Color Theory/Color Therapy​

Color has been an important part of my life since I was in first grade, when I got an “F” for a drawing of a white house. I had not colored in the house, since the paper was white, but I had drawn all of the detail of the house: clapboards, windows, chimney with smoke coming out, blue sky, and of course a red door with a path flanked with multicolored flowers. I think I flunked because the teacher thought I didn’t know what color white was. My mother thought it was hysterical – she saved that drawing for years. She made me realize that I did not deserve the “F” and that I was not, in fact, color challenged. As I grew up, I loved color more and more. My favorite class in high school was art, taught by Mrs. Dorothy Dobbins of blessed memory, who told me “you make the biggest mess since Jimmy Dine!” I didn’t know whether to be proud to be in the same sentence as Jim Dine (yes, he went to my high school), or to be mortified that I had made a giant mess. No one had to teach me about the power of color. Colors generated strong feelings in me as I painted. Painting with color evoked visual and emotional memories. As I switched from my intent to be a painter to becoming an architect, I never abandoned color. I never wear all black and I never design a space without at least a little bold color (see Sudbury Pavilion) or perhaps a lot of softer colors (see Maine Lake House Kitchen). Color is one of the most potent tools in a designer’s tool belt, so architects who make everything white may be missing the opportunity to add some emotion to their buildings. Perhaps they deserve an “F”? Colors themselves go in and out of fashion, along with style trends. The Color Institute helps the fashion and design worlds create the demand for change, at least around color. The publicity received for the “color of the year” has generated a plethora of companies who now make their annual pronouncements. This year, 8 different paint companies have selected their own “Color of the Year,” and they are heavily promoting these colors. The only commonality that I see is that they are very saturated and they remind me of the 90’s when jewel tones were very “in” style, after the 60’s and 70’s brights and the 80’s pastels. In 2011-12, as an antidote to orange and lime green of the tech boom, the jewel colors came back: amethyst, sapphire, emerald, ruby, garnet, and citrine.  So here we are in 2018. The jewel tones are back again. Here are this year’s Colors of the Year. 1. Benjamin Moore’s “Caliente” is a rich almost brick red – more garnet than ruby. 2. Sherwin Williams’ “Oceanside” is dark teal – a mix of sapphire and emerald – that peacock blue is a perennial favorite. 3. The Color Institute’s Pantone “Ultra-Violet” is an amethyst color, calm and beautiful. 4. PPG Paint’s “Black Flame” is a bold dark charcoal. 5. Glidden’s “Deep Onyx” sends the same message as PPG – and it’s a division of PPG. 6. Olympic Paint (also part of PPG) chose “Black Magic” – (OKAY, we’ll try deep charcoal, PPG!) 7. Dunn-Edwards Paints selected “The Green Hour,” a dark shade of gray blue green (not that different from Sherman Williams’ Oceanside). 8. Behr Paint’s “In The Moment” is a lighter gray blue green right out of the 80’s. Not really a jewel tone; it’s the exception that proves the rule.  Is your head a spinning kaleidoscope of color yet? If you want to read more about why each paint company selected their Color of the Year, read the excellent article by Christina Poletto in the Sunday Boston Glove on January 14, 2018, It Had to be Hue. In Poletto’s article, she also covers a color that is not in this year’s color of the year palette, “Millennial Pink.” You see a lot of that greyed out pink in the stores now. It takes time for colors of the year to work their way into fashion and interiors. Check out the Color Institute’s Pantone Colors of the Year 2016 – Serenity (periwinkle blue) and Rose Quartz (pink). There’s that soft pink that was a bit ahead of its time in 2016. Expect more jewel tones in fashion and décor in 2019. For a fun timeline of each of the Color Institute’s Pantone “Color of the Year” since 2000, click here. Thank you, Liz Curley, Junior Designer at Leslie Saul & Associates, who created our paintbrush illustration. If you need to add color to a neutral space or have any other color challenge in your office, home, or other place, please give us a call. We would love to help you! Vive la couleur! Long live color!​

