Boston Home Spring 2010: Next Generation Design
Introducing the up-and-coming design pros who will shape the way we build our homes, decorate our living rooms, spend our free time, and think about the city in the decade to come.
Stephanie Horowitz, 27, Zero Energy Design
Stephanie Horowitz and her partners started laying the groundwork for Zero Energy Design (ZED) while studying at Cornell University. They founded the school’s first Solar Decathlon team, ultimately designing and building an 800-square-foot, ultra-energy-efficient home for the annual U.S. Department of Energy competition. (They won second place.) It was at Cornell that they discovered the value of having several experts under one roof, including engineers and business types. After a year at large New York firm NBBJ, Horowitz joined her former teammates in Boston to establish a multidisciplinary company dedicated to green design. “It was a calculated risk,” says the designer, “but I didn’t want to follow the traditional model of working until my mid-40s before going out on my own.” Since then, ZED has scored several projects on the Cape (including the residence featured on page 54) and is currently wrapping up the design of a house in Little Compton, Rhode Island.
Chaewon Kim, 34, Uni-Architecture
Just two years after earning her degree from Harvard, Chaewon Kim partnered with her Swiss-born husband, Beat Schenk, 44, to start Uni-Architecture, a design/build firm based in Cambridge. As upstarts, they didn’t let a lack of clients stop them: While Schenk continued his day job at Cannon Design, the two began to design and build house after tiny, modern house on a small plot near the Alewife MBTA station. They toiled weekends and nights, building with their own hands and often relying on how-to books for guidance. Their whimsical approach to residential design appealed to Cambridge intellectuals and quickly sold. The projects also brought them international attention and plenty of press, so much so that Kim and Schenk’s talents are now being sought in New York and as far away as China.
Theodore Touloukian, 41, Touloukian Touloukian Architecture + Urban Design
It takes a certain amount of optimism to leave a big firm—and in Ted Touloukian’s case, a willing partner. After spending almost a decade working for others, Ted and his wife, Susan, launched a partnership in late 2003. The couple, who met while studying architecture at the University of Michigan, call their warm, contemporary aesthetic “contextual modern.” Case in point: their design for the tiny “East Sixth Street House” in South Boston, built for a local developer. It required serious planning skills to squeeze 1,825 square feet onto the petite lot, give the home a distinct presence while meeting a $145-per-square-foot budget, and avoid offending the more conservative Southie neighbors. Bright and airy, with deep light wells and glass railings, the resulting condo addition won a Small Firms/Small Projects award from the Boston Society of Architects in 2008. Currently the Touloukians are finishing up a pavilion in the new Riverside park on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, among smaller projects. They live in South Boston with their three young children.
Elizabeth Whittaker, 39, Merge Architects
Three years out of graduate school in 2003, Elizabeth Whittaker, then 33, decided to end her tenure at Brian Healy Architects and strike out on her own. Thus began round-the-clock design sessions in the office of her Fort Point Channel home, which yielded a series of elegant, moderately priced loft interiors for friends of friends of friends. Using her own loft as a laboratory, Whittaker was able to find ways to divide up space without using studs and drywall. Innovative designs featuring glass as walls, movable partitions, and plenty of custom-built storage furniture earned Merge Architects a slew of awards and an expanding list of clients. (If you’ve ever walked into a MiniLuxe nail salon or Central Square’s Middlesex Lounge, you’ve seen Merge’s unique, minimalist work.) Now a mother of three, Whittaker has a sunny office just a few blocks from home, and increasingly prominent projects.
Michael Kubo, 31
Pursuing a Ph.D. at MIT; educator (most recently at the University of Buffalo); former editor at architectural publisher ACTAR. Degree: Architecture, Harvard. Résumé: Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam; Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Boston. Focus: Publishing, architectural history and criticism. “Books are more agile than buildings—they’re faster to produce, more mobile in their reach, and can have a more immediate impact on how people think about architecture.” Design hero: Critic Reyner Banham. Why teach? “I can work through topics that interest me. There’s no inherent reason for architecture, so all of our choices will determine whether it survives as a profession.” Why Boston? “With so many design schools, the city has a strong intellectual climate and a rich architectural legacy.” How can Boston foster the next generation of designers? “The city needs more places outside of academia where designers can meet, exchange ideas, publish, and debate.”
