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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. 

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.Continue Reading

And then just to drive the U in Unusual home, within days of the opening of  D is for Design, another surprise occurred.  Meb Keflezighi at38, crossed the Boston Marathon finish line, its oldest winner since 1930 as well as the first American in 31 years to take first place. So old and a unlikely a guy was Meb, in fact, that Nike had given up on him as a sneaker sponsor, only to be replaced by Sketchers. What a statement, cultural, aesthetic, historic — Meb’s flying red sneaks and death-defying bib, inscribed with names of last year’s bombing victims. It makes one wonder what could rise to the glorious occasion of those red sneaks here in the realm of design and architecture. It turns out there have been a number of U for Unusual moments. If not earth-shattering, they present  abundant evidence of our design community’s ongoing commitment to innovation as well as tradition. Which is to say, if you happened not to have attended the Marathon or been invited a designer’s igloo party last winter, or have yet to visit D is for Design, all is not lost. The timeless world of design still holds many surprises, and all can be yours.

Jeff Osborne and Amanda Harke of Harke + Osborne Interior Design, Boston

Jeff Osborne and Amanda Harke of Harke + Osborne Interior Design, Boston

That said, let’s check in on the state of things, beginning with the letter B for architect Mary Brewster of the Brewster Thornton Group in Providence, RI. “Homeowners are thinking longer terms these days,” says Brewster. “They’d like to make a statement about improving their corner of the world without making their house look like a science project. Right now we’re installing two geothermal systems, drilling wells three hundred feet down. Long term thinking also involves ageing, wider doorways, for example, for wheelchairs, and ramps, discretely tucked away if they’re needed later.

“We’re working on a large institutional project which involved consulting with a gerontologist. ‘Walking,’ he said, ‘is destiny.’” While some people will need wider doorways for wheelchairs along with ramps, Brewster explained, almost everyone will need a destination to walk to — a restaurant, a library, even the drugstore.

Also in Rhode Island, we found our letter C, for Dave Caldwell, Jr. of Design-Build firm Caldwell & Johnson in North Kingstown. “I’m installing photovoltaic roof shingles — as opposed to panels — with great success. They provide the same power as solar, only you just can’t see them. We installed the first one right before Hurricane Sandy on the ocean side of Narragansett Bay, and it came out fine.  And we just installed a second set on a rebuild in Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, which is in southern Rhode Island near Watch Hill. The tiles themselves are from CertainTeed, called the Apollo II Roofing System.” In addition to preserving the architectural integrity of rooflines, Caldwell says owners are getting a special thrill from seeing credits on the electric bills.

D is for Design, and also stands for Karen Dzendolet of Pelham, MA, which is the academic hub of Amherst and Northampton. “I’m seeing a lot of renovation work where clients are looking to bring in more of nature, where we want to reflect what’s going on directly outside the window, acknowledging what’s going, how the light changes, or where a maple tree’s positioned. We just did a kitchen with cabinets mimicking greyish bark, and a bath where we added a window, and tiling that looks and feel like slate, but is actually a high-tech porcelain. We have a great showroom here called Arrow Tile that carries it. “

E goes to David Eisen of Abacus Architects in Boston. His clients are relating more to the issue of time with a capital T. “I think we are increasingly broadening our view of what it means to connect to history and tradition. Just because you are nailing shutters to the side of a house doesn’t mean you are connecting to history in a meaningful way. You can use more abstract forms to make people think about where they are in time and space. For example, we’re doing a synagogue in Milton where we wrap the congregation in something like an oversize prayer shawl, with fragmented walls. Separated by large expanses of glass suggesting the ruins of the second temple in Jerusalem, the walls also invoke the rough stone walls crisscrossing the New England Landscape. Our residential clients are more open to such poetic evocations of architecture and its traditions, as well.”

