Meet the 2021 5 Under 40 Award Winners

August 22, 2021

Text by Paula M. Bodah

For a dozen years now, we’ve been celebrating our area’s abundance of young design talent with New England Home’s 5 Under 40 Awards. The annual program honors excellence in interior design, architecture, and landscape design. The 2021 awardees exemplify that excellence in their rich and varied portfolios as well as in their commitment to New England’s design community.

This year, we’re especially excited because we’re returning to an in-person awards celebration. The party, on September 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the SoWa Power Station in Boston’s SoWa Art + Design District, will be twice the fun as we honor our 2020 winners along with this year’s talented group. Click here to purchase tickets to the event.

Specialty Design Meaghan Moynahan 

Meaghan Moynahan found her calling in high school when, as the only girl in her woodshop class, she built a cabinet. “That solidified my going to design school,” she says. “I think I’ve always had a passion for millwork.”

That she ended up in kitchen design was something of a happy accident. After graduating from the New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University with a BFA in interior design, she got her first job at a kitchen design studio. One of her colleagues happened to be Donna Venegas. Eventually, Venegas bought the studio, forming Venegas and Company. Moynahan stayed on as lead technical designer and, in 2014, became director of technical design for the Boston company.

“We’re very team based,” she says about her workplace. “That’s the beauty of it. Great design is all about collaboration.” As the technical designer, she’s involved in projects from the very beginning, working with the sales designer in an equal partnership. “I offer design opinions, I have a hand in choosing finishes, and I help the clients with their choices,” she explains.

Moynahan has seen trends in kitchen design morph quite a bit during her career. “When I started, it was much more traditional,” she recalls. “There were lots of details, a lot of corbels and moldings.”

These days, homeowners favor a more transitional look, she says, and she enjoys the challenge of designing with a contemporary vibe. “We do a lot of R&D with cabinetmakers to come up with new styles, using new materials, repurposed materials, and unusual finishes,” she says. The out-of-the-box thinking might yield a cabinet inset of old army tents or cowhide. “It’s really cool, some of the things we do.”

Architecture Heather Souza 

Never underestimate the power of a nudge from a high school teacher. When Heather Souza (then Heather Card) was a student at New Hampshire’s Portsmouth High School, her drafting teacher pulled her aside and told her he saw real potential in her work. “He asked me if I’d ever thought of being an architect,” she recalls. In fact, it had not occurred to her. “The women in my family were all nurses or teachers.” The teacher, Steve Jones, arranged to have her do a job shadow at a local architecture firm, and the young woman’s fate was sealed. “I was adamant about going to architecture school,” she says.

She chose Northeastern University. “It was a big enough city to make me feel like I was getting away, but it was close enough to home. I loved it,” says Souza.

If Jones gave her the idea, and Northeastern gave her the tools, her first job, at the Barrington, Rhode Island-based firm Andreozzi Architecture, was the springboard to her successful career.“I owe them everything,” she says about principal David Andreozzi and senior associate David Rizzolo. “They were such great mentors to have as a young professional.”

In 2013, Souza joined Boston-based Flavin Architects, where she now holds the position of junior principal. At Flavin, she feels she has the creative freedom to meld her own personality with the company’s vision. That vision focuses on contemporary design, and Souza says the term “natural modernism” is a guiding principle. “It’s evolved to a warm modernism,” she says. “We use materials that are common for New England architecture, such as natural wood, but with a more modern application, clean detailing, for homes that really sit in nature.”

Interior Design: Gabrielle Pitocco Bove

From the time she was a child, Gabrielle Pitocco Bove had an affinity for creating art. “I would wakeup early every a.m., and my mom and I would do crafts,” she says. She took lots of art classes as she grew, but somewhere along the way she had an epiphany of sorts. “I realized I’m not a fine artist,” she says. “I can’t be alone with the art, and by that I mean I like people too much.” Interior design, she thought, could combine her enjoyment of working with people and her love of creating beautiful things. “I feel like it’s creating art with a purpose,” she says, “and I’m very purpose driven.”