Timeless vs. Trendy​

I recently read 2 interviews with famous “artists”: the rapper and producer Jay-Z, interviewed in the Sunday December 3, 2017 New York Times Style Magazine, and the actor and “maker” Daniel Day-Lewis, interviewed in the Holiday 2017 edition of W Magazine. Both of these men are unique, strong, famous, and at the top of their craft. In design and in entertainment, trends can take hold and dominate, becoming mainstream. Jay-Z became a rapper, and then was instrumental in taking rap/hip hop music into the mainstream. When asked whether he would prefer to be a trend or to be forever, Jay-Z said, “I’m the person that looked at the Mona Lisa and be like, Man, that’s gonna be cool in 40 years. I play forever. And so my whole thing is to identify with the truth. Not to be the youngest, hottest, new, trendy thing.” On film, there have always been actors (think Ed Harris, Meryl Streep, and Ed Norton among others in our era) who inhabit a character so thoroughly that we forget who they really are despite their fame. We believe that they are the character they play. In design, the famous designers seem to repeat themselves. They create a style with which we identify them. Some, like Frank Gehry, have taken an idea about making buildings more sculptural and made it mainstream. At this point, there are so many look-alikes, that I call them “tributes” to the masters. I’ve often thought of myself as a character actor. I inhabit the roles of our clients so that I am designing for them, not for me. All large projects are like movies, between the cast of thousands, finance people, and regulatory authorities (see blog post re team players). Of course, we are influenced by trends, what is available by the economics of the project and current construction costs, by what is sustainable, by what’s allowed by regulations, and by what our clients’ peers are doing. Is creating a new style important? Perhaps keeping things simple and eclectic have a better chance of surviving over time than that amazing style that defies the laws of physics. Daniel Day-Lewis says, “there is nothing more beautiful in all the arts than something that appears simple.” Simplicity is hard to achieve because we design for real life, and life is messy. If you want to read the entire interviews with Jay-Z and Daniel Day-Lewis, click on their names. If you want to use design to simplify/enhance your life, give us a call.

It’s All About Money [Charitable Giving and the Big Tax Cut]​

As I conclude my blogging for 2017, I am thinking about year-end giving and the Republican tax-cut for Corporations and the wealthy. I recall when one of our clients, who was quite wealthy, made a decision that surprised me. Unlike some of her demographic, she loved to cook. Of course, we took her to Clarke, the distributor for Wolf and Sub-Zero top-of- the-line appliances. Although she could afford anything in their showroom, she couldn’t come to terms with spending more money than necessary when that cost difference could “do so much good in the community.” This client’s values are not an anomaly among our roster of clients over the past 25 years. Many of our clients, who are in a position to spend what they wish, choose not to spend. Their goal is not to show off their wealth, but to make an environment that works for their family, friends, lifestyle and that makes them feel a certain way: happy, relaxed, energized – every project has a different set of adjectives that describe them. These wealthy clients are the people who will benefit most from the Republican tax-cuts. The extra funds will not go to hiring more people, nor for spending more money on consultants. These tax cuts will go to the value of their already swollen estates. If you think that these wealthy Americans don’t want paved roads, public transportation, an educated and healthy workforce, a safe and secure nation and a safety net for the poor and elderly, think again. Many of them drive on the interstates, take public transportation, support public schools, provide health insurance for their employees, want a strong military, and have seen their parents supported by Medicare and Social Security in their old age. Adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit by giving tax breaks to people who don’t need them is very upsetting. Over the years, we have developed some standardized forms to help us quickly assess a project in its early stages. I’ve often wondered if we couldn’t use these same techniques to find out what Americans really want. In one of our early possibilities workshops, we ask clients (large and small) to describe in adjectives or phrases, their future office, restaurant, retail space, assisted living facility, home, educational space, or religious institutions. We also ask them to rank their priorities on topics like “design,” “green,” “budget,” “schedule,” etc. I’d love to ask Americans what are the adjectives they would use to describe their ideal Chief Executive (President). For me, these adjectives would include: “dignified,” “intelligent,” “a good listener,” “truthful,” “cares deeply about our country and all of its citizens.” I’d also like to ask Americans what the priorities should be for the U.S. budget. Would Americans rank tax breaks for the wealthy (this is a form of spending) above keeping Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare afloat? So, join me this year-end holiday season in celebrating your own accomplishments and supporting the accomplishments of others. Let’s plan our priorities for next year, and think about all the “good we can do in our communities.” Give me a call if you want help facilitating consensus-building in your family, company, or non-profit. We can help you make your world a better place.​


