Stunning though the Gilded Age mansions of Bellevue Avenue may be, they are just the surface layer of a very deep architectural legacy in Newport, Rhode Island, one that reveals itself only on occasion. It is worth making a trip on not just one but two upcoming weekends for terrific events — one held annually, the other only every other year — that provide entrée to privately owned houses and estates.FULL ENTRY
The Bostonian Society
After celebrating its 300th anniversary last year, surely The Old State House was ready for a facelift. The Bostonian Society thought so, too. Founded in 1881 to protect the iconic building from being torn down, the society began in 2007 to formulate the earliest renovation plans for the Old Council Chamber, which was destroyed by fire in 1747 along with most of the interior of the building.
“We knew we had an important story to tell about the founding of the American Revolution, it unfolded in the halls of this building,” says Nathaniel (Nat) Sheidley, historian and director of public history at the Bostonian Society. “We couldn’t do that with boring boxes filled with artifacts,” he says, noting the goal was to get people “out from behind the velvet rope” and create an interactive space and inviting visitor experience.
Lovers of all things modern are abuzz now that the Flansburgh House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, is coming to market for the first time since it was built. The prominent Modernist architect Earl Flansburgh (1931-2009) designed it for his young family of four in 1963, the same year he founded Earl R. Flansburgh & Associates, now Flansburgh Architects, a Boston firm that specialized in educational institutions and continues to the present day. One of his sons, John, is one half of the much-loved indie rock band They Might Be Giants, which gives the iconic home an extra layer of panache, at least for us fans.FULL ENTRY
A jaunt to New York City for the Architectural Digest Home Design Show yielded much to covet from stunning kitchens, appliances, and furniture lines to tabletop treasures and new fascinating gadgets and technologies. The dining installations by interior designers, artists, students, and design brands for Dining By Design were worth the trip alone. Sponsored by Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, an organization celebrating its 30th year of providing preventive education and care for people living with HIV/AIDS, Dining by Design raises funds with a gala and silent auction. Table styles range from extravagant to minimal, classic to trendy, but all tempt with the thought of a leisurely setting enjoyed among good company … and great design.FULL ENTRY
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is mounting its first exhibition dedicated to contemporary Latin American Art. Permission To Be Global/Prácticas Globales, which opened this week in the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, draws on the collection of Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, founder of Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, a non-profit organization in Miami that supports contemporary artists. It debuts more than 60 pieces by 46 artists, including emerging talent from some of the world’s most oppressive countries, including Columbia, Cuba, and Peru.
The art is complex, layered with meaning, and, according to Jen Mergel, the MFA’s Beal Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, who worked on the show with assistant curator Liz Munsell, it explores what it means to be “global.” Says Mergel, “It is an ideal. It is not a reality in our globalized world.”
Political correctness has downplayed symbols of Dartmouth College’s original mission of educating Native Americans — the Indian mascot was scrapped some years ago. Yet, the legend of Dartmouth's founder, Eleazar Wheelock, bringing Latin, Greek, and religion to the tribes of northern New England is cherished in a magnificent weather vane atop Baker Library.
Almost 9 feet long and 7 feet tall, the 600-pound copper weather vane depicts Wheelock instructing a pipe-smoking Indian. Behind Wheelock is a cask of rum, supposedly the undoing of the experiment at “instruction of the youth of Indian tribes in this land."FULL ENTRY
Spring is nearly here. We can tell by the spate of dazzling flower shows we find on our calendar. In February, it was the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show in Providence. Last week, it was the Portland Flower Show in Portland, Maine. This week (March 12 to 16), it is the venerable Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center. The theme is “Romance in the Garden,” which seems a bit redundant to those of us who find the simple budding of a crocus along a still-snowy path one of Nature’s most romantic gestures. Perhaps less romantic is Design New England’s garden writer Carol Stocker’s presentation on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., when she will answer the question, Are We Already Seeing the Effects of Climate Change in Our Gardens?
