Design Talk

A nationally recognized interior designer, Christine Tuttle has had her work detailed in the pages of such magazines as This Old House, Design New England and New England Home. She has also lent her design expertise to the Emmy Award-winning PBS TV show This Old House for the 2013-2014 season and is often asked to speak at design-related events in and around Boston.

By Parker Kelley

Tuttle is a designer in demand, creating spaces for hotels, commercial businesses and private residences, from Cape Cod to San Francisco. Her education—which includes graduate work at London’s Sotheby’s Institute of Art and in the History of Art and Architecture department at Harvard University—and work experiences as a former gallery director, museum curator, arts writer and auction house specialist inform her versatile designs and solidify her place as a bona fide design expert.

Luckily for us, she made time to meet between appointments at the Boston Design Center to answer a few questions about her work, what inspires her, and what red-hot trends she is seeing.

What is your design philosophy and how has your art background influenced your work today?
My philosophy was significantly informed [by] my training in London. Looking at the buildings of architect Inigo Jones or the designs of the 17th-century architect and furniture designer Daniel Marot, or the 18th-century Neoclassic interiors of Robert Adam, really shaped how I approach projects today. Once you see something like Syon House, just outside of London, which is basically a master class in all aspects of design (furniture, paint, art, space, fabrics, materials), how could you not carry that with you? I was lucky enough to learn from world experts at The Victoria & Albert Museum and at Sotheby’s Art Institute, and visited historic houses and museums all over the world by my mid-20s, so my philosophy always includes that spaces should have balance and form. I start each project from a place that is pretty traditional, whether it is a furniture plan, or house façade, or color scheme, and then factor in other elements. I’m always excited about new ideas, new technology, new products, but prefer ones with staying power and overall good design.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration comes in many forms: my Instagram feed, where I follow creative directors, international designers, artists, and friends from all over the world; new clients who may have existing collections that need editing [to] showcase the best pieces; [and], of course, new technology is always driving design. I prefer smart-house products that integrate seamlessly, and, in some cases, invisibly. Lastly, travel is hugely influential. Sights, tastes, ideas from places near and far always inspire. This year I was inspired by so many places…new restaurants in San Francisco; the natural, large-scale, open-air room designs at the Ritz Carlton Reserve Dorado resort in Puerto Rico; little cobblestone streets and historic homes in Newburyport, Mass.

What are some of the differences between designing for Boston homes vs. those on the Cape and Islands, the South Coast and South Shore?
We live in an area where summer is a verb and summer places are often more important to people than their main home. There are lots of similarities in designing for homes in that 70-mile distance (Boston to Cape Cod), but I think the difference is the relation to the water along the South Shore, the Cape and the South Coast. The ocean and how we use it (boats, fishing and swimming) have an impact on what is needed at those houses (exterior showers, indoor/outdoor rooms, Sunbrella fabric, barefoot floors, pale paint colors).

What are the trends right now?
Metal finishes (iron, nickel and bronze) as well as jewelry-toned finishes, like rose gold faucets and cabinet pulls, are very popular. There has also been a huge return to using brass, which is traditional yet, depending on the application, modern.

Wallpaper has had an enormous resurgence and it’s not cooling. Wall covering hides imperfect walls, adds texture or acts as art. There are so many choices: traditional printed wallpaper; custom coloring [for] an existing [wallpaper] design; a large-scale printing process [to] allow a favorite photo you took to become a feature wall. A trend towards things that are designed to be temporary, rather than go the distance, like re-positional wallpaper, has emerged. It also informs the larger “no big commitment” style for the younger set.

Younger homeowners, condo- and apartment-dwellers are trending toward livable minimalism and only investing in a few nice things (a great sofa, a large piece of colorful art) in an otherwise monochromatic room (gray, off white).

Christine Tuttle specializes in remodeling and has an office in historic Dedham Square. For more design insights and information, check out Tuttle’s blog at christinetuttle.wordpress.com, follow on facebook@christinetuttleinterior or visit christinetuttle.com.

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