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By Erica Jackson Curran / March 17, 12:00 AM
A look inside This Old House

The House Whisperer

Christine Tuttle has always had a soft spot for historic houses. The interior designer grew up in an 18th century tea captain’s house on Cape Cod, and now she lives with her family in a restored 1895 home in Dedham. So it was fitting that when the producers of This Old House were looking for a designer to help with a project, they called Tuttle.

Her mission: Assist in the restoration and expansion of an 1872 Italianate Victorian home for a young family in Arlington. Tuttle makes frequent appearances on the current season of the PBS show, which airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. “When you work with This Old House, it’s like any other project: You’re part of a team making decisions,” Tuttle says. “It’s a very fluid, wonderful process where we’re all in the house all the time doing the work and delivering our expertise. It’s like any other process, just the timeline is a bit sped up. It’s like one big happy family doing the work.”

Tuttle is well-known for her design work in Boston-area homes—both old and new. She says that, when it comes to design, the city is a lot more adventurous than it used to be. “For years I’d say Boston was an extremely traditional town,” she says. “Our houses had certain things to make them feel appropriate and well-bred, but there’s a huge mix in the last five to seven years, a lot of European and West Coast influence. Clients who may have been traditional before are now traveling to far-flung places and willing to get a little more edgy and modern.”

Tuttle’s own style has an Anglo slant inspired by several years spent living in London, and she takes a holistic approach to design. “I think I’m a traditionalist at heart, yet I really embrace new technology and concepts,” she says. “You have to listen to the space. A lot of people want to put a square peg in a round hole, and sometimes it’s fun to have that juxtaposition of really modern and a very old setting, but it has to be done right.”

She adds, “I’m really into thoughtful design, how it’s going to be used, who will use it, who will clean it down the road, how it will be maintained…I love design where it’s kind of intelligent and educated and there’s something very interesting in the room, whether it’s a piece of sculpture or a painting. Something unusual, something with a twist.”

Tuttle is teaming up with This Old House producer Deborah Hood and the Boston Architectural College for a behind-the-scenes peek of the show during Boston Design Week. “We thought it would be a great idea, especially at the BAC…to understand what the process is all about. It’s really almost like in the art world—there is an end product but it’s the process that’s really the most rewarding part.” 

The Production and Design Process of This Old House. March 25 at 6 p.m. The Beehive at BAC Hall, 951 Boylston St. Christinetuttle.com. Bostondesignweek.com.
Thursday, Mar 20
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