After earning a degree in interior design from Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she is now an adjunct professor, Bove worked at a Boston firm where she specialized in designing corporate and hospitality projects. Five years later she transitioned to residential design and is now lead designer at Boston’s Eleven Interiors. While the lessons she learned about designing in a commercial setting were invaluable, residential design feeds her passion. “It came back to a love for the creative, the love of art, the love of working with people,” she says.

As young as Bove is, she’s already seeing changes in the design world as she works with her students at Endicott. “What I see that’s similar is the passion for creating spaces that reflect the people who are going to be in them,” she says. What’s different? “The sheer attachment to technology. It’s impressive, the fancy renderings the students can do, but one of my goals is to help them understand that the design is what’s important,” she explains. As her clients and our judges know, Bove clearly practices what she preaches.

Landscape Architecture: Heather Harris

Given that her parents owned a landscaping company and, later, a nursery, you might expect that Heather Harris always knew shrubs, trees, and flowers would be in her future. In fact, she grew up thinking she’d become an engineer or an architect. “I knew I’d do something that had to do with construction and buildings, but I thought I’d build bridges or apartment buildings, not landscapes,” she says.

By the time she enrolled as a freshman at Cornell University, however, the idea of landscape architecture had begun to take hold, and although she considered engineering as a second major, in 2012 she graduated with a degree in landscape architecture.

Now senior landscape architect at James Doyle Design Associates in Greenwich, Connecticut, Harris firmly believes there is artistry in her work that goes beyond a garden’s looks. “I love it when something comes out and looks pretty,” she says, “but when you design something that works the way you intended, when people move through the space the way you want them to, I consider that artistry, too.”

Her enjoyment of problem-solving drives Harris the most. “We take what we’re given—the house and the land—and we have to work around them,” she says. “My favorite part of a project is actually doing all the construction documents, and watching a space being built from those documents.”

Harris stresses that the landscape contractors and others, the ones who literally do the heavy lifting, are crucial to her success. “My favorite projects are ones where we had a solid, experienced, good team,” she says. Although she’s surprised to be among this year’s 5 Under 40 winners, it’s hardly Harris’s first accolade. In 2018 alone, she won four professional awards for her work. We’re pretty confident that this one won’t be her last.

Interior Design: Mika Durrell

Mika Durrell has had a long love affair with Martha’s Vineyard. Her father, a high-end residential builder, had a project there and persuaded her to spend the summer after her freshman year of college on the island. After her sophomore year, she left school and moved to the island. “I was called the youngest wash-ashore,” she says with a laugh. After a couple of years of community college and odd jobs, she enrolled at Boston Architectural College, attracted by its work-study model.

Studying by night and working for three different architectural firms in Boston by day took her away from the Vineyard, and so did her post-degree career, marriage, and two children. “I wanted to invest in my career, but I needed life to be simpler,” she says. By serendipity, she got a text from a former classmate asking if she knew anyone who might want to live on the Vineyard year-round to work at Hutker Architects. “I was like, ME!” she says.

Durrell spent five years at Hutker’s Vineyard office, serving as the firm’s director of interior design. In 2019, she started her own interior design company, Able Moraine, affirming her commitment to the island. The company name was inspired by the island itself, a moraine formed by a glacial sheet thousands of years ago. “I think of the incredible energy and power that created this beautiful place,” Durrell says. Able, she adds, is a literal reference to the capabilities of the many talented people it takes working together to create beautiful homes.

Able Moraine isn’t island-bound, however. Durrell and business partner Paul Commito have projects as far away as Hawaii. Neither are they bound to a particular style. “Our work is really diverse,” Durrell says. “We want it to be fun. A good fit with our clients is the most important.”

Come join us as we celebrate the award winners at a party on September 16 at 5:40 p.m. at the SoWa Power Station in Boston’s SoWa Art + Design District. The festivities will include the auction of five custom rugs designed by our winners and products by Landry & Arcari Rigs and Carpeting with proceeds going to the nonprofit Barakat.

Portrait photography by Bruce Rogovin.

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