To whet our appetite for the Boston extravaganza, we visited the Portland show, where “Storybook Gardens” was the theme and the impressive cohort of Maine exhibitors didn’t disappoint.FULL ENTRY
On a daily basis, we see glass used in menial things such as windows, drinkware, and eyeglasses. But the material takes on new meaning in a work of art. Distinctive pieces sculpted by glass artisans in New England and around the country are featured in Supercool Glass, an exhibit on view at the Shelburne Museum through June 8. It’s one of the first exhibits at the $7.7 Pizzagali Center for Art and Education, which opened last August. (“Of Its Time”, Design New England November/December 2013).
Supercool Glass showcases 19th-century pieces from the museum’s collection alongside contemporary work by artists including Ethan Bond Watts, Gary Bodker, Alyssa Oxley, Stephanie Pender, Mark Reigelman II, Charlotte Potter, Amber Cowan, Madeline Steimle, Bohyun Yoon, Steven and William Ladd, and Kim Harty. Having these pieces side-by-side allows visitors to evaluate the visual progression and technical advancements of glassmaking in America over the course of two centuries.FULL ENTRY
Even though here at Design New England we are completely prepared for spring, we realize the lingering winter chill does make it a bit tough to leave our beds in the morning. If we were spending the night in the stylish guest rooms interior designers Amy Pierce, Amber Wilhelmina, and Kelly Taylor brought to life around Thos. Moser’s Vita Bed in Selections in the March/April issue it would be all that much harder. With cozy beds on our minds, we’ve assembled guest room accessories that make us want to spend the night.FULL ENTRY
Kudos to the editors of Saving Cambridge: Historic Preservation in America’s Innovation City for understanding that persuasion not preaching will earn support for their mission. Good writing also helps. If the aim of the book, published by the Cambridge Historical Society, is to raise the awareness of everyman to the significance of preserving historic touchstones, it has a good chance of succeeding.FULL ENTRY
What was it like to be inside the Big Dig? Find out when photographer Peter Vanderwarker gives an artist’s talk Sunday March 2 at 1 p.m. at the Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts. He will revisit the days he spent, over the course of some 15 years, documenting the construction that was hidden deep beneath the streets and harbor. As the daily lives of commuters were interrupted and re-routed, man and machinery labored out of sight in dark tunnels. Vanderwarker’s raw imagery insures their work is not forgotten.FULL ENTRY
With marvelous homes throughout New England’s vast variety of glorious settings — ocean, lake, island, city, country — our March/April issue (in homes and online next week) delivers on its “Location, location” theme, and then some. The view from the kitchen of this seaside house in Newport, Rhode Island (“From Moonscape to Eden”), for example, looks out past an alluring infinity pool to the ocean. Hard to imagine the lot was once just a pile of schist. To prime the pump for gardening season, we found a highly structured topiary garden in a country setting, and a brook and small pond returned to their naturalized state in Brookline, Massachusetts. We also have a special photo-essay on that New England Icon, the antiques juggernaut known as Brimfield, some stylish ideas on how to dress up a guest bedroom, a preview of Boston's first-ever Design Week, and an architect's remake of a tiny East Boston worker's row house. For all this and more, read the issue next week!
