The Art of No Big Deal | New England Home

Trade secrets | New England Home 2009




What’s the opposite of utopia? Dystopia: when the conditions of life are truly miserable. The one real refuge from dystopia is supposed to be the home. But what could be worse than a huge , costly, time-consuming renovation that isn’t, in the end absolutely perfect; the painter should have done five coats not four, the plumber irreparably left the hoosik in the goosik, the slipper chair is still wrong, wrong, wrong! That’s when it pays to have a great designer or architect who has the magnanimity of spirit, the honesty, to whisper in your ear, “Change is inevitable, imperfection only human, comfort only relative. It’s not the end of the world.” Calm is practically the key to design success. Because no matter how much talent, time and money goes into a space, there’s likely to be something you wish had been done differently.

Mally Skok sweats the details like her other professional design colleagues, but she has a lightness of touch that makes all the difference. “I like juxtaposing a serious piece of furniture with a silly fabric,” says the Lincoln Massachusetts-based designer, who was born in a apartheid Johannesburg and has experienced enough dystopia to last a lifetime. Her new line of fabrics based on Indian and African designs look modern and fresh with their pinwheels, chevrons and gay lightbulby shapes. They’re manufactured by Peter Fasano and available through Studio 534 in the Boston Design Center.

“A good as everyone is… there are still problems,” says Von Salmi of the design, construction and landscaping teams he helps keep from hurtling into dystopia. At age seven, Salmi worked for his grandfather, who was known as “The Frugal Finn” earning a penny of each can he filled with nails he picked up from job sites and straightened, he went on to work for high-end design builders Thoughtforms and the Classic Group before starting his own Westminster, Massachusetts-based firm. The Frugal Finn’s descendant is especially keen on exact scope reviews, making sure every estimated expense is included before the job starts to prevent the distressing phenomenon known as “Scope Creep.”

Presenting at the BSA’s Residential Show at the World Trade Center, Karen Gilman of the Finelines workroom in Peabody, Massachusetts, chided our new President over his use of the word drapes. “You can drape something over a table, but otherwise the right term is curtain or window treatments,” Gilman says. “And they may look perfect, but in big rooms they can take ten minutes to open in the morning and close at night.” Hence the growing popularity of a new generation of home automation systems by Lutron and others. Curtains can be automatically synced with a make-up alarm. “Of course, there will always be the joy of physically throwing open the curtains in the morning no matter how much automation there is,” adds Gilman.

Architect Sam Dennis joined an informal discussion following Gilman’s talk and made an interesting point: automated window treatments aren’t just a lazybones accessory –they’re about energy conservation, regulating heat gain in the summer and heat loss in winter. Wayne Southworth of MWI Fibershield and former President of IFDA/New England observes that, even if your curtains are manually operated they –along with your rugs –can be good for your health. “They’re natural filters for all the dust and bad stuff flying around,” he says. “There are comparative photos, in fact, of clouds of particulates billowing from bare, uncarpeted floors.”

Designer and now furniture manufacturer Liz Stiving-Nichols couldn’t find much furniture with zero-VOC paint, so she embarked on making her own non-toxic, non-off gassing paint. Her line, called Many Shades of Green, includes beach house and cottage colors like Menemsha Sunset, an extreme orange, and Gingerbread Blue, a shade deeper than sky or robin’s egg, named for the gingerbread homes in Oak Bluffs.

Now that practically everyone has their own economic dystopia theory, the designer Brenda Be, of Hingham, Massachusetts, suggests putting kitchen renovation money in cabinets. Appliances and countertops can always be upgraded later, she explains. Another idea she’s putting into practice: slate around the sink and then eco-friendly surfaces such as bamboo, Richlite (made from pulp derived from certified managed forests) or Lyptus, a eucalyptus product.

Caroline Perrone Darcy of Accurate Elevator and Lift in Middleton, Massachusetts, notes that a couple of changes in the culture have given her business a smooth ride to the top. The “aging in place” phenomenon among Baby Boomers has converged with the “easier to build up than out” movement in land use, leading to an up-tick in residential elevator installations. This is particularly true in Massachusetts, where a new code subjects residential elevators to less regulation than their commercial counterparts. But the trend is New Englandwide says architect Kent Duckham, who



notes that he just spec’d an elevator for a home on exclusive Poppasquash Point in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Liz Scanlon, events manager of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School in Providence, recalls clicking almost instantly with designer Susan Symonds, who had been involved with the Philharmonic for many years. “There was a lot of excitement about the new music school,”  says Scanlon “and there was a push to make the interior colors pop with high creative energy, but Susie lead us in a calmer direction with soft yellows and cocoa browns, Zen-like in its peacefulness.” In contrast, for a casino-themed party, says Scanlon, “Susie went all out: lighting, linens, James Bond look-alikes.” For this and many other contributions, the Philharmonic recently honored Symonds with its John Hazen white, Sr. award. NEH

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