Written by Natalie Aldridge.
For over three remarkable decades, Purple Cherry Architects has been crafting incredible residences across the United States. Be it a timeless, traditional residence or a modern architectural gem, a grand multi-generational estate, or a serene weekend getaway, Purple Cherry is dedicated to the art of creating exceptional homes.
At the helm of Purple Cherry is the remarkable Cathy Purple Cherry, founder of the namesake firm. Cathy’s profound passion for art and architectural design was ignited during her childhood as she immersed herself in painting lessons. She then meticulously refined her skills through academic pursuits at prestigious institutions, including the Corcoran School of Art, University of Colorado in Boulder, and the University of Maryland. Since, Cathy has dedicated herself to the relentless pursuit of excellence in residential design.
As a wife and mother of three, with her eldest child having special needs, Cathy deeply understands the importance of a home that marries beauty with functionality. Driven by a deep commitment to philanthropy, she initiated the Purple Cherry Purposeful Architecture Studio, an extension of her firm devoted to creating inclusive and specially designed environments for individuals with special needs, and is spearheading this noble mission nationwide.
While Cathy embraces innovative, she always remains true to the classics. Let’s explore her impressive portfolio and see what inspires her!
Images courtesy of Durston Saylor and David Burroughs.
Q: When and how did you first become interested in architectural design?
A: I’ve always had an appreciation for architecture; however, this was expounded during my high school years as I traveled to Europe three times with my language group. During those adventures, I was exposed to incredible architectural wonders such as the Sistine Chapel, the Louvre, and the Alhambra.
Initially, I was a Fine Arts major at the University of Colorado Boulder, where at the time, an architecture program did not exist. I then switched to the Interior Design program. I have a very strong mathematical mind and an innate ability to visualize three dimensionally. As I evolved through the Interior Design program, I became more and more intrigued by the concept of creating and composing intricate 3D elements, which led me to join the architectural program at the University of Maryland College Park.
Q: How and when did you come to start your own firm?
A: I started my firm in 1995 out of a 1,000 square foot home. I fundamentally knew I would someday start my own firm. While I had been approached by principals of other firms to come onboard with a partnership, I felt strongly about running my own team.
Q: What are some design elements that you think are distinct or signature to your approach?
A: I think we are best known for our work on view-oriented properties, multi-structure estates, and for our expertise across a range of architectural vernaculars and interior design styles. Our approach results in designs that create emotional connections to the surrounding environment, and floor plans that are not only beautiful, but highly functional.
Q: Who are your top five architectural and or interior designers (past/present) you turn to for inspiration?
A: Anouska Hempel. She infuses old with new, excels at bringing the outside in, and creates settings that feel very ethereal. I love the compositions that she puts together.
McKim, Mead & White. Their work truly stands the test of time.
I’m inspired by old buildings in old cities throughout Greece, Japan, and Scandinavia. I’m drawn to that historic simplicity.
I admire the work of Bunny Williams – it is classical, comfortable, layered, and very successfully blends different aesthetics.
When I was younger, I loved and admired the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Q: How has your design philosophy evolved over your career?
A: As I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve had the great honor of being exposed to more and more large-scale projects, my design philosophy has been influenced by just how significant millwork, the layering of accessories, and landscaping are to help create the most magnificent outcome. I’ve come to really respect what a landscape architect brings to a project and to value the importance of integrating artwork, sculpture, accessories, and millwork into a home.
Q: Define your style in three words.
A: Classical. First and foremost, I am a classical designer, however I love layering elements of bohemian or maximalist aesthetics to a project to bring vibrancy into otherwise very stately settings.
Clean. I like very clean elements with very bold pops of color. Southwestern adobe feeling.
Rustic. I love rusticism transfused into modernism, transitional with mountain home elements. This influence stems from my time going to school in Colorado.
Q: What advice do you have for women thinking of launching their own business?
A: Make sure that you surround yourself with other intelligent, strong work ethic, energetic women. They become an extension of you and will help you to successfully grow your company. Have a life partner who is supportive in all other aspects of your home life and child rearing because as a female business owner, we cannot do it all and we need to recognize that. We need to build our team, and the most significant team member is the life partner. Don’t be afraid. Owning a business is a roller coaster and you have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Q: What are five everyday luxuries you could not live without?
A: Getting to collaborate every day in the creative world, a hot bath with great salts, beautiful art, Zoom meetings, seeing or speaking with my children.
Q: Any fun facts people don’t know about you?
A: People think of me as traditional, but I am really bohemian. My favorite meal is pancakes with bacon and lots of syrup. My bucket list includes visiting a monastery perched onto the side of a cliff.
Q: What are you currently working on that we can look forward to in the coming months?
A: Fortunately, we are incredibly busy. We have a number of stunning, highly detailed homes and multi-structure estates being built at the moment. I am so looking forward to having them photographed and to sharing them with our followers and with the press. We also continue to grow our team as well as our geographic reach. We are currently working on projects across the country – in addition to work throughout the Mid-Atlantic, we currently have projects in Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, and Nebraska, to name a few.
In addition, we will open a new office in Manhattan later this year and will publish a book in Summer 2024 about a waterfront multi-structure compound for which we were responsible for both architecture and interior design. We are so fortunate to have each of these opportunities!
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