| Feb 8, 2012 |
D'Aquino Monaco, Brandolini & more receive HUE Awards
By Staff

Color—and a distinguished group of design professionals who are true believers in its power and passionate about its use—will be celebrated when Benjamin Moore presents the HUE Awards, Tuesday, April 3, at Hearst Tower, 300 West 57th Street.

The honorees include D’Aquino Monaco Inc, New York, for Residential Interiors; Architecture Is Fun, Chicago, for Contract Interiors; and, Publicolor, for Social Responsibility. Additionally, New York interior designer Muriel Brandolini has been named by the judges to receive the HUE Lifetime Achievement Award, and 89-year-old itinerant muralist Virginia McLaughlin, of Frederick, MD, will be presented a Special Achievement Award at the 2012 ceremony.

“This is now the fifth year Benjamin Moore has held the HUE competition,” said Eileen McComb, director of corporate communications. “And each year the honorees’ work awes us with not simply a richness of color but also with the scope of breathtaking talent and imagination. This year’s judges had no easy task in making their decisions, but it’s another group of amazing architects and designers who will receive the HUEY. We are excited to salute their individual achievements and add them to the esteemed roster of what now numbers 29 honorees.”

This year’s jury included:  Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker; Tim Murray, former creative director, TARGET Creative Vision Group;  Hans Neubert, executive creative director, frog; Linda O’Keeffe, design author and former creative director Metropolitan Home magazine; and, Gary Panter, artist, graphic designer and set designer for the original “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

Interior designer Carl D’Aquino and architect Francine Monaco (featured above) formed their namesake partnership in 1997, and since then they have built an impressive portfolio of work for a range of residential and commercial projects both nationally and internationally. A noteworthy feat accomplished within 10 years of its founding, Interior Design magazine named D’Aquino Monaco to its prestigious Hall of Fame. Now the partnership is adding a HUE for Residential Interiors to its trophy shelf.

The pair’s mastery of color selection and usage is apparent in nearly every space they design. In some, like an Upper East Side townhouse restoration they recently orchestrated, the palette registers with uninhibited boldness. In this space, they applied unexpected color and pattern contrasts that are visual treats from all corners. Yet, their color competency is equally evident in a Riverside Drive flat where the client requested an all-white décor that could have been cliché. But, D’Aquino Monaco delivered with a combination of nuanced tones on a white and gray scale that is remarkably complex and compelling.

Peter and Sharon Exley head Chicago-based Architecture Is Fun, which has earned the HUE for Contract Interiors. The husband and wife duo dedicate their practice to architecture for play and learning for children of all ages, with projects that include museums, public spaces, libraries, parks, playgrounds and healthcare facilities. Dynamic colors infuse their projects, engaging youngsters and their families. 

For example, the couple relied on an eye-popping palette of hot red, deep blue, crayon purple and pulsating green to transform an abandoned car dealership into the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum in Saginaw. It is a vibrant space that has become a catalyst for community revitalization. The Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, utilizes a palette that helps children connect with nature. Two dominant shades of green are used to create a perennial springtime woodland environment that invigorates this public landmark.

Also youth-focused, Publicolor, founded in 1996 by Ruth Lande Shuman, is a non-profit organization and one of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s favorite causes, helping inspire disaffected and at-risk teenage students by involving them in adding color to all the public spaces in their schools. Publicolor teaches the process of commercial painting to these youngsters who work together to improve their learning environment—empowering them to makeover their surroundings and experience a sense of success and accomplishment as they gain a marketable skill.

School painting projects are just the tip of the Publicolor iceberg. The organization also provides ongoing programming to help students plan and prepare for college and career. In doing so, it addresses two root causes of poverty—under-education and lack of job preparedness.

In an interview with catalystsdr.com last year, Shuman said, “I feel very strongly that by introducing design and color you can change attitudes and behavior as well as create visual order in environments where chaos reigns supreme.”

In the recently published book chronicling her work—The World of Muriel Brandolini (Rizzoli, 2011)—the designer acknowledges that “the freedom to live a colorful life” has enabled her to flex her creative muscle. A colorful life, indeed. Brandolini was born in Montpellier, France, to a French-Venezuelan mother and a Vietnamese father. She was the youngest of four sisters, and the family first lived in Vietnam for 12 years and then moved to Martinique in 1972. When she was 15, she was sent to live with relatives in Paris where her interest and tastes for fashion, architecture and design were well nourished. And, it was an eventual move to New York City in her early twenties with no job but an instinctive entrepreneurial spirit and fearless drive that led to her emergence as an in-demand interiors artiste. Her own living spaces became laboratories for experimentation in use of color and texture, pattern and scale, as she constantly was redecorating—seized by an endless flow of creative ideas.  

The HUE judges were struck by Brandolini’s innate sense of color, and in reviewing her work remarked that she’s skillful at applying color in subtle measures or dialing it up to a more vibrant and audacious palette. They also noted how effectively she finesses the layering of colors to create spaces that seem less planned and more organic or evolved. Overall, the judges found her interiors “emotionally satisfying,” which won her high praise and has become an indelible signature of her work.

It’s not enough that this 89-year-old still climbs ladders and scaffolding to execute the extraordinary painted wall and ceiling murals for which she has earned acclaim. Virginia McLaughlin also still manages to do aerobics three times a week, plus gets plenty of exercise keeping up with her five-year-old grandchild. McLaughlin describes herself as “an itinerant painter,” traveling job to job, whether it’s for a private home, an institution or commercial property. But her unique artistry was too hard for Benjamin Moore and the HUE judges to ignore, and so they will be presenting McLaughlin with a HUE Special Achievement award for the nearly 120 murals she has painstakingly hand-painted since 1977.

McLaughlin, who lives in Frederick, MD, often is commissioned to paint murals representative of the local history and landscape, and her work can be found in homes and even some restaurants and inns throughout Maryland, Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region. Her work is inspired by the early 19th century American landscape painter Rufus Porter and also, from that era, a series of hand-blocked wallpaper from manufacturer Jean Zuber called “Scenic America.”

Benjamin Moore’s Regal eggshell paint is her preferred medium. “It’s easy to work with, is forgiving and stands the test of time,” she said. McLaughlin also recently told the editor of her hometown magazine, Elegant Living, that she favors the brand’s White Linen as a base for colors she mixes in, and begins the sky with Williamsburg Blue, followed by Labrador Blue for mid-tones and then Providence Blue for a darker shade. What’s especially astonishing about McLaughlin’s work is that she rarely sketches scenes before starting and she often incorporates a client’s home and family members in the final artwork. A retrospective book of McLaughlin’s work is due out this fall to coincide with her 90th birthday.

The recipients competed in a field of nearly 100 entries and each will be receiving the hand-blown, paint drop-shaped crystal HUE sculpture plus $5,000 cash prize that recognize exceptional use of color in architecture and interior design.

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