In Honor of Earth Day: Sustainable Restorations​

At first glance, the communities of Loreto Bay, located in Baja, Mexico, and The Providence Riverwalk, in Rhode Island, USA might not seem to have much in common. In fact, both areas were once a pile of concrete and asphalt, offering little commercial or cultural value to their communities.​

Why Your Word Choices Matter: Vocabulary 3​

Disruption and Transformation  It seems that almost every start-up wants to disrupt something, to follow the footsteps of Amazon who disrupted and almost destroyed the traditional bookstore method of buying books. Surprisingly the local bookstore is making a bit of revival, because it turns out that buying a book involves more than reading reviews and downloading content. People love browsing, talking to salespeople who are passionate readers, buying a cup of coffee and sitting in the cozy warmth of a bookstore. That doesn’t mean that the people who love bookstores don’t also love Amazon. They do. Both options fill a need. But Jeff Bezos didn’t stop at disrupting the bookselling industry, he has gone on to disrupt the entire retail industry. I get it, investors want to invest in the next Amazon. Everyone wants to be a gazillionaire. Now, let’s look at Apple. Apple did not invent the personal computer, nor the idea of a portable phone. Apple didn’t disrupt the computer industry, Apple transformed the industry’s emphasis from engineering better products to designing better looking and easier to use products. Apple was not a disrupter as much as a transformer – and they became the most profitable public company in the world. So why are start-ups so interested in disruption? Disruption has a destructive connotation, while transformation has a positive connotation of building on the existing and adding value. Transformation also connotes innovation, a word also over-used these days, but I digress. How do these words disruption and transformation relate to architecture and interiors? In our work, we specialize in transforming existing spaces to make them work better, look better and feel better. Our goal is to minimize disruption since most of our projects are constructed (and demo’ed) while they are occupied. That could be the reason I really don’t like the word and meaning of disruption. Since I began my professional life there have been many innovations for renovation projects, to make them less disruptive, including zip walls and sticky mats that contain dust, and sticky plastic and paper rolls that protect floor finishes. Construction and reconstruction have also become less disruptive due to better project management tools, that allow contractors to predict when particularly noisy or dusty work will happen. As we all know, better communication and setting expectations will make for better projects. The successful transformation of the spaces we design makes for a work life filled with joy and gratification. Several of our most recent projects have been large: in size, in the number of people who have had input along the way, and in complexity. [Note: renovations are, in general, more complex than new construction]. Four projects finishing up this spring had their first meetings as long ago as 2014! The design process can be quick and it can be slow, due to many factors. We think disruption is easy, but it may be necessary on the road to transformation. Let’s improve the way things are, let’s re-use what we can re-use, let’s throw away less, and let’s make the world a better place for people who work, play, age, live and learn. If you have a space that could use a little or big transformation, give us a call!​

