After meeting as students, this dynamic couple
still find new challenges in design and life
Written by REGINA COLE
Photograph by TIM GRAY
Carol and tom catalano met when they were
students at Rhode Island School of Design,
where Tom learned that he loves to design
houses and Carol discovered her penchant for
science, for working three-dimensionally. Notable careers
have grown out of these early self-discoveries: For Tom,
in their downtown Boston office, Carol and Tom Catalano
work — separately — on designing everything from knives for
Dexter-Russell (top) to grand houses, such as the one above in
Osterville, Massachusetts. Carol’s “Capelli” stools decorate the
office space (left), while Tom’s cardboard models bring his
house designs to life.
Catalano Architects has evolved into the go-to Boston
firm for beautiful Shingle Style houses, while for Carol, Catalano Design has made a mark on the mysterious, far-reaching world of industrial design with objects as diverse as knife
handles, stereo speakers, surge protectors, a one-handed guitar
capo, and the iconic “Capelli” stool for Herman Miller.
Last year, as Catalano Design and Catalano Architects
celebrated 20 years in business, Carol and Tom reached a
personal milestone, marking their 25th wedding anniversary.
Although the couple share teenage children, a home in Hamilton, Massachusetts, a downtown Boston office, and the daily
commute, “we don’t work on projects together,” Carol says
with a laugh. “That’s why we’re still married.” However, lately
they have agreed to work together on at least one project —
an addition to their Cape Cod vacation house. “We’re using
our house as a lab,” says Carol, “using ordinary materials in
The project is also a way for them to demonstrate a mutual passion for sustainability that informs everything they do.
New Englanders by birth and upbringing, the Catalanos see
their work in global terms.
“The ability of design to positively affect people’s lives is
immeasurable,” says Tom of his and Carol’s life’s work. “We
don’t set out to make the world better, but we do make it better
for the people we work with.”