Celebrate Independence; Remember why we celebrate July 4th.​

One of Thomas Jefferson’s last letters was written on June 24, 1826, declining the invitation from the Mayor of Washington, DC to join a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. All three surviving signers of the Declaration declined the Mayor’s invitation due to their poor health. Jefferson was 83, John Adams was 90, and Charles Carroll of Maryland was 88. The Mayor also invited the former presidents Madison and Monroe, who also declined to attend for health reasons. Madison, age 75, honored the occasion with a lengthy letter including these words, “[This] will be the day which gave birth to a nation, and to a System of self government, making it a new Epoch in the History of Man.” (Spelling and punctuation is Madison’s) Jefferson realized the importance of the 50th Anniversary of his Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, and his letter included these inspiring words (spelling and punctuation is Jefferson’s, bolding is mine): “May it be to the world what I believe it will be (some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which Monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self government. the form which we have substituted restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. “all eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man, the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view of the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born, with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of god. These are ground of hope for others, for ourselves let the annual return of this day, for ever refresh our recollections of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them.” We know that Jefferson died after noon on that July 4, 1826, and few hours later, so did his friend and colleague/rival John Adams.  The unbelievable timing of their deaths marked the end of the Revolutionary period. According to Gregory S. Schneider, from the Washington Post’s Richmond Bureau, the Jefferson letter “was reprinted far and wide and even emblazoned on silk scarves, as a reminder of what unites us beyond the divisions of the moment.” (My bolding) To read Schneider’s entire fascinating article, click here https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/07/03/jeffersons-last-public-letter-reminds-us-what-independence-day-is-all-about/. Was Thomas Jefferson a flawed and imperfect man? Yes! Does his bad behavior, such as owning slaves, fathering a child with one his owned slaves, getting into mountains of debt by continuously renovating Monticello and by ordering luxuries that he couldn’t afford, do these behaviors take away from his intellectual impact and from his contribution to the creation of our country? Maybe a little. According to Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, as quoted in the Schneider Washington Post article, “Jefferson believed in progress…He…believed that one day Enlightenment values would spread across the world.” Jefferson and his colleagues had to break with the past in order to create the self-governing country that we now enjoy, as we pursue life, liberty and happiness. Enjoy your 4th of July celebrations, and try to remember how the world changed in 1776, a mere 243 years ago. If you want to bring some change to your personal or professional world, please contact us.  We would love to hear your ideas for a better future in the United States and, as Jefferson envisioned, in the world, and don’t forget your own piece of the world. We use design to make the word a better place for people who work, play, age, live, and learn. Happy Independence Day! ​

Gamboge Yellow, a color with some potty humor, I mean history​

Have you ever heard of the yellow known as Gamboge? According to Kassia St. Clair in The Secret Livesof Color (Penguin Books c. 2016), “Gamboge is the solidified sap of Garcinia trees, and comes primarilyfrom Cambodia, or Camboja as it was once known, which is how Gamboge got its name.” Here in New England, when we think of the tapping the sap of trees, we imagine Maple Syrupproduction, with dripping sap flowing into buckets hanging off trees. Every Maple tree over 12” indiameter can produce 10-20 gallons of sap. Some Maple trees can fill the bucket in as little as half a day.By contrast, Garcinia tree sap takes a year to fill the bucket and harden into the form that getsprocessed for pigment. Artists in the Far East and India used Gamboge for hundreds of years on scrolls, illustrated oversizedletters at the beginning of paragraphs, paintings and miniatures. When the first pigment reached Europein 1603 on a Dutch India ship, artists were thrilled to get to use a yellow as bright as the sun. Rembrandtused Gamboge to color the haloes on his paintings. Turner and Reynolds also loved it. According to St.Clair, William Hooker, landscape painter and botanist, mixed Gamboge with a little Prussian Blue tomake “Hooker’s Green, the perfect color for painting leaves.” But watch out, those of you who want the perfect yellow or green. The pigment was also used by 19 thcentury doctors as an excellent purgative. “A small amount produced profuse discharges, while largerdoses could be FATAL” (my CAPS!) St. Clair writes that the workers at Winsor & Newton who crushedthe solidified Garcinia tree sap to make the Gamboge pigment would have to rush to the toilet once anhour while working with it! A French physicist, Jean Perrin, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926 after using Gamboge to proveEinstein’s theory of Brownian Motion. In the early 20 th Century Gamboge was replaced by aureolin, an artificial yellow that was not as brightnor as translucent as Gamboge, but was resistant to fading. Winsor and Newton continued to make andsell the authentic natural Gamboge until 2005, when stopping production must have left artistsdisappointed, but workers relieved. On this rainy June day, think of the happy yellow of sunshine, Gamboge. (I hope you can avoid the pottyimagery as you think of this particular yellow). Color can change your attitude. If you have a desire to add color to your office, retail store, restaurant, senior living facility, privatehome, synagogue, church, college or other learning environment, please call! Let us put color to workfor you. Contact us through our website on this link: http://www.lesliesaul.com/.​