A Rich and Varied Life of Service​

Praise to Bill and Melinda Gates who, through their foundation, have focused on three primary directives: Ensure that more children and young people survive and thrive; the global eradication of diseases that affect the poor; and improving education and opportunity for at risk people. Praise to Mark Margulies, Boston-based Architect, who, through his focus on one issue, homelessness in Greater Boston, has made a huge positive impact on the homeless in our fair city. Praise to Donna Park, brave and committed Cincinnatian who works through the Catholic Church, on World Peace. Just as I struggle to have one “style” that is predictable for clients, I have struggled to find one “cause” into which I could pour my charitable efforts. I appreciate many “styles” because being open to many possibilities means there is a better chance for a fantastic solution. It may be why the practice is so diverse, perhaps. Likewise, my heart is drawn to so many good causes, local, national and international,because I feel like they help the communities to which I am attached, including the Global Community(isn’t that everyone?). Since I think that no one entity has a lock on good ideas, I support the idea that if we have enough groups working on the same issue (think Cancer research), perhaps we will find,collectively, the solution to any challenge.  Here are a few of the organizations with whom I connect to my “communities”: Our professional design community through Boston Society of Architects (BSA), a chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). I am active in the Women Principals Group and I support the BSA foundation. The executive women in business community through the Boston Club (affiliated with ION). I am active in the social dinner group, the Cambridge Affinity Group, one of the Third Age Groups, part of the Membership Committee, helping to on board new members, Liaison to the Rising Generation Committee and the Diversity Inclusion Committee. The women in real estate community through the commercial real estate women (CREW)organization where I am a member of both the Miami and Boston chapters. I have been very active over the years, although less so more recently as I have become more involved in the Boston Club. CREW Boston honored me with its Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. I remain active in the CREW Boston Entrepreneur Exchange. Our local Boston disadvantaged community through United Way of Eastern Massachusetts. I was part of the RE and Construction Industry Breakfast Committee for many years. My personal religious community through Temple and through Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which is kind of like a local Jewish United Way. CJP is an amazing organization and a current client! The non-profit organizations who serve local and international environmental, educational and healthcare needs through JNF, Hadassah, US Green Building Council (USGBC) and others. The world of underprivileged men in Boston through our newest mostly pro-bono non-profit, Father’s Uplift, helping men who need to get back on their feet and learn how to be better fathers after economic set-backs and sometimes incarceration (shout out to Founders Charles and Samantha Daniels!) Pay it forward / mentoring others through helping young people who seek me out about their careers and interest in architecture and interiors. I support between 1 and 3 young women each year. Helping artists make connections with galleries, consultants, and clients as well as with each other. Joyce Creiger has a website called Art Specifier where she supports artists around the world who want to sell their art. I also have made introductions of artists to local galleries and tour clients. Serving the students and Alumni of the Boston Architectural College (BAC) and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) through portfolio review and hiring student interns. I also am a member Emeritus of the Board of Overseers of the Boston Architectural Center. Being available to friends and family for whatever is needed. And taking them to museums! Art is soul-building. (Shout out to the Design Museum Boston’s slogan, “Design is Everywhere”). So many friends need that little push to meet at a museum. We get inspired, then we have lunch.What could be better? And when all else fails, I facetime with my granddaughters Charlotte and Penelope. I also serve myself through a lifelong commitment to learning and following my natural curiosity. (See previous blog post, “What is your Inspiration?”). We will be no good to others if we don’t take care of ourselves. I also challenge myself through golf, cooking, intro to Spanish lessons, sketching (my mantra, often quoted: “You can’t see without sketching and you can’t sketch without seeing”). There is always more to learn! One of my biggest challenges is continuing to write this blog. I hope to get back to my book soon. I know I can’t do it all, but if my life is to have a lasting legacy or meaning, it can’t be just about our paid work, joyful that it is. Life is complicated and we do the best we can to improve our lives and the lives of others. Sometimes we can give help and sometimes we need help. It’s okay to NOT be perfect on all fronts all of the time. It must be these overcast grey days recently that increases contemplation of the meaning of life – the most corny, trite question that has no authoritative answer. It’s time to celebrate our humanity, imperfect as we are, and work together to repair the world and make it a better place for ourselves and for the next generations. What and who are you serving? Tell us about your communities.​

The Consequences of Climate Change are coming soon!​

Someone told me the other day that when Jesus was alive around 2,000 years ago, that is only 66 generations back. That’s a time frame that is manageable in our heads. But if we talk about 28 million light years, like the distance into space that the Chandra X-Ray Telescope sees, that is unimaginable. Now think about all of the critical global warming predictions, such as catastrophic sea level rise, that start about 30 years from now. That’s one generation. That means that severe climate change consequences will begin within our children’s lifetime. Will that inspire some action now to delay perhaps the inevitable? I was just reading about the Coal Industry in the U.S. During the Obama administration, many regulations were put in place to protect the local environment, specifically to protect air and water. The first thing that Trump did was remove those regulations. But guess what happened? It turns out that the Coal Industry has continued to comply with most of the Obama regulations. Why? Because everyone in Coal Country could see that the local environment was getting cleaner, more beautiful and safer. Trump rolled back regulations, but the regulations rolled back decades of environmental degradation, making the area a better place to live for workers and for owners. It’s easy to have an opinion when you don’t know anything. I have found that the more you know about an issue, the more nuanced your opinion becomes. On larger issues, like climate change, that seem too big for an individual to have an impact, we tend to take small individual actions, like recycling as much of our trash as possible, because we don’t know what else we can do. In the practice of architecture and interiors, there are many actions we can take to contribute to the mitigation of climate change. Federal, state, and local building codes have changed, the products that we use have changed, and economic realities, like the cost and the finite quantity of fossil fuels, have either changed. All of the above have conspired to change public opinion. There are certain issues that all Americans (and frankly all global citizens) should be able to agree on, were it not for their politicization:  1. Climate change is real – what can we do now to protect our children and grandchildren?2. Helping young people survive and thrive (no matter the circumstance of their birth) through:          a. Healthcare         b. Education         c. Opportunities for personal development in sports, arts, technology         d. Safe housing, safe schools, safe parks, safe neighborhoods 3. Helping our elderly age with dignity 4. Helping everyone find healthcare, safe and affordable shelter, as well as good work/employment, and safe and affordable transportation 5. Stopping gun violence 6. Helping everyone have access to the great outdoors – see issue #1, climate change  What are your opinions about these issues? Have you thought about solutions? Do you think that these are issues that need more research or more action?​

