A Colorful New Year

A Colorful New Year

Winter doldrums got you down? This Massachusetts design team has the color cure!

Photos courtesy of Michael J. Lee.

Chances are if you live on the East Coast, your world is looking pretty grey right about now. The Grayson “bomb cyclone” that doused Rhode Island in a shower of monochromatic slush has left me feeling, well “ugggh.” If, like me, you’re a bit starved for color, read on, my friend.

The team of Matt Simitis and Courtney Driver of Curl Simitis architecture + design has the cure – an injection of bold, vivid color into our dreary New England winter. Feast your eyes on some truly spectacular images (courtesy of Michael J. Lee) from their recently completed Wellesley, Massachusetts, project. Caution: You will likely be inspired to repaint your dining room the next time you’re stuck inside on a snow day.

Q: Please tell us a bit about Curl Simitis and your work. 


A: At Curl Simitis architecture + design, we believe in the enduring integrity of craft, and we believe in the importance of architecture to be an expression of its time. In an area as rich with history as New England, the balance between the two is where we find the most potential for meaningful design solutions, whether in a renovation or a new house. We’re Modernists at heart, but finding the appropriate expression of our clients’ personalities balanced with context is our favorite part of the process and is what we do best. 


Q: What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate bold, vivid color into your designs?

A: Smaller, well-contained rooms, such as a front entry, dining room, or powder room, are perfect spaces to inject bold colors. We tend to look at these spaces as “jewel boxes” because you can step inside them and be transported. Since they are rooms you tend to pass through infrequently, most homeowners feel more comfortable making a big statement. These rooms also tend to be spaces where guests frequent so they can have a greater impact on a wider audience. 


Entry way by Curl Simitis with blue carpeted stairs and red door

Alternatively, in large spaces it is usually a good approach to think at multiple scales. The wall color is usually a lighter tone to keep the light, airy feel that people love, but developing a range of colors for furniture, fabrics, and accessories helps to break down the volume of the room. These layered readings of color create a more intimate visual texture that people can get comfortable in. It also helps to create different “rooms” within the space (say, Dining and Living area), where there’s a common palette of colors, but each emphasizes a different tone. 


Family room by Curl Simitis with red chair

Q: New England is home to a lot of traditional residences. How can color help take an old home into a modern space? 


A: There are so many unique and interesting ways to use color to bring a home into contemporary times. One way is to use broad strokes where emphasis is placed on whole planes rather than details within that plane. For example, in a dining room that may have paneling, crown molding, and a base, we would suggest painting all trim one deep color. In that instance you retain the detail the room has to offer, but you temper it with a contemporary way of treating interiors. The details are still present and discernable through the varied shadow lines of the differing profiles, but it’s the tone that has more impact. 


Kitchen table with blue bench seat by Curl Simitis

We also like to develop our color schemes by starting from paint manufacturers’ historic color collections. We find that the deeper, earthier tones that are present in more traditional paint colors form a good base for the other colors we’ll use to play off them. Ultimately, within most schemes we develop there will be both historic and non-historic colors. The context – both how the color is used as mentioned earlier, and the architecture it’s being used with – really begins to define how the colors are perceived. It can be really surprising to see a color you know to be “historic” suddenly looking crisp and modern!

Q: What do you say to clients who are wary of bold color choices? 


A: Some of our clients express concerns that if they commit to color, they will either tire of that color or that color won’t be flexible for the long term. Our goal in these cases is to help them identify a color family that they love, have always loved, and most likely will love in the future. Most people have a color that they gravitate towards and you can start to identify that by the clothing they wear or other personal items they have. We may start with a “safe” color and then extend their comfort zone by punching up that “safe” color a notch. For example, navy may become cobalt. In some cases, we may just use small doses of this color. 
For those clients who shy away from color completely, but don’t want a sea of neutrals, we try and broaden the definition of color. By playing with tones of wood, metal, and hues of grey, you can achieve a striking interior or exterior.

Blue bathroom vanity by Curl Simitis

Q: How does the function of a room help inform your color choices (think bedroom vs. office vs. dining room)? 


A: It all comes down to a client’s personality and how that specific client wants to interact with his or her room, and less about commonly held beliefs about how a particular room should be designed. In our initial meetings we like to ask our clients a lot of questions about how they like to use their room, what time of day they most use it, it is a public or private space, etc. Their answers start to inform how we may choose to add color and texture within the room. While it’s true that there are calmer or more active colors, softer hues or deeper tones can cut into those perceptions. 


White and blue bedroom with orange accents by Curl Simitis

It’s much more important for the client to drive the color choice than the activity. In the case of this project, each of the family’s three sons had a favorite color (red, green, and blue) they used to differentiate themselves from one another. We were able to use that as the starting point for conversations about the interiors without letting ourselves be too anchored to primary tones. By doing that we were able to develop a palette that both kids and adults would appreciate. 


Q: Is there a right way and a wrong way to “do” color? 


A: The most important thing to remember when selecting colors for a home is to develop a consistent palette of colors that will be applied throughout. It is tempting to think of each room as independent and that successful finishing of each room will allow them to hang well together, but we’ve all experienced projects where the transition from one room to another is jarring due to abrupt tonal changes. This is especially true when saturated colors are used.

Shower with blue and grey tiling by Curl Simitis

A better approach is to develop a concise set of colors with accents that relate to one another and a more neutral base color that can connect them all. That way, a color that is emphasized in one room can be more in the background of another, and creates many more options for how they can be combined without feeling like a patchwork quilt. 


Final choices for a family room by Curl Simitis

Q: Who do you admire in the design and/or architecture fields, and what are they doing that you admire?

A: The bold exteriors of Matthias Sauerbruch and Louisa Hutton are amazing. They’re both artistic and exotic, playful and sophisticated. The fine-grained moves they make with color and materials help to break down large surfaces and create a human scale and interest the same way we talk about with large rooms. For interiors we love how bright and fun Emily Henderson’s interiors are. Everything she designs is so playful, full of life, and inviting.

Studio DUNN would like to extend a special thank you to Matt and Courtney for helping us overcome our winter doldrums. Color can be intimidating to the point of inaction, but frankly they make it look so fun, it’s irresistible! We have a few more months of bleak ahead of us, so all the more reason to infuse your interior with color and beat those winter blues…and reds, and greens.

Wishing you all a colorful (and color-filled) 2018!

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