Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and, this year, Thanksgiving at the department store of your choice. Ugh. Glad they are behind us. My idea of holiday shopping isn’t fighting the madding crowd for some uber deal on a flat screen or a pair of sox. I like to take my time and look for those special gifts not found in the discount flyers — the right gift for the right person, preferably an item he or she might not discover on his or her own, but will be thrilled I found for them. For instance:FULL ENTRY
Weighing just a tad under two pounds, Brown University: The Campus Guide (Princeton Architectural Press, $35) is not really a portable guidebook. Rather, it is a beautifully written architectural history of the Ivy League university in the Rhode Island capital.
Brown University is one of the hottest of hot colleges and this guide reminds us of just how much the school’s inherent appeal is physical. How a campus looks cannot be divorced from its educational mission and the way the Providence campus has grown and evolved in a quarter of millennium demonstrates that it is not the result of a branding campaign. Brown, author Raymond P. Rhinehart argues, offers “a magical urban tapestry that evokes a special sense of place.” Rhinehart, a Brown alumnus, makes his alma mater’s patrimony (“a textbook ensemble of American architecture, from colonial times to the present”) accessible through nine walks, supported by maps and luscious photos by Walter Smalling. Rhinehart is a consummate storyteller; his comprehensive history of the building arts at Brown offers good tales and delightful anecdotes.FULL ENTRY
It’s just plain remarkable that the North Bennet Street School in Boston’s North End went from the cramped labyrinth of hallways and classrooms in which the institution had been operating since it opened in 1885 to a new location on the corner of North and Richmond Streets in just 20 months. Esteemed for its age-old instruction of carpentry, woodworking, jewelry making, bookbinding, locksmithing, and musical instrument construction, the school needed more space for its expanding offerings and growing number of students. With a capital campaign that raised $17.05 million and help from its many supporters, including Kennedy & Violich Architecture of Boston, the school now has 65,000 square feet of space in the form of two buildings, a former city printing plant and a former police station, connected by a gorgeous central atrium. The new facility will allow the institution to grow and better continue its mission of educating students in trade skills, said Nancy Jenner, the school’s Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships.
The facility opened in September, in time for the fall semester, and on a recent tour it was clear the students and faculty were taking full advantage of the functionality of the most important element of a school — its classrooms. After only two months, it looked as if everyone was feeling right at home.FULL ENTRY
In a twist on the old saw “Are you working hard or hardly working?” a great corporate work space has to do a lot, but look as if it is hardly doing anything. Fusion Design Consultants, a Boston firm that specializes in corporate, retail, and hospitality interior architecture, clearly got the memo and followed through when it worked with a client on a 27,440 square-foot, full-floor-through office in downtown Boston. Fusion also won the 2013 Excellence in Design Award from the New England Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for its trouble.FULL ENTRY
Alvin Eisenman may not be a household name beyond the field of graphic design, but he was a mentor to the more than 200 former students and design luminaries who gathered at a memorial service at Yale University in New Haven in late October. An important New England artist, the teacher and book designer died September 3 at the simple modern house he designed and built on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He was 92. As Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art noted, “In 1950, when former Bauhaus master, Josef Albers asked typographer Alvin Eisenman to establish a program in graphic design at the school, it was impossible to predict the profound and lasting impact of the appointment on the field and beyond.”FULL ENTRY
A visit to Working Wood: Furniture Making at Massart, an exhibit at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, brought me back to my childhood. I have enormous respect for woodworking after spending my childhood years watching my father restoring wooden boats and crafting a cabinet or two in his basement workshop. He fashioned a workbench for my brother and me so we could join him as he worked and I have happy memories of hours spent alongside him, sanding a block of wood into oblivion. From there, my creations involved a lot of wood glue and bent nails, but my dad's efforts would eventually yield a new coffee table for my mom, or a long overdue handrail for the staircase. While studying art in college, I could have taken a woodworking elective, but, alas, I never strayed far from the two dimensional world.
Not so for these undergraduate and graduate students at MassArt, whose work is on display now through November 26 in the President's Gallery, located on the 11th floor of the Tower Building at 621 Huntington Avenue. Curated by instructor Mitch Ryerson and assisted by student designer Sophia Guthrie, the exhibit includes works created by the school’s architecture students and future furniture designers over the last few years.
