Author Sylvia Coles in the office of her Buffalo home. Photography by Mark Mulville Buffalo News

Author Sylvia Coles in the office of her Buffalo home. Photography by Mark Mulville Buffalo News

Living With an Architect and Finding Myself by Sylvia Coles

Monday, April 1, 2013

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I’d kept a journal for many years and also wrote stories about my travels abroad, but had not considered writing a book until a friend of mine, who thought I’d led an interesting life, said “You should write a book.” Well, I thought, why not?

I decided to focus on my life as the wife of an architect, an elite profession. Midway through my marriage, I found I was no longer satisfied with playing a supporting role—which I’d done all along—and decided to assert myself, creating my own identity The book describes that long journey. I thought the book would be of special interest to architect’s wives as well as other wives who stayed in the background while their husbands became successful.

When I first began writing, I looked for books or other writings by architects’ wives, and found the diary of Dione Neutra, the wife of Richard Neutra, a noted architect. While she could have had a career of her own as an artist, she describes how she had played a supporting role until his death. At that point, she wrote, she “blossomed,” and went on to create her own, rich, life.

As part of my emerging independence, I began to travel on my own. In the book, I describe the fascinating experiences I had in Africa, Papua New Guinea and Peru, destinations I sought because of my interest in other cultures. One of the new roles I created for myself was that of photographer, joining both the Western New York Artists Group and the Buffalo Society of Artists. The photograph on the cover of my book is one I took while in Morganton, North Carolina. Walking with a friend in a riverside park there one day, I found the noon-day shadows falling on the bridge made it a perfect subject. It also seemed a good choice as the cover of my book.

Sylvia Coles


Sylvia Coles is a writer and Burchfield Penney Art Center volunteer.

Read more about her book in The Buffalo News at