Mariana Ibanez, 35
Cofounder of architecture firm I|Kstudio; assistant professor of architecture, Harvard. Degree: Architecture, University of Buenos Aires and the Architectural Association, London. Résumé: Zaha Hadid, London. Focus: Finding a synthesis between academic theory and practice. Why teach? “Architecture is a very complex field, but academia gives me the opportunity to experiment, which then informs my practice.” Why Boston? “There are a lot of very talented, forward-thinking designers here, thanks to the strength of the institutions in the area.” How can Boston foster the next generation of designers? “In Europe and Latin America, the work of young designers is much more visible in the fabric of the cities and in events. We need more competitions and grants to support budding architects and urban planners.”
Chris Grimley, 38
Cofounder of Pink Comma Gallery and Over, Under design studio; writer, book designer, and educator (most recently at Northeastern). Degree: Architecture, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Résumé: Machado and Silvetti Associates, Boston. Focus: Multidisciplinary design and research; bringing together Boston’s next generation of thinkers. Design heroes: Architect Gordon Bunshaft (1909–1990); British architectural theorists Alison and Peter Smithson. Recent exhibit: “Heroic: Boston Concrete 1957–1976,” which explores the city’s modernist roots. Why Boston? “Like Toronto, it’s a small city with big ideas. Thankfully, we’re getting beyond looking at the cityscape as an architectural artifact.” How can Boston foster the next generation of designers? “We need to trust our young designers enough to give them projects—they’re invested in the city, and they’re here to stay.”
David Gamble, 41
Principal of Gamble Associates; founder, Community Design Resource Center, Boston; educator, Northeastern and Harvard. Degree: Architecture, Harvard. Résumé: M & P Design, Zurich; Rob Krier/Christoph Kohl, Berlin; Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, Cambridge. Focus: Urban design, specifically the impact of institutional growth on transitional neighborhoods. Why teach? “It broadens my approach. Today’s students are looking to make a real difference.” Why volunteer? “Young designers need real-world experience, and nonprofits need design services. Why not align the need with the demand?” Why Boston? “Competition is tough, but there’s an infectious spirit of collaboration here, especially among younger practitioners.”
Tony Bevilacqua, 30, and Alicia Cornwell, 27, Chroma Lab
Bostonian Tony Bevilacqua, an artist and decorative painter, and Texan Alicia Cornwell, an art historian, take “old things that need a second chance” (e.g., vintage writing desks and night tables) and transform them into playful pieces using low-VOC paints and finishes. The Boston-based pair, who formed their furniture company in 2008, also design quirky clocks and wall treatments, such as murals. Always up for a challenge, they welcome custom orders, and even the ugliest bureau can be salvaged in their expert hands. “There really is a market in Boston,” Bevilacqua says. “People like things that are punchy and fun.”
Janet Echelman, 43, Janet Echelman Sculpture
Janet Echelman uses light and a web of steel cables to create large urban works that respond to natural forces such as wind, sunlight, and water. She began using nets after a 1996 trip to India to lecture on a Fulbright grant. There, she observed fishermen hauling their catches, and that moment inspired several installations here and abroad, including Her Secret Is Patience, a 145-foot-high sculpture in downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space Park. “My strategy is to let my work be choreographed by nature,” says Echelman, who lives in Brookline with her husband and two children.
Jessica Rosenkrantz, 26, and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, 23, Nervous System
MIT grads Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg combine their knowledge of science and nature to generate organically patterned jewelry and home -accessories. The couple formed their Amherst-based company in 2007 as they were wrapping up their studies, he in math, she in biology and architecture. At the heart of their work is the software they developed, which uses pattern-generating algorithms to create unique designs. The result: beautiful adornments made of everything from rubber to gold, available online and in domestic and international boutiques. Because the pair is constantly learning about naturally occurring patterns, the design possibilities are endless.
Jessica Woodward, 38, Jessica Woodward Furniture
Jessica Woodward grew up working alongside her father, a carpenter and general contractor, so she’s no stranger to sawdust and the vagaries of wood. After attending several schools and working for custom furniture- and cabinetmakers, Woodward formed her own design company three years ago. “I think that you can take really simple pieces and create something beautiful with elegant joinery,” she says. Her furniture frequently incorporates reclaimed elements, from wheels from old South Station luggage carts to used butcher-block countertops to drawers from what was once a desk. “I love exposing the gorgeous grains of the woods and designing each corner with the highest degree of craftsmanship. These are the things that can elevate furniture to art.”
