Surface Texture and Pattern

Color palette and scale are a large part of designing a room, yet the details of texture and pattern are often overlooked or relegated to secondary choices. Surface elements can unify a space as much as color can, and this is even more important in a space with virtually no color (think all-white or monochromatic spaces). The trick in those rooms is to use texture (such as a variety woven white fabrics on furniture: fluffy mohair, coarse linen, embroidery details, or a textured quilting).


Family Room-17

In this Family Room project, the overall color scheme called for subtle colors (misty pale blue walls, lots of white woodwork, a pale golden hued flax linen on the sofas) so the plan was always to add interest through texture. We procured Navajo baskets and 17th century Spanish metal candlesticks at auction; an antique rug in a tone on tone pattern came from a Boston dealer; we added a variety of ceramics like Majolica, tin glazed earthenware from France, and beautifully patterned Navajo pottery — all completely different ceramic styles but they worked harmoniously together; and we ordered a custom sized reproduction chip carved sideboard lending both texture and pattern to the furniture mix.

Tiny details matter, so even the bronze nailheads on the chairs and stools had an interesting patina and were applied over fine linen trim or a leather band. Other materials included a buttery leather on stools, English fine woven wool on chairs, hand blocked linen at the windows, English woven wool striped fabric for pillows, and a smooth limestone and iron cocktail table custom made for our specifications by a Maryland based artisan.

While all of the elements are beautiful and significant on their own, the mix of surface texture and patterning is what makes this room come alive.

If you are considering a Family Room renovation or other project in your home, we invite you to visit more images of this project on our website.


An Interior Designer’s Exterior

Christine Tuttle Patio
Eric Roth Photography

Sometimes interior designers venture out past the threshold and into the garden. Traditionally, landscape and climate plays a role in that union, but even New Englanders are opting for a wholly integrated home that can effortlessly blend interior living with exterior spaces. On many projects, the homeowners ask me to weigh in on landscape, hardscape, garages, and other outbuildings.

This new garage, below, was based loosely on the 1930s one it replaced, and was designed slightly higher, with a sharper roofline, and with extra space in the rear, giving the homeowners more storage. The exterior lantern from England was made in the same style as the ones on the adjacent house but slightly larger and more in proportion to the garage sidewall. The black-taupe-white color scheme mimicked the main house, and custom garage doors with 2 over 2 panes of glass, added visual interest and interior light.

Keller + Keller Photography

For the residence below, we worked closely with the landscape architect and builder. We oversaw the planting schedules, acted as design proxy for the home owner, specified the exterior paint scheme, the material choices, and had weekly meetings – and usually daily emails – about each upcoming choice. Here, the Kitchen and Breakfast Room feel part of the outside, and it was important to the homeowner that we connected those spaces.

Originally a builder’s spec house, the home needed a complete renovation inside and out, yet we felt that some elements of the exterior only had to be hidden, or at least made to feel less important visually, by design. The existing chimney was made of unfortunate multicolored brick, so I determined that painting it in same shade as the stucco would make it less obvious. A bris-soliel (on the left) which integrated a large expanse of unattractive sidewall (the rear of the garage) was designed with sectioned doors, and acts as storage for rakes and grill tools. Consulted with the landscape team from the start, and at every point, from lighting and plant material to positioning of larger trees and the self watering containers, we were able to maximize a seamless view from the second floor bedrooms, first floor family room, and kitchen area which looked out onto the back garden. Lastly, the all-weather teak furniture, with marine grade cushions, were a perfect choice for the outdoor dining area and fire pit lounge space for the family, making the backyard terrace a perfectly related space to the inside of the home.

One Way to Cope with a Blizzard

Christine Tuttle Bathtub Vignette

Blustery and snowy Jonas attacked the East Coast last night, making it an “at home” Saturday night for many. This master bedroom en suite bath, designed for Wellesley Hills home, has all the elements of a perfect night in: heated limestone floors, a deep soaking tub with minimal oak tub caddy (the rounded edged plank of wood), a fluffy towel from Waterworks, and one of my favorite Diptyque candles. I love the Diptyque range, and my favorites are Ambre, Figiuer (at the holidays), Violette (a harbinger of spring), and Lilas (now, sadly, discontinued). A perfect stormy night setting. A nice glass of Pinot Noir not included.

#Diptyque #luxury #masterbath #interiordesign #wellesley

According to Pinterest, Everyone Wants a Barn Door

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Barn doors in homes are currently all the rage. Like pocket doors, they allow privacy without requiring space for the door swing. It gives a room a rustic yet fun vibe.  I see barn doors being installed between hallways and family rooms, to separate casual living spaces in weekend homes, and in finished basements.

In the fall of 2013 the homeowners on my This Old House project  were very keen on incorporating a sliding barn door in the basement, separating the family’s new media room from the stairwell and basement hall, to give both a sense of enclosure and for climate management. Yet, this barn door also made for a strong decorative element. Tom Silva built the door from original floorboards that were salvaged from the attic. I specified to paint the foundation rubble stone (rather than enclose it) and the architect David Whitney suggested to partition off the new play/TV space with new drywall for an entirely fresh look, feel, and function. I used some of the homeowner’s existing furniture and art in the Hall and Family Room (including a beloved vintage Godzilla movie poster), and added a few vintage pieces, modern side tables, indoor/outdoor covered upholstery, a colorful hooked rug, oversized bean bag chairs, and pillows covered in handprinted fabrics, which all added to the rustic, casual, and comfortable look of the space.