The Cinderella moment came five years ago for Woonsocket, Rhode Island, when it was featured in the Lasse Hallström movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere. Hachi is the story of a dog that walked his master to the train each day and greeted him upon his return every evening. When his owner suddenly dies, the dog stands sentinel at the train station until his own death 10 years later. So, another star of the film is the Providence & Worcester Railroad Station.FULL ENTRY
Along a dead-end dirt road in rural Effingham, New Hampshire, are two wooden houses. One is a simple farmhouse while the other is a grand mansion. The pair offer the sort of serendipitous discovery that makes the quirky Granite State such an unending delight.FULL ENTRY
Cheryle St. Onge
Nature and beauty are what drive New Hampshire photographer Cheryle St. Onge. A contributor to Design New England (a stunning gallery of her view of the Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show will appear in our upcoming March/April issue), St. Onge photographs architecture, animals, and her family and friends. But pieces from “Natural Findings,” her collection of photos that document the intrigue of nature, is what’s making its way into art exhibits this winter.FULL ENTRY
Our article on a unique cohousing venture in the January/February 2014 issue struck a chord with many of our readers. Working closely with three couples, all long-time friends who are at or near retirement, architect Rick Renner and his associate Teresa Telander of Richard Renner Associates of Portland, Maine, designed a handsome structure that combines three individual units with shared common space. It is case study in how thoughtful design can deliver form and function despite a demanding and complex program.
Beyond physical design challenges, our readers found the cohousing concept fascinating. Not all are willing to jump on the shared space bandwagon, but many are ready to applaud the participants in our “All in the ‘Framily’” scenario. (The homeowners had been such good friends that their relationships verged on family — hence they called each other ‘framily.’)FULL ENTRY
Here’s something lavish to cheer up those winter blues: a high-class Newport, Rhode Island, auction with relics from Villa du Soleil. The Italianate mansion, boasting formal gardens, handsome balconies, and a pink pebble driveway, is still on the market for $3.9 million (down from $4.6 million), but some of the fantastic art inside, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, glassware, china, and furnishings are being sold by Mid-Hudson Auction Galleries at The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina Saturday, January 18 starting at 11 a.m. Here’s a preview of the some antiques (and a perspective of how much they are worth) that we predict will sell like hotcakes.
First up is a 1917 Steinway baby grand piano (above), which was reworked at the Steinway factory in New York into a salon piano in the ornate Louis XV style in 1985. Starting bid is $5,000. Estimated: $10,000 to $15,000.
Thirty-three years ago, the opening of the Hartford Seminary building created quite a sensation. Its designer Richard Meier was then an enfant terrible of modern architecture, a member of a group of New York architects labeled “The Whites” for their adherence to a near-monochromatic reinterpretation of the work of Le Corbusier from the 1920s. The seminary’s severe geometry and stark white porcelain-enamel cladding coupled with Meier’s use of modular grids and shiny metal walls was, at the time, jarring to most people, but the building has held up visually and structurally.FULL ENTRY
There is a haunting aura of emptiness in each of the 12 portraits Maine photographer Trent Bell made for Reflect: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves. Bell, a regular contributor to Design New England, took a break from his mainstay work, architectural photography, when crime and punishment touched his own life. A friend, whom Bell describes as a smart and loving father, was sentenced to 36 years in prison. The shock and finality of the situation filled Bell’s daily life. How is it, he wondered, that people make choices that lead to prison time. Curious, he reached out to Maine State Prison in Warren, Maine, where he was allowed to connect with inmates, who, he says, have “hardened themselves to survive.” He asked them to write letters of advice for their younger selves and to then sit for his camera.
The result is Reflect, which will be on exhibit at Engine, a gallery in Biddeford, Maine, January 10 through February 22. “The reaction has been one of amazement or just stunned quietness,” says Bell about the photographs and the idea behind them. “Usually goosebumps when I share it with people.”FULL ENTRY
An insider's look at must-have products, fresh trends, and inspired spaces from the team at Design New England magazine.
Gail Ravgiala is editor of Design New England and a fan of both the region's historic architecture and its growing inventory of modern houses and public buildings.
Courtney Kasianowicz is associate editor of Design New England who scouts the area for new design, charming products, and local artisans both innovative and daring.
Jill Connors, Design New England's editor-at-large, is an antiques maven and design scout and will post about trends and discoveries in the field.
Bruce Irving, Design New England's contributing editor for architecture & building, is a renovation specialist who will share his insights on design and construction.
Estelle Bond Guralnick, Design New England's style & interiors editor, will post about interior design and interior designers and her favorite finds.