Blurring the Boundaries of Colour and Light

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Based in New York City, Stamberg Aferiat + Associates cohesively combine color, light, design and architecture into compelling and resonating experiences.

They push the boundaries of color and creativity, creating notable designs such as The Shelter Island PavilionThe Saguaro in Palms Spring and Scottsdale and Old Town Whiskey. With international work in commercial, hotel and residential fields, they present a wide range of understanding in design and cultural profiles.

 MiND sat down with Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiat, founders of the design firm as well as upcoming featured speakers at ROAD – Retail Design Show in Istanbul. ROAD, part of the “Space and Possibilities” exhibit at the Greek Galata School, will host Stamberg and Aferiat as they create a design conversation behind “Color and its Use in Space.”


Stamberg Aferiat seems to be a yin and yang mentality. How does the creative relationship work between the two of you? What strengths do you both contribute to create these beautiful designs?

STAMBERG AFERIAT:  Firstly, Thank you for the kind words. While this would seem to be the most complex of your excellent questions, it is actually the simplest. Peter contributes chaos to the design process. Paul contributes order. It is a perfect yin and yang process.


Your motto, Life: Lived in Color truly focuses on combining the bold, inspirational colors to create compelling experiences. Where did this fascination with color derive from?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: We have always been drawn to color in nature, in art and in the environment in general. Our friendship with David Hockney, whose work we were drawn to partially because of his use of color, has been very inspiring. Color brings so much joy. Just look at how people respond to flowers in Spring, color in art and blue skies. Color has been so poorly used over the years that it has gotten something of a bad name. Color selection based on a thorough understanding and a thoughtful process has the ability to make life so much better.


The Shelter Island Pavilion is a prime example of your intricate use of colors. What was the creative process like designing this space?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: The Shelter Island Pavilion would be the first time that we would be able to use color on the exterior of a building based totally on the color theories which guide our work, without external forces influencing choices. The two biggest decisions were whether to go all the way across the spectrum or to just use a part of it and whether to paint the ceiling white, as we had done in every single design we had ever done, or break with our tradition and paint it a color. The biggest question we faced was where to draw the inspiration for the colors.

We decided to go across the entire spectrum because of the freedom we would have in making selections, and the fact that we knew we could control the colors well. We decided to paint the ceilings a color because we felt they were floating planes, like the walls, rather than part of a shell. We then had to decide if the ceilings belonged to the sky, the sun or the trees. As you can see in the pix, they are part of the trees. Palettes for individual projects usually come from either local flora or from a painting of Matisse. The inspiration for the color palette on Shelter Island came from the Matisse painting Luxe, Calme et Volupte, a frequent source for us. While the choice was not consciously related to the context, on a subconscious level it must have been.

Seeing the house in Spring one can see that the roofs are the spring green color of several nearby trees when the leaves first begin to burst forth. In summer the house is the colors of nearby flowers. People who see the house for the first time in autumn feel the house is pure autumn. They wonder how it could look good any other time of year. But the real joy is winter. When everything is brown and feeling pretty dreary, the house is a burst of sunshine. The crowning jewel of winter is the house’s sunshine in the snow. The color stands out, but it works.


There is a fine line between using colors correctly and having color overload. How do you find the right synergy when working with more dynamic, bold colors?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: Whether dynamic, bold colors or soft, muted colors, we find that color is generally either overused or underused. Indeed, finding the balance between strong color and neutrals is a big focus for us. There is always the memory of a lot of color in our work. While some of our projects do have a lot of color, more often than not there is a good balance of white or grey. We always treat color as means to define an architectonic element, not as a decorative surface. We use color to define planes and volumes, not to fill voids. But most importantly, we use color to create light.


What would be your dream project? What client would you want to work for or what space would you like to design?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: Designing the two Saguaro hotels was a fantastic experience. We would love to design more hotels. The dream job would be a ground-up hotel, but we were very happy to design more renovations. We are best known for our residential work, and designing homes for clients who want a great home is always a dream job. Ultimately any project is a dream project if it is for a wonderful, open-minded, inspiring client.


All the Stamberg Aferiat designs are completely different yet their share a similar style and aesthetic that is undeniable. Do you have a defining style that you try to align each design with?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: Our projects are portraits of our clients as seen through architectonic eyes. The unique architectonics of our work come from unique views of color, perspective and context.


You differentiate your projects into three categories, Live, Work, Play. What are the differences of each?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: We differentiate projects but we show how color can be used in a variety of ways that can interrelate the elements together. Why can’t work and play be one and the same!


What will guests learn when attending your talk, Color and its use in Space?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: We hope that guests will see more clearly that we live in a world full of color and that integrating color into our built environment will create a richer quality of life. We hope that guests will understand more about balancing color and neutrals.


Finally, our curiosity comes out with our last question. You have the knack of combining bold colors in an effortless way that never seems to be overbearing. We curious, what does your home look like?

STAMBERG AFERIAT: You have seen our country home: the Shelter Island Pavilion! As you can see in our NYC loft pictures (pictures 8-10), we live as we preach. We blur the boundary between art and architecture in both our loft and on Shelter Island.