What Do You Read? Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?​

Which would you rather read? A design magazine, a novel or a newspaper? For me, the answer is YES! I want to read it all! Each month I try to read, or at least scan, several design magazines, trade publications (gotta get those continuing ed credits), a novel (by the way, you MUST read the political thriller “The People’s House” by a prescient David Pepper, who may have lost 2 elections as a Democrat in Ohio, but who has written a winner), local and national daily newspapers, 2-4 New Yorkers (so hard to keep up) 2-4 CA&EN (my husband’s fascinating Chemical Association magazine), many Harvard Gazettes, and I still feel like I should be reading more. There is always more to learn. As I’ve gotten older, I am motivated more by people than I am about making a magazine worthy design. My responsibility as a person on Earth is to care about the world and our life on it. As a designer, we can do our small part to design projects that are earth friendly, durable, timeless, and that solve the practical, aspirational and aesthetic challenges that face the people who use and enjoy them. Both the people and their challenges are unique and deserve design work based on more than what’s in this month’s Design Magazine. Design is a tool and a craft. It is not a set of rules or trends to follow. Inspiration can come from a walk in the woods or in the neighborhood. Inspiration can come from a visit to a museum or a movie or from a great meal. Inspiration can come from what other designers do (are there any new ideas? Don’t try to innovate for innovation’s sake). Inspiration can come from throwing a pot, painting a painting, hand-writing a note to a friend in need, composing a song or just playing music. Inspiration can come when you’re not trying, when you’re reading a political thriller or today’s paper, or even when you read your husband’s scientific journal. So keep reading, walking, writing, painting, listening and be open to inspiration. And if you need help solving some of your challenges, call us.​

The Power of 3

What is it about the number 3? 3 pops us as an important number in almost every field:​ Sports: Baseball - 3 strikes and you're out, 3 outs and the inning is over. Football - offense, defense, and special teams. Basketball - triple double (points, rebounds, assists). Hockey (field and ice) and Soccer - Hat Trick (3 goals scored consecutively by the same player in one game). Soccer - Golden Hat Trick (3 consecutive scores: 1 with left foot, 1 with right foot, 1 with head).