View all of the project images at Christine Tuttle Design.

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The Year of the House

CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – is upon us again and technology driven homes are the stand out concept. This Boston area project of ours was a complete transformation from a nondescript spec house to a spectacular residence thanks to smart home technology. Using integrated, seamless, and often invisible systems for light, temperature, security and whole house sound, this property and house was turned into a state of the art home. The curb appeal at dusk is obvious: the exterior lighting with layered light invisibly fitted under the bluestone caps on the stone walls, up-lights in the garden, and small, recessed walkway lights on the path, showcase the fine work of collaborating artisans and landscape designers.

Christine Tuttle Exterior Front Dusk
Wellesley Hills Project, Exterior.

Enter the Entry Hall

Entry Halls are special rooms: they set the stage for the rest of the home. As a public area, and a pass through space to other rooms, it should be inviting yet somewhat impersonal. Deeply cushioned chairs and framed photographs of the family should be reserved for Living Rooms and Family Rooms. An entry is a transitional space, which visually connects to other rooms.


In this front hall I used a monochromatic color scheme made up of five shades of white. From “Super White” by Benjamin Moore (the brightest of whites for the ceiling), and three off whites (wainscoting, trim, and balustrade), to a pale cream with hints of taupe (“Stingray”) for the walls, each shade complimented the other.  The large entry window allowed for changing light in the room. That light added depth and resonance to the paint choices and the palette allowed the custom balustrade and artwork to take center stage.  With a neutral yet confident color scheme, the double height space could then visually accommodate the pale grey sculptural silk pendant, which was close to 4 feet in diameter, and the large encaustic painting by contemporary artist Brian Bishop, which is five feet square. The pendant light feels as airy and compatible with its surroundings, and using a stronger color in the room would have made it stand out instead of work together with all of the interesting elements.

Completed in late 2010 and published in Design New England Magazine‘s January/February 2011 issue, this room stands the test of time. I still feel painting those walls a bold color over a white would have made the space too obvious, remarkably too safe and predictable, too tricked out, and a complete mistake… because sometimes it is the most subtle design choices which are the most powerful.


Your First Home: Whether it’s throwing out some creepy wall hanging or bickering over bedroom paint colors, setting up a new home and taking the (design) plunge with your partner is never easy. 


Edit the choices: it is better to have a few great, graphic, interesting pieces on a mantle, table, or on shelves, then clutter it up with so-so knick knacks. 

Living Room-10 2There is alway a design Waterloo when blending homes, whether it is his sports memorabilia, her longing for an animal print rug, his beat up yard sale coffee table, or some fussy floral fabric she loves; know from the outset there will be compromises and non negotiables. 

Do not be lured in by the IKEA siren song. After spending half your day there, you’ll get into a fight trying to assemble their furniture. But a trip there is always good for wastebaskets (they make a decent faux leather ones), a large piece of funky art, lighting, and their Scandinavian plates, bowls, and cups.
Choosing paint colors is often a sticking point. The best way to narrow down a color is to get a Farrow & Ball color chart, or use a Benjamin Moore pre-edited color chart (the paint colors suggested by Darryl Carter and Candice Olsen are terrific).  It is much easier to pick a great color from a short list of 25 over the millions of shades out there. Paint test samples at least 2’x2′ and watch the color in different light (morning and evening). If you are longing for a true bold color (blue, yellow, red) try one shade one step lighter than what you want (if you want grey walls, do not go with “Charcoal” but a lighter mid tone). Walls are obviously a big surface area and with four walls color will intensify.  
Frame same sized artwork in either all white or all black frames and group them together. Have all upholstery and carpets treated with a stain resistant spray.


I suggest buying all white bath towels. They are at all price points. Big white, fluffy towels are nice, and easy to keep fresh (hot water, bleach). Great bedding will always be a place you want to invest a little more of the budget. Spend as much as you can on good knives, pots, and pans in the kitchen; Williams Sonoma is has great selections of various vendors. 
Skimp on china and pottery – fine bone hand painted china is expensive – just buy simple, inexpensive all white dinner settings. They can mix and match, look great, and showcase the food. Simple, reasonably priced big serving platters and large bowls (again in white or neutral shades) are great.  Buy three or four of the same pattern or style: you will always need them for entertaining and also fun simply to have out with fruit on them.  Likewise don’t spend too much on glassware. Dinner parties and entertaining as a young couple is fun but less stressful if you use simple glass stemware over finer crystal. living room
Restrain yourself from buying Polartec-like anything (pillow covers, blankets). When it comes to rugs, a rule of thumb if you are going neutral is to pick mid-tone meaning not too light (shows dirt) and not very dark (shows lint).


Lastly, despite the lure of Pinterest et al, inspiration boards are not always the best way to design your very first space together. Rarely does a furniture plan, or color, or vibe work in the layout of the room you are trying to “recreate”.