Lindsay Bentis, 32, Thread Art and Design, and Kara Butterfield, 36, MakeReady
Kara Butterfield (shown at right) knows drama: She started out designing theatrical sets. Attending to mood-setting details is key in interior design, too, she says. “Lighting is an important aspect, so I think of that in the early stage of a project.” After relocating to Boston from Australia, she joined forces with designer Lindsay Bentis to hold style clinics for would-be clients. While each maintains her own business for smaller projects, the duo works in tandem on grand overhauls. Sharing a cheery aesthetic and a knack for mixing high- and low-end, they’re livening up this town one room at a time.
Mistress of Minimal
Fernanda Bourlot, 39, Simplemente Blanco
To some, an all-white palette might seem like an anti–color scheme. But for Buenos Aires native Fernanda Bourlot and the legions of locals who come to her for style advice, neutrality is transcendent. Her ideal clients, she says, are dreamers: “Young people, in age or in spirit. I like free minds, and people who want to take some risks.” Whether she’s choosing products for her South End home accessories showroom or designing a client’s abode, achieving calm is always her goal. “I try to get as much natural light into a room as possible. Everything goes from there,” she explains. The result of such restraint? A clean style that feels pure and organic, not forced.
Brad Dufton, 32, and Benjamin Scott, 34, ColorTheory
When it comes to color, fabrics, and even rethinking a room’s layout, Brad Dufton (shown at left) and Benjamin Scott are jacks-of-all-trades: They tackle everything from a simple paint job to reimagining an entire home. And they bring plenty of design savvy to the table: The duo met while working for luxe furniture store Roche Bobois, and Dufton spent a few years selling Boston real estate. But while they’re well acquainted with the Hub’s high-end clientele, they’re hardly stodgy. “I enjoy the impact of fashion on our homes,” Dufton says of their decidedly modern approach. “Stripes and graphic patterns, daring colors, plush textures…I’m tired of the safe, contemporary look that has drowned Boston for so long.” Adds Scott, “I want to see combinations of styles and periods. I’ll take ideas from anywhere. Good design is good design.”
Annsley McAleer, 34, Annsley Interiors
From sprawling suburban mansions to a small Back Bay cupcake shop, Annsley McAleer’s signature style is as versatile as it is traditional. Her work has wide appeal—it’s been featured in Domino and Traditional Home—but Boston-area homes, which tend to be steeped in history, seem to mesh particularly well with her style. “In New York, I worked for designer Ralph Harvard, who specialized in historic preservation,” McAleer explains. “I like to respect the space, but update it via color, fabrics, and patterns.” And she’s not out to create museums: “The majority of my clients are young families who want to up the style quotient, but also be practical,” she notes. In addition to making a space look polished, she says, “you want to be able to make a client’s life a little better.”
Erin Gates, elementsofstyle.com
Age: 30. Location: Jamaica Plain. Years blogging: Two and a half. Day job: Interior designer and fashion stylist for my own company, Element Interiors. When and where do you blog? Every morning at 6:30 from my home office. How much time do you spend online? Between blogging, sourcing for clients, and social media, I’d say five hours a day. Describe your style. Modern-traditional. I like both contemporary and classic items for home and fashion, and I think a combination of these styles looks pretty fierce. Favorite designers: Steven Gambrel, Mary McDonald, and Amanda Nisbet.
“I thought about the best evening, in which we sat around the fire pit in huge white butterfly chairs while a waiter brought us wine. I forgot how damn comfortable those chairs are and how, when used in the right setting, they aren’t as ‘college dorm’ as I remember.”
“I have had [a] room saved on my computer for months. I’ve loved it and looked at it several times. I think it’s at once calming, bold, graphic, organized but with personality. I wanted to try to re-create a similar look on a budget, so here [is my sofa pick].”
“I totally dork out on hardware. I guess this is why I do what I do—seeing a gorgeous period-style door hinge just gets me all sorts of giddy.”
Holly Becker, decor8blog.com
Age: “Do I really have to say?” Location: Germany [she’s a Boston expat]. Years blogging: Four. Day job: I blog full time. I’m also a columnist at Realsimple.com. How did you get started? I registered the blog name Decor8 back in May 2005, when I was just starting as a design consultant after 10 years of corporate jobs. Why do you blog? I wanted to share my ideas at no cost on my site, show my finds, and, most importantly, spotlight the independent arts and crafts world that was in the making. I was passionate about decorating and writing, and I truly wanted to share from the heart without any motive for income or success and fame.
“Cynthia Vardhan is a successful potter in Ohio with a degree in fine arts and a beautiful body of work that will have you swooning. Such talent!”
