Meet Architect Harold Tittmann
An American born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, and now based in Litchfield County, Harold Tittmann designs homes noted for their timeless, classic lines and clear contemporary style.
You came from overseas to attend Kent School and later studied at RISD. What led you to follow your artistic bent? I’d painted oil landscapes and portraits since I was a child, then I enjoyed taking as many art classes as I could at Kent’s studio, a little house where the Swiss art teacher played classical music on the radio.
You worked in commercial design in New York and renovated your own apartment, which you sold six months later for three times the price. What magic did you work with it? I created a box within a box for the kitchen and bathroom of a studio in the village. It was an exercise in creating privacy within a loft but keeping it open.
How does that apply to your current work on country houses? There has to be a balance between comfort, privacy and a relationship to the outside. Letting a lot of natural light in and taking advantage of the view but not overdoing it at the cost of privacy is something I work hard on. It’s important to understand not only the square footage, but also the cubic footage. If it’s taller than it is wide or long, it’s echo-y.
What do you mean by “designing inside out and outside in”? The scale and approach to every room plays a big role in the overall feeling. So when I’m designing, even in the first schematics and sketches, I’m already thinking about furniture placement and proportion inside and how the whole outside layout is working in terms of patios, walkways, plantings. It should be thought through in a three-dimensional way, understanding that every space becomes part of the whole.
How do you describe your style? A blend of the classical that I mix with a bit more of contemporary 21st-century design. I want the client to feel they got what they wanted and the house is going to be there for the next centuries. It’s not a house that someone is going to say one day: “This is dated; let’s tear it down.”
How do you apply that in New England? While keeping a classical approach, I incorporate modern elements—pushing the envelope a little bit toward a more contemporary aesthetic. I appreciate the simplicity and clean lines of traditional Connecticut farmhouses. But they had very small windows with a single pane of glass. Improvements in building materials and technology allow us to make them bigger and more energy efficient. Finding the right balance where it all fits into the vernacular of the area is important to hold on to.
Why did you move to Connecticut? Its lifestyle: I like the openness, to wake up and see nature. And the projects are on beautiful sites, and you deal with friendly trades instead of co-ops, building management, freight elevators and the craziness of the city. I like all the little villages here. Plus there’s a certain level of elegance and sophistication. There are no trains—it’s harder to get to, which in my opinion makes it more special.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Meet the Architect: Harold Tittmann.