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Trade Secrets – New England Home
WHO’S DOING WHAT, WHEN, WHERE AND HOW IN THE NEW ENGLAND DESIGN BUSINESS.
BY LOUIS POSTEL
Proving once again that the design world is not as glamour-intensive as people might think, designer Nicole Keane of the Keen Eye in Manchester, Vermont, tells Trade Secret she recently spent eight hours sitting on the Canadian border with a truckload of a client’s furniture. “One of my clients here in Vermont gave up one of their homes in Manhattan and bought a brownstones in Montreal. Canadian customs requires Americans to prove that you are going to be a resident there for at least three years before they let you bring your furniture across the border. If you are there for only a year or two years, they insist you buy Canadian. Little did we know. Our clients eventually faxed the customs agents all these notarized proofs and they let us go.”
Richard Bertman is a prolific sculptor as well as the B in CBT, one of New England’s largest architectural firms. His company is now at work on the new Mandarin-Oriental, 450,000 square feet of hotel, condos and retail that promise to redefine luxury in Boston. Bertman also likes to design homes. On seeing a copy of New England Home he exclaimed: “It’s so nice to see a new magazine about architecture that isn’t just about flat roofs!”
Architect and cultural visionary Sarah Susanka would agree that one could be modern and at the same have a pitched roof. Susanka was the keynote speaker at the Boston Society of Architects’ Residential Design show. The slides she showed from her Not So Big House series of best-selling books were all very modern-looking in the sense that they had lots of light, clean lines and refined materials that more or less spoke for themselves without too much embellishment. But very few had flat roofs.
Susanka recently published Outside the Not So Big House (Taunton; $34.95) with landscape architect and author Julie Moir Messervy, formerly of Wellesly and now relocated to Vermont. “A house is not a home until it’s joined to a landscape,” said Susanka during her talk. Joining her on the podium, Messervy went on to describe how she creates “journeys and paths” to the home, art of choreographing movement through a garden, and creating what she calls pausing places. “It’s all about living lightly on the land in one’s not so big house,” she said.
Not to belabor the flat roofs business, but it was interesting to hear architect Stephen Chung of Urbanica, in another Residential Design show workshop, describing the financial obstacles to putting up a modernist house in New England. “Frankly, when I wanted to build my own house I needed to borrow money, but the loan I got was drastically discounted – basically the value of the land. The lender was scared that, if I went bankcrupt, what were they going to do with this very unique house?” Chung went ahead and built it anyway, though the loan was not so big, to borrow a phrase.
One of the obstacles facing designers and architects in creating anything is that it’s so difficult for clients to visualize house plans in 3D. As founder and principal of Newport Collaborative architects, John Grosvenor should have no difficulty showing clients how a project will look in 3D. Grosvenor is the son of renowned watercolorist Richard Grosvenor, who was head of the art department at St. George’s School in Newport for many years. Father and son would paint together. John’s watercolor entitled Redwood Library, North Elevation will be featured in American Artist Watercolor magazine as a finalist in the publication’s worldwide competition. “Art,” says John Grosvenor, “captures what can only be humbly described in words and orthogonal drawings. “After John rang off, Trade Secrets went scrambling to Wikipedia for the meaning of “orthogonal drawings,” which turn out to be drawings that “create a perspective using imagined lines to a vanishing point.”
Artist and cultural provocateur Jay Critchley used imaginative lines to a laughing point, so to speak, with his latest proposal for a “Martucket Eyeland Resort and Theme park.” The elaborate scheme, which may or may not be a hoax, follows on the heels of the proposed industrial wind farm in Nantucket Sound, says Critchley from his Provincetown headquarters, the Future Earth Corporation. “Martucket will create an authentic Ye Olde Cape Cod Whaling Port, a floating jewel, featuring family-friendly gambling and Marconi sonic chowder.” The plan has been filed with the Army Corps of Engineers and has already won a special citation from Boston Society of Architects.
“Dress for Success” –a talk at the Boston Design Center by stylish Karen Gilman of Finelines – sounded a bit like gilding the lily. Really now, the designers of the BDC are usually exquisite in every way; how could they dress anymore for success? But, of course, Karen’s company, based in Peabody, Massachusetts, is a leading drapery workroom, and this was about dressing windows and giving them truly fine lines. Because of the unexpectedly huge crowd for the session, not one but three showrooms were enlisted to host the lunch reception for Gilman and bedding expert Eliot Wright of Scalamandre, Houles and Davidson. “One mistake I see now and then,” says Gilman, “is that the curtains are too short and the rods are too long. Instinct says make the fabric the length of the window, but longer usually makes a better line. The main thing, though, is to plan ahead with drapery – don’t make it an afterthought because that’s what it will end up looking like.” Gilman just returned from the National window Covering show in Tampa, Florida. As an authorized dealer for Lutron, she will be raising the curtain on the firm’s new line of automated Roman shades.
Speaking of Roman shades, Gilman and son, Jake, just returned from a trip to Italy. Mother and son shared a wing of a huge villa renovated by Boston designer Katherine Walsh and her husband, Bruce Fernie, the founder of the chic Tealuxe on Newbury Street and Lou Lou’s Lost and Found in Boston and Cambridge. Memo to Gilman: the design life may not be all glamour but it certainly has some nice surprises, especially when you’re on the road. Now Walsh and Fernie are reluctantly putting their Villa Ercolano up for sale. At 10,000 square feet, complete with cast gesso ceilings, immense chestnut beams, fireplaces, marble and pietra serena staircases with wide terraces on each end, Villa Ercolano hardly qualifies as a “not so big house.” But for 360-degree views of Umbria’s lush heart, it may be just right. NEH
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