Representing the letter H, it’s Amanda Hark of Boston’s Hark + Osborne Interior Design. “It’s LED everything now,” says Hark. “It’s the new norm. We noticed all our jobs changed overnight about six months ago. Our clients don’t even want the ubiquitous halogen MR-16’s, let alone incandescents…the best thing about them is they cut our clients’ energy bills in half.” Hark’s partner, Jeff Osborne, is equally enthusiastic about LEDs in recessed lighting. “With ever warmer Kelvin ratings, specifying LED trims aren’t a problem. The key, however, is to use a proper lens in the fixture to act as a diffuser for an even light, masking any flares or highlights.”

Kitchen and bath designer Sarah Steinberg of Cumberland, ME brings us all the way to S. She’s using LED’s, too, under floating shelves of driftwood in the kitchen. “Embedded into a steel sleeve right into the studs, the L bracket’s not visible, but the shelves can hold stacks of plates. I usually recommend that glasses be turned upside down. Other than that, my clients tell me that dust is not a big concern, because these are dishes and glasses they’re using daily and you only really have to worry about the top plate, if at all.”

“I’m also using a lot of quartzite as counter slabs and backsplashes. It has the curviness of marble veining, but far more durable. People often confuse it with Caesarstone and other products made from crushed aggregate and resin.  Quartzite, on the other hand, is a natural metamorphic stone, originally quartz sandstone that’s been subjected to great heat and pressure which morphs into something free of pores and much harder.”

Nima Yodallahpour of ONY Architecture, Boston

Nima Yodallahpour of ONY Architecture, Boston

Nima Yadollahpour gets the Y. Formerly of Payette and Office dA, Yadollahpour founded his own studio in 2004, ONY Architecture in Boston. A 2011 New England Home 5 Under 40 Award-winner, he sees clients wanting to make dramatic changes in houses they have been living in over many years and by “digging deeper” he can do in accordance to their limited budgets.  “One client in Dover,” he recalls, “was interested in a kitchen, mudroom, and casual dining renovation and was considering expanding their existing kitchen with an addition. Our solution was to create an S shaped wall instead, separating the mudroom and kitchen. And instead of a conventional wall with storage cabinets attached to each side, taking up a lot of square footage, the S-shaped wall was constructed of cabinets only. They were accessible in an alternating pattern, providing ample storage for the mudroom (as lockers) and the kitchen where we also increased counter space.”

And there U have it —  another Unusual solution in a highly Unusual year.


















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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.




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.

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.Continue Reading

It’s custom media and content: custom publications such as magazines, blogs, brochures, direct mail and inserts; also known as branded editorial, branded media, custom marketing, strategic content, branded content, and, lately, social marketing.

Whatever the label, few can deny the growing effectiveness of custom editorial. After all, this most welcome and subtle form of marketing invites but never intrudes on customer awareness. It provides useful and timely information. Plus, it makes use of today’s most captivating and convenient media, from blogs, websites, and smart phones – to custom eBooks, magazines, and brochures — to targeted social media and corporate events that end up as brand-building stories in the media.

And no company is more adept at planning and providing custom editorial solutions than Boston’s Postel Ink. 


At Postel Ink, we specialize in branded editorial addressing the luxury market, drawing sales and repeat business from the most discerning and demanding consumers on the planet. La crème de la crème.

We have produced breakthrough results for entrepreneurs involved in real estate, publishing and media, schools and universities, finance and high-tech, as well as retailers and wholesalers. We especially cater to the needs of growing businesses, offering big-league expertise at little-guy prices.

And unlike many other custom editorial providers who boast of astronomical click-throughs — or the infinite share-ability of blog posts — we have the know-how to deliver ten well-heeled repeat customers rather than a million page views from window shoppers.

The result is affordable editorial and design solutions that lure discerning customers and drive sales month after month, season after season, year after year.

We invite you to see how we can put the power of custom editorial solutions to work for your company. Now more than ever, it pays to use Postel Ink. We look forward to hearing from you.

Jerry Danzig, Associate, Postel-Ink

Growing businesses in Boston since 1986 with unique editorial solutions

  • On budget custom publishing and design: magazines, blogs, brochures in print, web and multimedia
  • Clutter-eliminating story-telling, selling and information
  • For a free initial consultation contact us at 617-435-4792
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The Value of Editorial Solutions

Here 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 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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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















 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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