Why Diversity and Inclusion? Inclusion makes for Diversity, which makes for Sustainability​ 

Nature in its purest form is a great model for how to make life sustainable, circle of life, and so on. Early humans lived in a nomadic life as they followed the natural abundance of food as those food sources changed seasonally. They hunted ...

Why Generalists Succeed in a Specialists’ World​

I was inspired by David Epstein’s book: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World Epstein proposes that despite the pressure to start kids on violin or golf at an early age to guarantee mastery, there is another path to success: letting kids try many different sports and/or instruments and even musical genres. Specialists who have achieved at the highest level ...

Innovation through Curiosity, Resilience and Persistence​: A look at the life of thomas edison

Curiosity is having an intense interest in how things work and interact with other things, what things do  and don’t do, and in general knowledge about anything.  A curious person wants to learn more about  things and isn’t satisfied with a cursory overview of something. A curious person is rarely bored.  Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a set‐back.  Resilience may be the most important skill to  have in life.  Resilience gives people the ability to overcome emotional distress, job losses, bad teachers,  abusive family and friends, having your perfect idea shot down, and even waking up one day and  realizing you have been going down the wrong path.  I propose that there is no innovation without resilience.  We are currently working with a client that had  organizational resilience when they completely changed their business from consulting to software in  order to follow economic opportunities.  But that is a topic for another post.  This post is about an  individual who overcame poverty and personal set‐backs to persevere until he achieved success.  I think  that if we could figure out how to build resilience in people, we could help the disadvantaged overcome  their circumstances and build a better world for all. Resilience may not lead directly to innovation  without the other characteristics: curiosity and persistence. If every individual had at least one person who believed in them and their capabilities, and who sparked  their curiosity, resilience and persistence, perhaps we could solve the world’s challenges, while leaving  no one behind. If we think that we cannot do something, we will not be able to do it.  Conversely, If we  think that someone else believes that we can do it, we may try and try again. Those old clichés “if at first  we don’t succeed, try, try again” and “practice makes perfect” are based on the reality that success and  perfection happen when we have curiosity, resilience, and persistence.  Persistence is possible when we  are curious and resilient and when we have someone who believes that we are capable.  Thomas Edison is a role model for innovation through curiosity, resilience and persistence.  This may  surprise you, but Thomas Edison had no formal education.  His mother home‐schooled him and believed  that reading would help him follow his own interests.  Wikipedia suggests that Edison credited his  education to reading R.G. Parker’s “School of Natural Philosophy” and “The Cooper Union for the  Advancement of Science and Art.” His two favorite pastimes were reading and experimenting.  As a  young man, he worked at night so that he could study by day.   His first opportunity came from the father of a three year old boy whom Edison saved from walking in  front of a moving train.  The father, J.V. MacKenzie, was so grateful that he trained Edison as a telegraph  operator, launching his scientific and entrepreneurial careers. On the train, he studied Qualitative  Analysis and conducted chemical experiments.  According to Wikipedia, he obtained the exclusive right  to sell newspapers on the train.  He hired help and launched his first venture, writing, publishing and  selling newspapers. Altogether, Edison founded 14 companies including General Electric (GE). The second man to support Edison was Franklin Leonard Pope, who allowed the poor young man to live  and work in the basement of his New Jersey home, while working by day at the Gold Indicator Company.  Eventually, Pope and Edison started their own company in 1869, working as electrical engineers and  inventors. It should be noted that Thomas Edison’s career was not without failures. He was the cause of a near  miss train accident.  Getting fired from the trains led him to moving to NY to work with Gold Indicator  Company. Spilling battery acid that dripped through the floor onto the desk of his boss below, led to his  being fired from Gold, which led to founding his own company with Pope in New Jersey.  Later, Edison created the first industrial research laboratory in New Jersey. I think that it’s important to  note that Edison’s workshop was a big open room with perimeter shelves filled with both mechanical  and natural parts and pieces. All of the scientists and engineers that he employed “played” with all of  the parts. Sounds like the first maker space!  Edison knew that he didn’t have all of the answers; that it  took a team.  Of course, in the US in the late 19th century, it was a team of all white men, as far as I can  tell.  Edison kept a quote over his desk (and in several other places in his laboratory building) by Sir Joshua  Reynolds, “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” Thomas Edison was not the only one working on creating the incandescent light bulb with use of a  carbon filament. But Edison and his team were the first ones to discover that with carbonized bamboo  (inspired by a fishing trip) they could create a bulb that could last for 1200 hours.  The patent was filed  before the bamboo discovery, but they referred to the filament as carbonized cotton, wool, etc. So his  bamboo discovery was protected by patent.  This led to his work on providing reduced voltage direct  current energy to homes. Edison was also the originator of sound recording, although his initial concept  of tin foil over a cylinder didn’t work very well. He and his team worked hard to improve their own  technological breakthroughs.  Legend has it that it took over 1,000 tries to get the lightbulb right.    Visit the Dibner Institute of Science and Technology, now located in California, but formerly located at  MIT in Cambridge, to see a rare collection of (breakable) Edison lightbulbs. Thomas Edison achieved fame and fortune on a foundation of a love of learning, insatiable curiosity,  resilience from setbacks, having several mentors along the way, and persistence to keep trying until he  achieved working prototypes.  His success was not made through individual achievement alone, but with  a team of like‐minded, hardworking colleagues.  Curiosity, Resilience, Persistence and Teamwork were keys to Edison’s achievements.  If you have an  architecture or Interior Design Project that needs a team of curious, resilient, persistent and  collaborative people, please call us or click on the contact us button on our website.  We would love to  hear from you!​

