Designer Snapshot: The Art of Design

February 13, 2013

By Paula M Bodah Andra Birkerts studied fine arts in college, earning a BFA then going on to an MFA in painting, so it comes as no surprise that her Wellesley, Massachusetts, firm, Andra Birkerts Interior Design began, in 1992, as a color consulting company. Even today, when her company has expanded to offer full-service interior design, Andra’s designs place a strong emphasis on color and light, as you might expect from a painter. Here, she shows us some examples of her artist’s eye at work.

Photo by Robert Benson


Light is what creates and activates color, Andra says. Light is the medium while color is the message. She gave this room, with its plentiful natural light, extra depth and interest by using red in the lamp, in a decorative orb on the coffee table and in ottoman to add some spark to the neutral color scheme. See more of this home, featured in our November/December 2012 issue.

Photo by Andra Birkerts

One’s perception of color is affected by the environment, especially, Andra notes, in a space where objects relate to each other in a close environment. In this room, the bold choice of green for the walls that enclose a window seat allowed for a wide-ranging mix of pattern and texture in the space.

Photo by Peter Vanderwarker

Paint colors should be tested on the walls they’ll be applied to, rather than just picked from a swatch or color catalog. The environment, light and other materials all affect the final color. The green hue in this room changes depending on the light (natural versus artificial) and shadows cast on the walls.

Photo by Sam Gray

Andra reminds us to be sure to view color samples at different times of the day and in different lighting before settling on a final hue. In this space, she was mindful of the change in light as the paint color moves from beneath the stairs to the upper walls of the stairwell.

Photo by Robert Benson

Paint can be used to enhance special areas or details. Follow a wall to its conclusion or to a place where a color is used to its best advantage, Andra suggests. In this space, three colors come together in harmony.

Photo by Sam Gray

Bold colors can be used to unify a room and give it energy. A room’s function often determines Andra’s approach to color. In this case, strong colors make for a fun, vibrant children’s space.

Photo by Sam Gray

Photo by Sam Gray

An unexpected touch of color can ramp up the design. Andra’s addition of pastel colors on the built-in drawers of a bedroom add interest to the quiet palette, while a pop of bright color on the ceiling adds inviting warmth to a foyer.

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