Our firm was founded on the notion that buildings are for people. As our interiors department works to create healthcare environments that promote caring and healing, or academic science and research environments that foster interdisciplinary collaboration, their focus remains on the humanistic experience of our buildings. Below, interior designers Mary Gallagher (MG), Erin Polansky (EP), Gina Mosca (GM) and Amber Ghory (AG) share what keeps them inspired and what they’re excited about right now.
Q: Why do you do what you do?
MG: I’ve always known I wanted a career in a creative field. I began in marketing but found myself more and more interested in colors, textures and furniture. I would take on small re-upholstery projects and rearrange rooms in my spare time. It became obvious that I should go back to school for interior design. I am drawn to the fact that there are so many opportunities to create interior spaces that foster positive experiences for so many different purposes.
EP: I have always loved art and architecture. I gravitated towards interiors because of the human aspect and the experience people receive from interior environments. Everyone has an opinion about the interior of a building; we can learn from each of them, good or bad.
GM: Interior design excites me because of its potential to touch upon so many other fields: psychology, technology, art history, ergonomics and environmental issues. I am eager to influence the built environment every day when I come to work. After being an optical engineer for 12 years, this is a second career for me; I think I was attracted to the interior design profession because it is expressive, communicative and encourages one to constantly look outward for inspiration.
AG: I’ve known I wanted to create experiences since I was very little. I have always had a pretty strong imagination, and I remember looking at objects and imagining what it would be like if I could just shrink myself down and walk through them. Before we design, we must be able to exercise our imagination…
Q: Where do you look for project inspiration?
MG: Websites, interior design magazines, art, architecture and nature
EP: Everywhere: websites, walks, gardening. Ideas can stem from the strangest places. I once created a color palette for a project based on pieces of Play Doh I found scattered around my floor.
GM: Everywhere! I try to keep my eyes open (and out of my phone) through the critical parts of my day, such as the on-foot part of my commute, or lunch outside on the greenway. It is critical for me to keep myself available to visually experience details, movement, light and texture. Travel is also really helpful. I recently went to Spain and was freaking out about what I saw before I had even left the arrivals terminal in the Madrid airport.
AG: Everywhere! In art, music, nature, other cultures, etc. I collect images that I come across even if I don’t need them at that point. I tend to go through them when I’m looking to get inspired. Lately I’ve been nursing a container full of pencil shavings that I know I’ll incorporate into one of my art projects eventually. I refuse to throw them away because they’re too beautiful to be considered trash.
Q: What recent trend are you most excited about?
MG: Proposing and specifying health conscious materials to be used in buildings and furniture; cutting back on the specification of carcinogenic materials is important to me.
EP: Things that were too expensive a few years ago are no longer off limits: LED lamping for lighting fixtures, highly ergonomic and adjustable furniture. We certainly still value engineer for our clients, but these materials are great for our clients and are now within reach.
GM: I’d call this one more of an evolution than a trend, but I think the recent advancement of LED lighting technology is tremendously exciting. The fact that the performance, color rendering and price of these products has come so far in the past decade is amazing.
AG: Tiny houses! I would love to have one, but I would never have enough space for my things. (See note above where I mention I collect pencil shavings!) Also, patio gardens like the EarthBox. I’ve never had much of a green thumb, but products like these give me so much hope because they make it sound so easy.
Q: Who is your favorite designer?
MG: There are so many designers who inspire me but, more recently, I find myself following Patricia Urquiola. Her work is playful and imaginative, yet still sensible and functional. At Neocon 2014, she revealed her collaboration with Haworth: a unique and well-received modular office furniture system.
EP: I don’t have just one. I could make a super designer from certain qualities of about 20 different designers.
GM: Moshe Safdie. In particular, I go back to his Habitat ’67 project, which explored urban density and the relationship of interior space to garden space in a very compelling way. The phrase used to describe this project, “for everyone a garden,” speaks to me so strongly about the democratizing influence of design. I also find the formal language and strong narratives of much of his other work to be so inspiring.
AG: I’ve always enjoyed the work of Danish furniture/interior designer Verner Panton. He experimented with creating futuristic designs of vibrant environments that combined furniture, wall upholstering, textiles and lighting. I like designers who break the mold and “invent” what they create. I also really appreciate Suzanne Tick as a designer. She is a weaver and textile designer who often makes use of unexpected materials, such as hangers, tissue papers and plastic bags. Recently, she has been collaborating closely with Knoll, Teknion and Tandus, making her way into the commercial A&D scene through designing carpets and upholstery.
Q: Where is your favorite place in the world?
MG: Spain. And the South County Rhode Island beaches.
EP: Locally, my favorite place is York Beach, Maine. I also love Kauai, Hawaii, and cannot wait to go back.
GM: Naxos, Greece. Didn’t even have to think about it.