Does Search Engine Optimization have you baffled?​

I’ve been asking new potential clients how they found us.  Interestingly, many have found us on Google. Also, they have each complained about the process. As hard as it is for the professionals to decide on which key words to put into our websites, it is equally hard for our potential clients to decide what to type into the search bar. Here are some of the things that they reportedly typed into the search bar: An owner of a vintage auction house located in Brimfield, MA, typed: “Retail Designer near me” and got no results, so he typed “retail designer in Mass” and he got us.  The other results were not for designers with any retail design experience. Now, much as I would like being the only retail designer in Massachusetts, we know that is not true. A homeowner in Cambridge typed “architect near me” and although we were not the only architect listed, we are located the closest and we were the first to respond to his inquiry. A manager of a mobile home development that is part of a national chain, typed in “full service commercial designer” and “office interior designer” and she found us even though we are located pretty far from her site. Who knew that full-service was hard to find? Another homeowner typed in “Architect in Cambridge, MA” and was shocked and overwhelmed by how many names came up. I forgot to ask how/why he selected us. One of our clients referred us to another potential client, who promptly lost the piece of paper with our name on it. When they typed in “Office designer in Greater Boston,” they hoped that our name would pop off the search results. They said that they went through 10 pages of results before giving up. Luckily, our client had told me of his referral, so we were able to connect the old fashioned way, by phone. Yesterday, a new member of an institutional client’s facilities group called me. I had designed a major renovation and addition there 20 years ago. Someone had given him our name, but he wasn’t confident that he had the name right, so he went directly to our website: http://www.lesliesaul.com/. He searched our portfolio looking for their twenty year old project, which he did indeed find, so he called to confirm that I did the project. He asked if we were interested in another small facelift in the only room untouched twenty years ago. An interesting part of the story is that last week a consultant told me to remove all of the old projects and only show the new and more modern ones, so that the portfolio would be easier to navigate. Had I listened to this advice, our client would not have been able to find their project on our site. Our client reported that although he was not part of the original facilities group, he was proud of what we did then, because people still love the space! Have you ever been frustrated by your searches online? Have you found it hard to get the right search results? What would you type in if you were looking for one of the finest full-service architecture and interior design firms around your area?Please let us know if you need to optimize your online searches, and learn more about how we can optimize your project results. Just click on the “contact us” button on our website. We would be delighted to talk by phone or facetime almost any time!​

Color and incarceration

In 1979 and 1980, I was a few years out of architecture school and had started to focus on interiors, which I thought affected the lives of the people who work...