There has been a lot of apologizing going on lately. Some of the “mistakes” happened 40 years ago; some pretty recently. (Are we owed an apology for cutting taxes on the rich and the corporations while not funding healthcare for poor children?) Here is an interesting post on how to say you’re sorry. But I digress. I’m of the belief that until I can swear to being perfect at all times, I have to be willing to accept imperfections in others. I was also curious as to why sometimes a minor “infraction” is deemed okay in one person and a federal case in another. Is it tone? Is it reputation? If you are considered a straight-up good person, perhaps you’ve earned a pass, but if you’re considered a serial offender, you get zero tolerance. That makes sense. In our field of design and construction, when a person owns up to the “mistake” immediately, takes responsibility and pays to correct it, there is no need for a prostrate apology, because everyone knows that no one is perfect, accidents happen, and you fessed up and corrected things before the mistake could have a major impact on the project. Hiding your errors, botched schedules, or budget overruns never works, so don’t do it. We’ve been talking about what to do when you’ve made a mistake, particularly in the world of design and construction. But how do you behave when someone else makes a mistake? It seems to me, that if the apologist has been forthright, takes responsibility and pays to correct the mistake, the project representatives must stay professional and let it go – no punishment, no screaming, no name calling. In fact, offer to assist. Cool heads working together can solve most any construction issue. So, stay cool, no matter which side of the “mistake” that you’re on. Your project will benefit! Perhaps respect breeds respect. When we avoid bad news, it is disrespectful. People have less patience for people who are disrespectful. So, let’s respect each other, strive to do the right thing every day – and if we slip up, apologize and take action to fix things. Best wishes for a happier New Year, despite the ups and downs that will come your way. If you prefer to work in a respectful world, contact us for your next architecture or interiors project.​

An Educated Citizenry​

If you haven’t read the editorial page of the November 30, 2017 Boston Globe, please click the link here. The top of the page Boston Globe editorial is about the diversity of this years Rhodes Scholars, the diversity of the workforce of the most successful companies and research organizations. It credits Federal NIH Research Funding. The editorial by the President of BU, Robert A. Brown, is about how important education is in general for global competitiveness. He comments on how the current tax proposal in Congress denigrates higher ed so it will have the effect of reducing educational opportunities in our country, and reducing innovation. The editorial by the President of Northeastern University, Joseph E. Aoun, although his title, “The Wrong Debate on Taxes” implies another analysis of the Tax Reduction Proposal, his editorial is actually about our need to start now to retrain our workforce in preparation for Robots/Artificial Intelligence taking over our economy. His editorial is a call for lifelong learning; for universities to go beyond educating the young, to educating everyone. Wow! These editorials remind me that our government must educate its citizens to ensure our future success as a country. Corporations and rich people (and of course all people) need the U.S. to have an educational system that turns out leaders who innovate, who recognize the best ideas from those who may not look, pray or speak like they do, and which also supports research into topics that may not seem obviously the basis of future money making. Long-term thinking is critical. Education, healthcare, and infrastructure could benefit from keeping the Federal Tax structure as is. When our government is short sighted, we need to figure out how to get our law makers some glasses…or maybe some additional education? What’s your view of the future?​

It’s a Man’s World?​

I went to the Thom Mayne Lecture at the Boston Architectural College a couple of weeks ago. It has taken me a while to process my feelings. A few things struck me about the work of Morphosis (Thom Mayne’s firm) besides its impressive size/scope, dramatic looks, and exciting technological feats: Although his artwork has some color, all of his buildings are colorless. Although he clearly cares more about form than function, he describes his presentation to his clients as about performance, not aesthetics. He reminded me that when I entered the architecture field, it was a Man’s World.  If I think back to my 20-year- old self I would not have believed that it was an old boys club. I thought that my intelligence, creativity and work ethic would take me wherever I wanted to go. It is not that simple. Maybe the reason there are so few female architects is that we women may care more about the client, the needs of the client, community, and the planet, their budgets and the people who use the spaces than our “star” peers who may care more about form or the wow factor than the above. Star or not, I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career in a field I love – even if the playing field isn’t level. Whose work do you admire in the field of your choice?​

