Seven renowned interior designers from BIPOC will showcase their skills in market-priced apartments at the 1906 Pittsfield Fire Station through the Kaleidoscope project

Pittfield— Tanya Lewis arrived at the crumbling 1906 fire station on Tyler Street with deep and relevant experience under her belt: she spent three decades working in disadvantaged communities on issues of diversity and youth development. In addition, she is an interior designer. “If there was ever a project that allowed me to use both sides of my brain and all of my experiences, it would be here,” she said, exuding a palpable passion for the mission of The Kaleidoscope Project-a venture to showcase diverse talent within the design industry, amplify the voices of BIPOC and reveal the true colors present within our community through the creation of inclusive spaces that reflect a broad design story – the one that allowed Lewis and Denise Gordon, co-founders of Brooklyn Austin Gray Design Packageto bring together their multi-faceted passions and talents in one space.

Denise Gordon, Tanya Lewis and Marilyn Lavergne, The Austin Gray Design Group. Photo courtesy of Paul Siebold Public Relations.

“This [project] it’s like bringing my two worlds together in the coolest way,” said Lewis, who holds a BS in interior design and facilities planning and management from Cornell University and a master’s in public policy on race, poverty and class from NYU’s Wagner School. .

With the help of art curator/kitchen designer Marilyn Lavergne, Lewis and Gordon were commissioned to design one of four fully renovated apartments at the recently restored (and indeed redesigned) Pittsfield Fire Station, which , when completed, will not only become at market price. rentals, but will also create a unique show home paradigm.

“I always wanted to do a project that allowed me to give back, so having this opportunity – which is so thoughtfully sponsored –[allowed us to create] something that anyone can’t see that [type of living space] because a possibility can come in here and know it’s a possibility,” Gordon said of a project that has not only been fulfilling, but has given it meaning, highlighting precisely why Amy Lynn Schwartzbard founded The Kaleidoscope. Project.

“I’ve always loved the Berkshires,” Schwartzbard told The Edge, a place she first encountered as a child when her parents bought a house here; a dozen years ago, she decided to make Lenox her primary residence. “It’s my happy place,” she says, which explains why she chose to invest locally, both in her community (the interior design industry) and in the wider community where she lives. “We married the two,” says Schwartzbard, noting that this year’s show home builds on the success of Cornell Inn’s restoration last year, when the design industry and sponsors brought together 23 designers from around the world. BIPOC who redesigned 21 spaces at the Lenox property, both of which share a common thread: giving back.

The non-profit organization has launched internship programs and educational initiatives to create opportunities for members of the BIPOC community interested in careers in a creative field, including a group of high school students from the school Alfred E. Smith in the Bronx, who receive a path through a summer graphic design program in conjunction with TKP.

“Making this building now affordable… with [market rate] housing, is really important and part of our mission,” she said, as was promoting social equity and supporting local merchants, as evidenced by a flurry of activity on site late Friday. afternoon.

An accent wall in the living room of Rasheeda Gray’s showcase apartment at the 1906 Pittsfield Fire Station on Tyler Street, which has been converted into four market-priced rentals. Photo by Hannah Van Sickle.

Upstairs, everyone was on deck where Rasheeda Gray of Gray Space Interiors was overseeing the finishing touches to the two-bedroom apartment of her design. Pops of color, starting with a range of fire station red and fabulous wallpaper, helped create a light and airy, even blushing, space for an unknown client, which in the design industry is largely unknown. I asked Gray about the advantages, both professional and human, of leaving Philadelphia to embark on a project of this type.

“We don’t get the chance to create two-tone green hallways for our clients on a daily basis – they just won’t be as bold,” Gray said, noting the marketing boost the show homes give him on a professional level. . As a human, the second career designer (who spent 15 years in marketing for insurance companies) once thought it was as close as it gets to being creative.

“Who knows what would have happened if I had been exposed to the arts early?” Gray asked rhetorically. As such, she sees first-hand TKP’s mission as “really reaching out to students in a way that could be beneficial in the long run,” citing current student scholarships as a way to provide early exposure to students. arts.

In the second floor apartment, Virginia Toledo leaned heavily into the residual energy of the old fire station. “There’s this kind of yin and yang, a push and a pull, [between] calm and this energy that I felt spoke to me,” said the New Jersey-based founder of Toledo Geller Interiors, which in its design aspired to juxtapose moments of intensity with moments of calm. Her color palette, largely inspired by the original exposed brickwork, has led to what she calls “an amalgamation of colors [from] blush, sand and coral to deeper maroon and burgundy. Toledo also played with the idea of ​​smoke as an element of inspiration, which can be both light and puffy, dark and thick. “Every designer hates long hallways,” she said, so she took advantage of the drapery supplier’s ceiling-to-floor panels to create an ombré effect that carries one away from the main living space. towards private spaces accented with pink (a warm shade of brick) to create tension.

Erick and Lisa Walker Brown, Erick Brown Design. Photo courtesy of Paul Siebold Public Relations.

The last of BIPOC’s seven celebrity designers has materialized in the form of husband and wife team Lisa and Everick Brown of Everick Brown Interior Design. The New York-based couple took the opportunity to deviate from their timeless designs (a home they completed two decades ago was recently featured in House Beautiful) and incorporate playful elements into the space of first floor living.

“The influence first started with cabinet choices,” Lisa said, pointing to dramatic cobalt blue cabinetry; the same vast expanse of lobby Toledo struggled upstairs became a chalk-painted wall spanning the living and dining areas. A tall chair, giant gold mirror, and swing (bolted to the bones of the building) round out the fun touches in the living room. (The beaded chamber door hadn’t arrived yet!)

For a pair eager to elevate their client’s vision, this project proved to be a great opportunity to get away and play. “It’s going to be beautiful!” Lisa exclaimed amid the mix of last-minute touches in the open plan living room where an indoor-outdoor theme will feature a large, fabulous day bed with canopy. While it’s unlikely that any of the designers will meet the future residents of their artfully crafted spaces, thinking about these individuals – and their future – has inspired the process.

“I’ve always known that when you provide for people who don’t have as many resources, especially in disadvantaged communities where it’s believed that [living spaces] can’t look good, they behave differently,” Lewis said. “When there is a sense of pride in where people live, it makes a difference in households as well as in communities.”

REMARK: This year’s Showhouse sponsors include The Shade Store, our sponsor Diamond, Benjamin Moore, Fisher and Paykel, Cosentino, Kravet, Sunpan, Circa, Emtek, Anne Selke and many more, whose products will be used exclusively in the Showhouse . Aspire Magazine is the exclusive media partner of the Firehouse Showhouse. Donations to the Kaleidoscope Project can be made by visiting TheKaleidoscopeProject.comor by post to The Kaleidoscope Project, PO Box 174, West Stockbridge, MA 01266.

Betty K. Park