Can we capture enough CARBON in order to save the planet?​

Can we capture enough CARBON in order to save the planet?

What’s the secret to wood Preservation?​

I’m reading a fascinating nonfiction book, “The Lost city of the Monkey God,” by Douglas Preston, a writer for both National Geographic and the New Yorker. The book chronicles the expedition of archeologists, photographers, film makers, technologists and adventures to search for the lost “White City” deep in the Honduran Rain Forest. When they find what they think may be a cluster of cities in an area untouched for hundreds of years, possibly since 500 AD, what they find is foundations of buildings, there are no fancy pyramids of the Mayans or Incans. What the team realizes is that due to the ancient communities’ access to stands of mahogany trees. Their buildings were probably made of wood, which had disintegrated over the centuries.   This made me think about all of our own wood frame and clad buildings in New England. We know that keeping water and mildew out of our buildings requires vigilance and regular maintenance. As usual, I wanted to know more about the science of wood preservation. Thanks to the “High Performance, Built In” article by James Mitchell Crow in the December 3, 2018 issue of Chemical and Engineering News (CAEN), I was introduced to the work of wood protection scientist Mojgan Nejad, researcher at Michigan State, I learned that “Wood is susceptible to mildew growth, [so] it is important to use biocides for wood protection.” She also noted in the article that the shift from solvent based formulations of paints and other coatings to water-based formulations that are more environmentally friendly, has meant that biocides are needed for the paint while it is in the cans. Untreated paint can spoil, resulting in a strong smell and lost viscosity, spread ability and adhesion. The latest biocides are encapsulated inside a water-soluble shell that slowly releases the active ingredient- better for the environment and better for longer lasting protection of the wood. Besides biologic attack, construction materials are susceptible to degradation from exposure to weather. Polyurethane coatings protect metal, wood and other structures from too much sun or rain. Mojgan Nejad has found in her research that “Most weathering deterioration that happens in wood is due to UV degradation of the lignin.” She explains that low-molecular-weight polymers in polyurethanes, can penetrate wood cell walls and stabilize the wood. Ms. Nejad’s work has shown me that the lost city in the rain forest of which the Hondurans had both the damp environment that generates mildew and the weather of strong rains, winds and sun, was a perfect environment for the demise of the wooden structures. But what happened to the people who inhabited these cities (estimated population of 700,000)? I guess you’ll have to read the book. Suffice it to say that wood structures have a fighting chance to survive now that chemists are on the case. As James Crow states, isn’t chemistry clever? If you want to design a project that can be built to last, give us a call. If you are as fascinated as we are by the intersection of art and science in architecture and interiors, please call. Let’s talk about how design can make life better. #lifebuiltin #gooddesignatwork​

Clever Color Chemistry​

More About Color. As my readers know, I am fascinated, entranced, delighted, and wowed by color. During the summer of 2018, we were lucky to be able to explore several national parks in Utah. Other than being a hellish over 100 degrees temperature during the day, it was a fantastic experience. When our friends and later our professional guide showed us around the awe-inspiring mountains, buttes, caves and deserts of the area, we were able to see many ancient petroglyphs and pictograms. I was fascinated by the color, and of course, by the stories these images conveyed. I wondered what they used for color that was so long-lasting that we can still see these images so clearly? I turned to my Dec. 3 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) where I learned, thanks to James Mitchell Crow’s article “High Performance, Built In,” that they used iron oxide. Iron oxide creates colors of reds, yellows, and black. That’s what we saw in Utah! It turns out that iron oxide is still being used to color building materials like concrete. With the right artisan, concrete can be colored to denote zones for parking, bus lanes, cross walks and bicycle paths. Unlike paint, there is no required maintenance, adding economic appeal to its aesthetic appeal. I can attest to the longevity of the iron oxides found in the pictograms of the Utah desert. For a timeless design that considers economic and aesthetic challenges, please call us!​


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