs, fluted and reeded legs, legs trimmed with bronze collars, legs with brass toe pieces called sabots, legs with a barley spiral twist… Legs and more legs stride across the loft wall at Masterpiece Woodworks in Avon, Massachusetts.

Of all the imaginable leg styles, however, one is clearly missing—the contemporary style. Because there really is not much to see in a contemporary leg. It looks almost too simple and, of course, that is the idea. The leg is

stripped down to pure silhouette, an elegant profile. And while those clean lines so favored today look simple, they can be, in reality, the most complex to pull off.Continue Reading

Perhaps there is no greater challenge to custom woodworkers today than making simple furniture. Richard Hulme and Daryl Evans have been honing their craft as partners in Masterpiece Woodworks for thirty years now.

The two men, both fifty-six, met in shop class at Framingham South High School. “Those were in the days when regular high schools had shop class,” says Evans. “And I just fell in love with it. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Today, he’s responsible for constructing the company’s pieces, while Hulme is the expert on finishing them. The team also includes master craftsman Robert Waterman and creative director Beth Bourque.

Pieces in various stages of production fill the workshop, from silver-leafed side tables to ceiling-high, glass- fronted bars in cerused walnut to French deco-inspired credenzas and a side table so stripped down and geometric it seems lifted directly from one of the CAD drawings lying close by. (The only thing they do not make is seating. “Too many ergonomic complexities,” says Evans. )

“We were just going over the design of this contemporary side table,” explains Hulme, who with Evans and Bourque will spend hours working out the details. “We are trying to figure out how best to tie the shagreen top into the table’s apron of ripped oak, the shadow lines, whether the horizontal grain meeting the vertical grain ought to be mitered here and not there.”

“When you’re doing contemporary styles—the styles of today—there is really no place to hide,” adds Evans. “All wood naturally changes and shifts, which in the end affects the finish. In traditional styles you can always use a piece of trim to hide where that wood is joined, but not with contemporary.”

Walnut dining table with gold leaf Designer: William Hodgins, Inc.

 

“Custom always starts with the finish,” says Hulme. “If, for example, a designer is looking for a contemporary silhouette, which is increasingly the case these days, using an intensely grained wood might be the wrong choice to begin with. Instead, we might suggest a quarter-sawn lumber, which yields a straighter, more modern grain pattern.”

 

Finishing touches include using organic resins and French polishing techniques. “Polyurethane finishes can look cloudy and plastic, but ours look and feel richer, because they are organic,” Hulme says.

 

A loyal handful of New England’s top designers, including William Hodgins, Manuel de Santaren, Eugene Lawrence and Meichi Peng, commission Masterpiece pieces, and it shows in the bespoke nature of their interiors. Celeste Cooper, who may be best known for defining the contemporary look in many Boston interiors, has often called on the company’s level of expertise to help her get the well-tailored, crisp look she is known for.

 

Now based in New York, Cooper asked Masterpiece for twelve large panels finished in goatskin vellum to adorn the foyer walls of her Fifth Avenue apartment. The price Bourque calculated for real goatskin would have been astronomical, so Hulme did some experimenting and value engineering. Finally, he devised another option: faux vellum, a matte finish he created by using ragged-on stains applied in many coats.

Antique paint buffet with maple top Designer: Masterpiece Studio

 

Though the faux vellum and the real thing are indistinguishable, Hulme was apprehensive as he shipped the panels to New York. He knew he was pushing the envelope for this special client. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, boy, weare going to hear about this one,’ but we never did, so it must have worked out.”

Working things out on a daily basis is a constant challenge for Hulme, Evans and Bourque. The seemingly endless chorus line of leg samples arrayed along their loft wall is clear evidence of that. •

Masterpiece Woodworks Avon, Massachusetts (508) 580-0021

masterpiecewoodworks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 New England Home is dedicated to showcasing the unique architecture and superior design that define the luxury home in New England.

 

 

 

 

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