AG: Where it all started: in my head. I’m a dreamer and my mind tends to wander off a lot. Also, out in nature, when I’m hiking or backpacking. For me, it’s the best for thinking and self-reflection.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
MG: I fished a lot when I was young and enjoy going out for a day of fishing whenever I can.
EP: I am a handy-woman. I try to fix anything that breaks around the house and take on the installation of shelves and organizing units. I also enjoy woodworking and painting.
GM: I guess people might be surprised to know that I have performed in somewhat avant-garde choreography (by the amazing artist Jimena Bermejo) at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in an orange tutu. I can’t believe I just told you that, actually.
AG: Even though I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, I spent the first nine years of my life in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. I remember when my dad brought home from work gas masks for the entire family during the Gulf War, which was very typical. My sisters and I would entertain ourselves with how ridiculous we looked with them on! We were supposed to put them on every time the city sounded the alarms in case of a chemical attack threat. Schools also started requiring that all students bring a non-perishable food item and a large towel in case we were stranded and couldn’t go home. Luckily it never came to that, and my family ended up packing up for Pakistan shortly after the ceasefire. We lived there for four years before eventually moving to the U.S.
Q: The sky is the limit: if you could redesign anything, what would it be?
MG: I would find an old bungalow near the ocean and refinish it, inside and out. The interior would be simple and clean and the outside would have incredible gardens, a charming outdoor dining area for entertaining and the landscape would include a path to a private beach.
EP: I would buy an old firehouse or church and go crazy. I love finely crafted details, so being able to expose the original features during the renovation would be amazing.
GM: I would love to redesign many of the offices I either visited or worked in back when I was an engineer. For as much buzz as contemporary office design has had in recent years (open planning, collaboration zones, hoteling stations, accommodating mobile workers), I think there are still entire sectors of corporate America where people are not using their space in an optimal way, from occupancy, productivity, daylighting or psychological standpoints.
AG: Bike lanes! I finally bought a bike, but I’m not too comfortable riding it on the streets of Boston, which was recently voted to have some of the worst/meanest drivers. Nor am I comfortable driving on the road when there are bikers all around me. I would feel much better, both as a biker and as a driver, if bike lanes were redesigned to instead be placed between sidewalks and parked cars. I would also redesign the T tunnels to be more connected to indoor spaces. This would be especially wonderful for those brutally cold and snowy days when I just don’t want to go outside!
Q: What do you do in your free time?
MG: I have a pretty big family and I find myself keeping busy with everyone. Unless, of course, I’m walking my dog, which would be my all-time favorite thing to do with my free time.
EP: I spend as much time outdoors as I can. I also love to read (papers, news blogs, etc.). I am kind of a news and politics junkie.
GM: Free time is a really novel concept for me, since I had been a full-time or part-time student for 6 years up until May! I’m a little overwhelmed with the possibilities when the weekend rolls around. But I do love trying a hot new restaurant with friends, or entertaining at home (dinner parties being a dying art form). My yoga practice is also very critical to my existence. I also enjoy trying, and failing, to keep current with my New Yorker reading.
AG: I usually try to get as much painting done in my free time as possible. I somehow always manage to have an art/design project going on. I also try to learn new things when I have free time. Lately, I’ve been teaching myself basic felting.
Q: What’s on your iPod/what are you streaming these days?
MG: I’m obsessed with Mumford & Sons, but depending on the mood it might be Norah Jones, The Wailin’ Jennys, Ray LaMontagne, Pearl Jam or Jimmy Cliff. The list goes on forever…
EP: When I’m cooking, I love big band music like the Glenn Miller Orchestra. During the summer, Zac Brown Band and Jason Aldean are always playing when we hang out on the patio.
GM: I grew up in a household with a pretty strong ‘70s rock indoctrination, so David Bowie is a constant. But I just pulled up my Rhapsody history and it seems The National (I was into them back when they played The Middle East downstairs), Yeasayer and Grizzly Bear all make appearances. Also I am obsessed by Alt-J’s debut album. And that actually is how the word obsessed is used correctly.
AG: U2s latest album somehow magically appeared on my iCloud, so I’ve been familiarizing myself with that. It’s pretty good! I have a very diverse selection of music on my iPod. There’s probably music in at least ten different languages on there!
Q: What do you follow?
MG: Houzz, Pinterest, ArchDaily, Dezeen, Design Milk
EP: Dezeen, Habitually Chic, Pinterest, The Yellow Goat Universe
GM: NPR, national politics, indie music, Boston food scene, lots of angry journalism by Matt Taibbi. And then, let’s just be honest, I usually know what Gwyneth has been up to lately. (Somehow it just happens. I’m not sure how.)
AG: Pinterest, LinkedIn updates, The Holstee Manifesto