Vocabulary Words 2: Influence vs. Inspiration, Mark Tobey vs. Jackson Pollack​

One of my favorite small art museums is the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. The current shows are not to be missed. The featured show is called: Mark Tobey: Threading Light. After seeing the show, one realizes that the gallery notes are correct: Tobey has had the “most significant yet under-recognized” influence on abstract expressionism and mid-20 th century American Modernism. At the top of the stairs, the first painting you see immediately brings to mind the work of Jackson Pollack. Although Pollack insisted that he was not influenced by Tobey, Pollack’s friend recalled that Pollack went to see every Tobey exhibition, and then he would come back to his studio and paint like crazy. Pollack may not have been INFLUENCED by Tobey, but it sure seems like he was INSPIRED by his work. There is a wonderful painting by Jackson Pollack in an adjacent gallery at the Addison. Painted in 1949, you can use this piece to compare Pollack with Tobey’s work of the 1940’s. Some of the Tobey paintings look flat and calligraphic in comparison to the Pollack canvas that has tremendous energy and depth. Most of us have heard of Jackson Pollack, but I was surprised that I didn’t know more about Mark Tobey. Tobey influenced or inspired a generation of artists who were 20 years younger than he was. They did not copy him, but they certainly appreciated his work and he offered new ideas for their own exploration. Let’s look at the historic context of Mark Tobey. Tobey was born in 1890 (Picasso was born in 1881, Jackson Pollack in 1912). In the field of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867, Mies van der Rohe in 1886, Le Corbusier in 1887, Philip Johnson in 1906, IM Pei in 1917, Frank Gehry in 1929 (note: Pei is still living, and Gehry is still practicing!) These stars of art and architecture were the millennials of the turn of the 19 th to 20 th century. They were open to new ideas in a way their predecessors were not. Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by his love of all things Japanese. Picasso introduced African Art to the European world. Tobey was based in Seattle, but he wanted to travel, and did so all around the world. He studied Chinese calligraphy starting in 1921, and later in the 20’s studied Arabic and Persian writing. He converted to the Bahai Faith in 1934 after which he studied Japanese calligraphy. You can see the INFLUENCE and INSPIRATION of this world view and interest in Middle Eastern and Eastern calligraphy. (Is this SYNCRETISM at work?) The Addison Gallery smartly exhibits several global artists on the first floor that are organized to be “in dialogue with the Addison’s retrospective or Mark Tobey.” One, Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi, writes Arabic letters over all of the tableaux that she photographs – the walls, floors, draperies and skin/bodies of her models. Words have power, and her lettering has power. Her work resonates well with Tobey’s work. Tobey was not the first modernist, nor was he the first (nor the last) to be influenced by other cultures in the world. But he will be seen as a masterful artist once you visit the show at the Addison Gallery. If you go, don’t miss the 1952 Tobey “art” film playing in the library on the first floor. He starred, directed, and even composed the music for the short film. It captures the mid-20 th century vibe perfectly. The film brought back memories of the short films by RISD students when I attended college there in the 70’s. There may be nothing new, only variations of what already exists. Have you been INFLUENCED or INSPIRED by any of the architects and artists mentioned here? If you are interested in learning more about how Leslie Saul & Associates uses influences from around the world in the fields of art, literature, architecture, and even science to design space for our clients, please call.​

Art Deco, Anyone? 

If you find yourself on Miami Beach, and want to know more about the wonderful architecture of the old and new hotels and other commercial spaces there, treat yourself to a 90 minute walking tour with the Miami Design Preservation League. You will get an introduction to the Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival* and Miami Modern (MiMo) styles found within the Miami Beach Architectural Historic Districs. The tour includes several interior stops as well. Tours are usually once a day and cost $25 ($20 for seniors, veterans, and students). Just arrive at the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive (at 10 th Street and Ocean Drive) within 10-15 minutes of the scheduled departure time (usually at 10:30 am). No reservations required. How simple is that. Locals, if you haven’t done the tour, I highly recommend it – you may take these gems for granted, so take a closer look at your own neighborhood. Friday, January 12 through Sunday January 14 was 2018’s Art Deco Weekend. There were over 85 Unique Events, including Jazz Age at Art Deco, Bark Deco Dog Show, Retro Fashion Show, Films, Dance, Live Music, Fantasy Theatre, Classic Car Show, Lecture Series, and MORE! It’s too late this year, but perhaps save the date for January 2019. For more information about the Miami Design Preservation League or next year’s Art Deco Weekend, call (305) 672-2014 or Donate, volunteer, participate. This is about Architecture worth saving, appreciating, and celebrating. I’m in Miami monthly, so if you would like me to join you on a tour of the great Miami Beach Historic District, let me know. Never too much Art Deco for me! I’m in Boston most of the time, so if you would like to join me on a tour of some of Boston’s great historic neighborhoods give me a call. Boston by Foot has great walking tours. You can reach them at (617) 367-2345 or Although I am disappointed with the new Seaport District, there is good architecture, both historic and new in our fair city. We even have a couple of Art Deco gems. Let’s celebrate our architectural heritage, both in Boston and in Miami. *Post Script about South Florida architecture: There is a great exhibit about the origins of the Mediterranean style and George E. Merrick’s roots (Merrick was the founder and developer of Coral Gables) at the Coral Gables Museum, located at 285 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134. Check it out!