UX and CX, what’s the difference?​

The terms UX and CX get thrown around a lot these days. As a curious person, I decided to learn more about what they stand for and what they mean. UX is the “User Experience.” It’s used as a term to describe what happens when a person (user) goes to (experiences) a website, game or app. Is the site easy to use for everyone? For young/old people, folks with good or poor vision, hard of hearing, or perfect pitch, people with brains that process quickly or those who need more time to figure things out?The visitor to the website may not be the millennial white male who designed it. UX professionals are expected to be good listeners, planners, designers, technologists, coders, and researchers. CX is the customer experience. When CX first started to be tracked, customers were the people who visit retailers, restaurants, airlines, etc. and who dealt with sales people and customer service people within those companies. Now CX is about the customers’ experience with a company whether online, in person, or through resellers. Companies with great customer service can get Temkin Group awards and bragging rights. Customer Service departments talk to folks on the phone, chat online and answer emails. I’ve communicated in all three modes myself. In-store retailers now make experiences for shoppers to attract more foot traffic and to enhance the brand. One of the more impressive experiences I’ve had as a customer has been created by the Mercedes Benz dealer in Burlington, MA. While you wait for sales or service, you can have a coffee or drink at a bar, get your nails done, and more…all for free(plus tips). The excellent experience reflects well on the dealership and on the product they sell. I haven’t been to their websites, but creating that experience is the UX team’s responsibility. It’s fascinating to think about the UX and CX in our firm. We overhauled our website last year to make it easier to use. It still needs improvement, but it’s miles ahead of our last one. We have been in constant improvement of our customers’ (clients’) experience over the almost 25 years we have been in business,focused in particular on the early part of the process. We have learned how to bring to consensus groups as large as 40 and as small as a couple. But as architects and interior designers in the real world(not digital world), we focus on how people perceive, enjoy and utilize the spaces that we design. One of the tenets of great service in our field of architecture and interiors is the obligation to predict, as much as possible, the outcomes of every design option/decision, as well as to provide a successful process for moving from concept to completion. Prediction, intuition, and best guesses come easily to those with experience in the real world. We will continue to focus on improving the experience our clients have when working with us (CX) and also on the experience that people have when “using” that spaces that we design (UX). CX + UX = A Better Outcome. Want some help creating a successful outcome for your next project? Please call us!​

How A Design Idea Can Do Good

I’m one of those people who can generate dozens of ideas with ease. That doesn’t mean that these ideas are perfect, wonderful, fantastic, or awe-inspiring, but they can set our projects down the path to wonderful. I’m never worried about rejection, because I almost always have another idea right behind the one you may not like. Sometimes we circle back around to the rejected idea because, it turns out, it really was the right idea. Now imagine what it’s like to have an idea and no client to make that idea a reality. I’m having that problem right now. An idea that I generated 8 years ago when I first understood that many elderly people could use the beautiful assisted living facilities that are abundant across the country, but they can’t afford them, and they are also afraid to move out of their houses or apartments. I had an idea – why not turn the old apartment buildings that are already filled with aging seniors and convert them to affordable assisted living facilities that could provide the services and the community spaces that would enable them to age in a place with dignity. My concept would be to move the people whose apartments are on the first (and possibly second floor) to create the common space that enhances the community. Combatting loneliness is one of the chief issues of our nonagenarians (people in their 90’s). Perhaps there could be some rental stalls for nail and hair care, visiting nurses, physical therapists, podiatrists and maybe a store for groceries/sundries. Perhaps it’s a non-profit utilizing existing federal and state subsidy programs like section 8 and Medicaid – I have no idea – I’m an architect!Lately, 8 years after I had the initial idea, I can’t stop thinking that this must be possible. So I share the idea with you, my stalwart readers: Has anyone already done this? Does anyone out there have any interest in pursuing this idea with me?​


