When Dedham-based interior designer Christine Tuttle was approached by PBS’s “This Old House” to take part in this season’s project, she didn’t hesitate. “I’m a woman of action,” she said. Tuttle was brought on the team for an update and expansion of an 1872 Italianate Victorian home for a young family of four in Arlington. The season, starring host Kevin O’Connor and general contractor Tom Silva, airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Q. How big was the project?
A. Typically they like to find a project where they can do a true gut to at least half of the house and possibly add an addition. For this one it was [about] a 2,000-square-foot original house with an add-on back section to extend the master bedroom and kitchen. Some rooms were just a refresh, like the children’s bedrooms got fixed up with new paint and window treatments, but other rooms were gutted down to the studs.
Q. Was it a different process than working with your typical client?
A. Not really. It was generally the same process where you have varying degrees: You want other people on the team to have input, and there was David Whitney on as the architect for the project and we just finished each other’s sentences when it came to deciding the look of anything. We just have the same sensibilities and aesthetics.
Q. How involved were the clients in the process?
A. Sometimes homeowners want to be really involved down to how a hinge on a door looks while other times they are busy and trust the professionals but still have overall goals and wants. This was a happy medium with the homeowners. They weighed in on a lot but they’re both working and taking care of young kids so they were very agreeable when reading the e-mail streams and proposals and how we wanted to do things.
Q. What was the general aesthetic?
A. Heather and Malcolm, the home owners, even though they live a modern life they’re pretty traditional people when it comes to aesthetics and they bought a Victorian home. There’s a real spirit already in the house, it was a very happy home, and Heather likes lots of color. That fits in nicely with a Victorian theme because then colors were bright and not really monochromatic. From the start, we knew she wanted warm traditional colors with cozy rooms and we jumped from there.
Q. You originally have an art background.
A. I started and ran art galleries when I was younger in Rhode Island, Nantucket, and then went to school in London and was trained by Sotheby’s to work with fine and decorative art.
Q. Are there any overarching trends you see for 2014?
A. A lot of people are doing a mix of metals. For a long time, traditionalists would do their entire house in brass — sconces and doorknobs and such — and then all the white metals, like a brushed nickel were very popular for years. Now we’re seeing lots of mixed metals, oil-rubbed bronze with brushed nickel with antique brass and Sun Valley Bronze, all combined in homes. I’m also seeing lots of changes in lighting. After New Year’s Day, a lot of incandescent bulbs have been phased out. There are all new rules and regulations for that and I’m seeing a lot of clients taking lighting seriously. They’re interested in putting in thoughtful lighting plans that make a house feel more open and bright.
Q. When you say a thoughtful lighting plan, is there anything that the average homeowner is doing that they can correct?
A. I think you need to have layered light, but that takes an electrician to cut into your ceiling to add recessed lighting so it’s not a quick fix, do-it-yourself job. But I think layered lighting, meaning you have something overhead and task lighting and peripheral lighting, is always important.
Q. Are you seeing any color trends?
A. Color is more of a personal thing. But what I’ve found lately is a lot of my clients are gravitating toward warm neutrals — golds, warm taupes, browns, even — nothing too acidic. That said, I’ve done three dining rooms recently and everyone wanted color. I’m seeing people who were once traditional are making really quirky statements that are great. Like an antique Victorian in Chestnut Hill that’s done a cool modern light fixture in the dining room. People who are really traditional are much more transitional than they used to be.
Interview has been edited and condensed. Rachel Raczka can be reached at email@example.com.