Space – Deep Space and Space Planning in Four Dimensions​

As we design the interiors for the new mission control center for a telescope that looks into deep space (click here for more information about the Chandra telescope), I reflect on my own love of space…planning, that is. For some people, nothing is better than chocolate. For me, not much is better than the joy of space planning. Space planning combines three-dimensional thinking with two- dimensional planning. We also imagine four-dimensional (time) life – how a person utilizes the space from entrance to “use” to exit over time. 3D thinking is about how to use the space volumetrically. 2D thinking is about adjacencies, code requirements, analysis of what fits in the space. 4D/Time thinking is about how the people use the space over time – including long-term maintenance issues, long-term flexibility of use and long-term appearance and whether long-term thinking is even appropriate. 4D thinking also reminds us of our obligations to society and to planet Earth. First, our goal is to have our projects do no harm, and then we work towards improving life on Earth, if we can. We’re not Amazon, but we can enjoy following Jeff Bezos, who is now working on moving the dirtiest industries to the moon. In a recent New York Times article about Jeff Bezos there was an interesting quote: “Mr. Bezos’ space start-up, Blue Origin, is also making its efforts more public, giving him another stage. The company is trying to rescue Earth by helping to move pollution-belching heavy industries off the planet.” Who knows, space may be the next big development play. I think I’m ready to design the inside of a space vehicle, space station or Moon Colony. That would add a new consideration for me – lack of or low gravity. Wouldn’t site visits be a blast? Back on Earth, it’s important to realize that a retail pop-up store has different time considerations than a 5-year lease of office space or an heirloom quality private home. A museum might use even a longer- term view of the life of the building/space. Understanding space and understanding client’s needs, then transforming a space to meet those needs is really one of the great pleasures of my life. If you have challenges with your space, wherever it is, let us use our 3D, 2D, and 4D visualization skills to make life better for you as you work, play, age, live, and learn. Comment below or email me directly at with your thoughts about space or planning in 4 dimensions.​

Do you know the meaning of these 4 words:Syncretism, Eclectism, Appropriation and Inspiration?

As I was reading Adam Gopnick’s “Talk of the Town,” “Why Wage a War on Christmas” in the January 1, 2018 New Yorker, I came across a word I didn’t know, “syncretist”, which comes from “syncretism.” I love learning new words! Little did I know how relevant this new word is to design. Syncretism is “the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures or schools of thought” (Dictionary). I wanted to compare syncretism with another well known term, “eclecticism”. Eclectism is “a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a simple paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases” (Wikipedia). That made me think about the controversial term, “appropriation”. Appropriation is “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission” (Dictionary). It’s from the Latin – appropriare – to make one’s own. Gopnik’s article used this word, too, but it didn’t jump off the page like “syncretist.” Appropriation usually has a negative connotation but it is now used in a positive way by musicians who incorporate the work, style, or other bits by others into their songs, with or without the copyright holder’s permission, and then make it into their own style. Shepard Fairey got in trouble when he appropriated an Associated Press photo of Obama, and then made it his own work of art. The courts sided with Shepard Fairey. But where should or do musicians, artists and designers get their ideas? Where is the inspiration from? Inspiration is “a product of your thought, like a brilliant idea.” It can also mean “a sudden intuition or idea, or something that arouses your desire to take action” ( Houzz or Pinterest are two of many websites that allow users to save images of projects by others. These photos serve as inspiration for other people’s projects. Some designers and homeowners or party givers, etc. appropriate (copy) the images intact; others use the images for inspiration. At Leslie Saul & Associates, we are not purists, we prefer eclectism over a rigid theoretical approach to design. We also understand that we prefer syncretism as we make our own design theories from multiple cultures and schools of thought. We probably have appropriated ideas of others without their permission and have made them our own. And without a doubt, we find inspiration from other designers and architects, but even more so from nature, art, music, theatre, and fashion. We are inspired by the world around us, and we design for the real world. Life is messy, and so purity seems inappropriate to us. Do any of these words have meaning to you? As a life-long learner, I would appreciate learning about what’s important to you. Feel free to comment here or email me here at


Leslie Saul & Associates, Inc.

architecture and interiors

Cambridge Office:
1972 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Office: 617.234.5300

Leslie Saul & Associates, Inc.

architecture and interiors

Leslie Saul & Associates, Inc.

architecture and interiors

architecture and interiors