No, we’re not talking about a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a pregnancy. We’re talking about having a choice of where you do what you do.  Work – If you’re like me, then sometimes you like writing blog posts or sketching a floor plan in a coffee shop, and sometimes at my small meeting table in our office and sometimes I’m at home propped up in bed with a lap desk. That’s what I mean by choice. I can choose where I work. Office workers (WORK), shoppers (PLAY), older folks (AGE), homeowners (LIVE), and students (LEARN) all agree that choice is good. In offices, it’s important to have social spaces (like my coffee shop), collaborative spaces (like my meeting table) and quiet spaces (like my bedroom) from which to choose.  Play – For shoppers, the new trend in malls is to continue to offer a large variety of not only stores, but also restaurants (both fast and slow), as well as entertainment. Shoppers are expected to spend hours at the mall, shopping, eating, going to the movies. No wonder electric car charging at the mall makes sense – especially in inclement weather. Age – Our seniors want choice, too. Some prefer to stay at home – even though it may be lonely. Others want to move to an apartment complex where there are other people around and where amenities like a pool and mini-golf make for an active lifestyle. Some not quite ready for assisted living folks want a place where there is a continuum of care, from an independent apartment with meals, to assisted living, to skilled nursing care. Some seniors wait too long to move from their primary home, and unless they have enough resources to pay for around the clock care, they are forced to go straight to skilled nursing care. Some seniors even choose to have no permanent housing, but RV or van around the country for odd jobs until they can’t do it any longer (see NPR interview with woman who wrote book). We have seen a huge increase in the number of aging seniors who choose to stay active, both mentally and physically. The demand for better and more choices finally coming as the leading edge of Boomers are approaching 80. (“Finally,” because the Boomers didn’t retire at 65 as predicted). These 80-year-olds see another 20 years ahead of them. They are not like our grandparents.  Live – People who live in private homes have been upsizing and downsizing in recent years. To some, size matters little, while amenities and efficient layouts do. Some folks want specialized spaces, and some people want every space to work in multiple ways. I guess if everyone wanted the same thing, there would be one official house-style that every builder would use (and maybe you wouldn’t need an architect). Learn – Learning happens every day in many ways. At LS&A, we have collaborated with other architects, as well as designed on our own. We learned that students learn and study in many ways. Some like big group tables, some prefer a private carrel. Some students would rather sit in a big lounge chair with their feet up on an ottoman. Some like noisy areas and some require silence. And some would rather study in a dorm room or apartment rather than in the library. That being said, several librarians have shared with us that after our renovations, the student population utilizing the library in person has doubled. They say this is specifically noticeable at times that are not during exam weeks. We believe that providing students with more choice attracts them to the library, which in turn helps build community. So whether you need to improve the spaces in which you work, play, age, live, or learn, Leslie Saul & Associates can help provide the choices you want.​

Fred & Ginger, Role Models for Team Work​

I love to sing. I love to dance. I love the old movies and Broadway musicals. Sometimes the stars were dancers who sang (Gene Kelly), and sometimes the stars were singers who danced (Judy Garland). Overall, the effect of all of this singing and dancing is sheer joy and movie magic.  Justifiably, Fred Astaire may be the greatest non-balletic dancer of all time. His fame is well deserved. But would his best movies have been possible without Ginger Rogers? As she has been described before, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, “while in high heels going backwards.” Amazing that Ginger Rogers isn’t honored with that GOAT title. Sexism aside, let’s focus for a minute on the magic that their partnership made possible. When you watch them dance, they often look like one entity, one person, while keeping their individual identities. To me, this is a fantastic model for the best behaviors of the most successful teams. And let’s not forget that magic element of joy that Fred and Ginger communicate while doing all of the hard work. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if successful teams could express their joy while working as one unit to get something done. Wouldn’t we all be a little happier, a little more productive and a little more successful? Continuing with our Fred and Ginger model, I think that at Leslie Saul & Associates, we practice the kind of team play that produces magic. First, I think of the team that Suma, Monique and I have become. We may have started as artists and designers, but we have become managers, technical gurus, and negotiators, and we each have kept our individuality while working as one integrated entity. We may not be as famous as Fred and Ginger, but our work together is more than each of us could do as individuals.  The second, perhaps less obvious, team play that is like Fred and Ginger, is the “dance” that we do with our clients. Think of us as Ginger and our clients as Fred. We must learn the “steps of the dance” together, and work together to not only get the project done, but to get the right project done. Practice does make perfect, and we can’t thank our repeat clients enough for the great musicals, I mean projects, that we have made together.  What do you think the characteristics are of the teams that make magic? Please consider filling out our survey about the characteristics of your best clients here.


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