“Winner of the iF Product Design Award 2010 just a few weeks ago, it is an attractive piece indoors or outside in the garden, perfect for all seasons. I’m counting eight colors on their website, though there could be more. I’m a big fan of the white, beige, and gray stools and can see them fitting in perfectly in a living or dining room area, but also in a child’s room or on the patio.”
“Erin Flett is a graphic and textile designer in Maine who just launched a line of hand-silkscreened pillows that she hopes will speak ‘to the stylist’s soul.’ I don’t know about you, but that squirrel is totally speaking to me. He is saying something like, ‘Buy me, dude.’ He’d be perfect for my friend’s new baby boy!”
Marni Katz, stylecarrot.com
Age: 41. Location: Back Bay. Years blogging: One. Day job: Editor of NBCBoston.com and freelance writer. When and where do you blog? Anywhere and everywhere. I mostly work on a sofa under bay windows overlooking Beacon Street. When the weather’s nice, I’ll go to the Clarendon Street Playground. How much time do you spend online? Twelve hours a day, give or take a few. How did you get started? The demise of Domino was the impetus behind Style Carrot. If they weren’t going to provide accessible yet fashion-forward design advice for me, then I would do it myself. Describe your style. Clean, crisp, modern, and uncluttered.
“A few years ago I discovered Rio de Janeiro artist Beatriz Milhazes. Her work was hanging in a living room featured in a glossy mag (perhaps Elle Decor). I perused her work online, but it simply wasn’t in the budget.”
“The ubiquitous pouf. They’re everywhere. Moroccan-style poufs, knitted poufs, even wire poufs (though not sure those are actually poufy). I finally purchased one for myself.”
“Here’s to a sparkling New Year. Cheers! xoxo.”
Jane Miller, J.E.M.
Age: 33. Location: South End. Bio: Originally from Connecticut; earned a master’s in interior design at the University of California at Berkeley. Previously worked at Koo de Kir, Rafanelli Events, and a San Francisco interiors firm. Opened J.E.M. in September 2009. What catches your eye? I subscribe to the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, which is about finding beauty in imperfection. I carry things that are beautiful in unexpected ways, that have a history or a prior function. Why the South End? Thanks to the sophistication of the neighborhood, my life and work are intertwined. I’ve started doing in-store “salons” featuring artists and designers like contemporary German artist Rene Spitzer. In general, I’m really optimistic about Boston design. I see entrepreneurs—architecture firms like Office dA and retailers like Acquire—taking chances and pushing the traditionalist envelope.
Jonathan O’Toole & Wendy Friedman, Grand
Age: Both 34. Location: Union Square. Bio: The pair met a decade ago while working at the record label Rykodisc in Salem, and opened Grand in 2006. Friedman is an art director at Hill, Holliday; O’Toole is a founder of the marketing company BzzAgent. What catches your eye? [Friedman:] I like design that’s bright and smart and sometimes clever, but still classic. Why Union Square? We wanted to enter an area where most people don’t expect to find a design-oriented store. We’ve held events ranging from whiskey tastings to book signings to trunk shows. Since we opened, there’s been an influx of young entrepreneurs in the neighborhood—and we think that we’ve helped inspire that.
Nikki Dalrymple, Acquire
Age: 31. Location: North End. Bio: Spent eight years as a television producer, then worked at Beacon Hill boutique Good before launching her own shop in 2008. What catches your eye? I don’t look for a certain type of antique or trend, or get hung up by the provenance of an item; instead, I find beauty in texture, color, and form. Why the North End? I love the dichotomy of old and new. We have 50-year-old cheese shops next to edgy clothing boutiques. Architecturally, the neighborhood appeals to my “old world” sensibility. I’m excited about the new boutique hotels opening here. Woodward at the Ames hotel is a fantastic blend of vintage luxury with a modern twist.
Stefane Barbeau, Vessel
Age: 38. Location: Chinatown. Bio: Raised in Ottawa; earned an industrial design degree from Carleton University; moved to Boston in 1999. After eight years at design firms, he began the Vessel label in 2001 and the retail store in 2003. What’s your design philosophy? [Cofounder Duane Smith] and I are more technical; we’re not into fashion or trends. We want to create products that have longevity, that will be in garage sales in 30 years. Why Chinatown? The initial attraction was from a “cheap, cool studio space” standpoint. But then—boom!—the Rose Kennedy Greenway happened, so we lucked out. Boston is second to Silicon Valley for product design in the U.S. Our footwear and medical-device industries have cultivated a really vibrant design community.
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