Photographs by William Morgan
The uniqueness of New England is taking another hit as yet one more beloved and quirky regional business is unable to survive in a commercial world dominated by the internet, Walmart, and globalization. For just shy of half a century, Building #19 has
sold all sorts of odd lots from warehouses in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. As its founder Gerry Elovitz, a.k.a. Jerry Ellis, a once unemployed appliance salesman who started the company in 1964, cheerfully boasts, "We profited from mishaps and mistakes." (Yes, Building #19 did sell the pieces of glass that were removed from Boston's Hancock Tower for $100 each.)
In Jane Garmey’s view, the best gardens are the very personal. While it is a difficult quality to define, the garden writer and self-taught gardener says it is very apparent when the owner’s interests and hand is not part of the garden scheme. “Garden writing is not a how-to book,” she says in “A Garden Writer’s Garden,” a story about her own garden in the November/December 2013 issue of Design New England. “It is writing about the owner’s personality and the making of the garden. Showing people someone’s garden is more useful and interesting than telling them how to plant perennial beds . . . it inspires people.”FULL ENTRY
Photographs by William Morgan
For much of the 19th century, the Connecticut capital was a city to be reckoned with: wealthy, beautiful, a commercial and intellectual powerhouse.
Today, Hartford is a ghost of the city of Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Wallace Stevens. Beset with poverty, potholes, and uninspired development, the once pleasant city on the Connecticut River is an urban disaster.
Without going into the political, economic, and social reasons for a once proud metropolis’s decline, some conclusions can be drawn just from the view from my downtown hotel room during a recent visit.FULL ENTRY
We love making our Selections feature come to life issue after issue. It is our chance to let loose, challenge designers, and be invigorated and inspired by the creative ideas generated in the process. For November/December’s “’Tis the Season,” we asked three designers to use the classic elements of glass, nature, or silver to inspire holiday decoration that is fresh and chic (no garish red and green allowed). What we photographed were a variation on the standard Christmas tree (with a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot), a table setup, and sparkling seasonal decorations for an entryway. We hope these candid shots from our day of photographing their final works of art will get you in the decorating mood.FULL ENTRY
Michael J. Lee
Our January/February issue is our annual look at distinctive kitchen and bath design. Planning for it reminded us of the handsome master bathroom that took first place in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) New England Excellence in Design Awards earlier this fall. While the space was in a newly constructed wing of a reimagined oceanside property, designer Anne Alberts of Carpenter & MacNeille, architects and builders in Essex, Massachusetts, created a gracious restful space befitting the original 19th-century cottage. The client’s style was both traditional and tailored, traits reflected in the tidy, but highly detailed built-in storage unit set in an alcove under casement windows trimmed out with simple wide moulding.FULL ENTRY
To appreciate the impact Frances Mendelson Tenenbaum has had on garden writing, and by extension on gardening itself, consider that when the Garden Writers Association cited the 25 most significant garden books of the last 25 years, four were edited by Tenenbaum. “Before Frances, the only garden writers known in America were British,” said Sara Hobel, director of the New York Horticultural Society, which honored Tenenbaum in 2011. “Our library is full of her books.” For many years Tenenbaum, who didn’t launch her career as an editor at Houghton Mifflin, where she had her own imprint, until age 55, was considered the nation’s leading garden book editor. She died following a series of illnesses on September 24 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she had lived since 1972. She was 94.FULL ENTRY
Wait until you see the fabulous cover of our November/December 2013 issue in the flesh. An almost-final proof (above) convinced us that the bold design scheme of interior designer Steven Favreau called for an equally bold move on our part. “We had originally picked a far more buttoned-up shade of pink for the ‘design’ of the Design New England logo,” says art director Jenna Talbott, “but at the 11th hour and as final proof approvals were being signed, the team made a unanimous decision to ‘turn the lights on’ and go for a neon shade of bright pink fuchsia.” The time frame was tight, but our printer, The Lane Press, was able to secure the special-order ink we needed in time for printing a mere 36 hours later. “When the glowing stack arrived in our offices this morning, it was as if the sun had broken through the clouds,” says Talbott. “We absolutely love it.”
The cover is a happy reflection of our theme for our seventh anniversary issue, “Celebrating Style.” Our stories and photos reflect our appreciation for the many styles found throughout the region: traditional, contemporary, ornate, minimalist, and that of designer Favreau, which defies definition. His 1832 brick “Federal, Favreau Style” house in Vermont won our hearts, and our cover.
Also in the issue is an agrarian-inspired country abode in Rhode Island custom-made for an artist couple, a sophisticated empty nest in Boston’s Back Bay, a kitchen renovation for Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, and a re-purposed antique-barn-turned-cozy-home in rural Vermont. Holiday decorating ideas (click for an online video exclusive with designer Eric Haydel), local small-batch food products, and the robust New England cranberry harvest (click for bonus photographs online) rounds out the magazine.
We think that the entire issue affirms that after seven great years of splendid homes and gardens enjoyed, there are many more to come!
Great design is always at your fingertips — read the November/December 2013 issue online!
Photographs by William Morgan
As All Hallows Eve approaches, it seems appropriate to wander about one of the handsome cemeteries where the famous, the infamous, and just plain folks are laid to rest. Before any municipal parks, picturesque wooded cemeteries served as a de facto public park, a place where people could escape the fumes of manufacturing, take a picnic, and, in good Victorian fashion, contemplate the meaning of death. Oak Grove in Fall River, Massachusetts, is such a place. A classic example of a mid-19th-century rural cemetery, this bucolic burial ground was the precursor of city parks, such as those engineered for dozens of major cities by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of the American landscape profession.FULL ENTRY
Making It In America at the Rhode Island School of Design’s art museum in Providence is not a blockbuster exhibit. There is no definitive catalogue, nor are there plans for the show to go onto the road. Displayed are one hundred works of painting and sculpture, along with some furniture and decorative arts. But this “first in-depth exploration of this subject in many years” demonstrates how exceptional quality has little to do with museum size or huge hype.FULL ENTRY
“The Look” is Boston Design Center’s speculation on tomorrow. And we were happy to hear it will be pretty. At least according to Marisa Marcantonio, this year’s guest forecaster of trends at the recent annual day of design at the mammoth BDC in South Boston.FULL ENTRY
October 20th marks the 53rd anniversary of the opening of “the first fully automated post office in the United States.” President Eisenhower was here in Providence that day in 1960 to cut the ribbon.
The huge building and technologically advanced sorting operation, located in what was then known as the West River Development, were the brainchild of U.S. Postmaster Arthur E. Summerfield, who declared that “Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California.” Summerfield, who earned some notoriety for trying to ban the mailing of D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, declared that “We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.”
Could a Clive Christian showroom be coming to Boston?
The answer is a resounding maybe. The superstar of British brands is placing its proverbial toe in the waters around the Charles hoping that the ripple will reach a proper partner for its line of kitchens, interiors, and furniture. Clive (its website is simply clive.com) does have showrooms and partners on this side of the pond, most notably a corporate-run shop in New York, but no one from headquarters had set foot in Boston in 10 years until last week. Victoria Christian, the eldest daughter of company founder and design clairvoyant Clive Christian, was in town for a meet-and-greet with design industry types at the British Consulate on Beacon Hill.
The New England Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers has done a very good thing in resurrecting a design competition for its members. Talent and hard work deserve some reward, and peer recognition is arguably the highest order of praise. Preparing to enter a contest can also force a designer to bring a more thoughtful and critical eye to his or her own work and, perhaps, offer motivation to push the next design envelope a bit further.FULL ENTRY
Courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella, 2013.
The Monks Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was designed by Isabella Gardner herself in 1901. But she never got it quite right. Even though she was an experienced horticulturist (or perhaps because she was a experienced horticulturist), she fussed with the cloistered garden, located on the historic building’s eastern side and enclosed by a brick wall, from the museum’s opening in 1903 until her death in 1924. Many changes to the garden have taken place since then, but none so extensive as the complete redesign landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh accomplished this fall as the final piece of the museum’s extensive renovation, which included the new Renzo Piano-designed wing. Open to visitors during regular museum hours, the new 7,545-square-foot garden reverberates the museum’s spirit of eccentricity with a clever design and twisting paths that make it appear to be larger than it is.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.