Amy Lynn Schwartzbard, founder of the Kaleidoscope Project, will be presenting another collaborative project, the Firehouse Showhouse, on Aug. 20 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, along with four BIPOC designers and design teams, including Everick and Lisa Walker Brown, Everick Brown Design; Denise Gordon, Tanya Lewis and Marilyn Lavergne, The Austin Gray Design Group; Virginia Toledo, partner in Toledo Geller; and Rasheeda Gray, Gray Space Interiors.
The Kaleidoscope Project’s upcoming showhouse venture, the Firehouse Showhouse, constitutes the revitalization plan to help continue to build “community identity” and “stimulate economic growth” within this TDI district. In the last eight years there has been a timely, concentrated investment in the Pittsfield community that dates back to an agreement made by the City of Pittsfield and MassDevelopment signed in 2014 that states by receiving “Transformative Development Initiative assistance,” MassDevelopment will account for providing a district revitalization plan including evaluat[ing] sites, properties, housing stock, and buildings for appropriate reuse.” Standing in between greenery and deteriorating buildings, the Firehouse Showhouse is distinct from its neighbors with its rich, vibrant approach to residential living, providing four separate units unique to each designer.
Below are mood boards of each room designed by the four BIPOC designers and design groups.
Unlike the typical design showhouse, The Kaleidoscope Project ventures out to recruit BIPOC designers and showcase residential and commercial homes that last beyond their showings. On Aug. 20, the Firehouse Showhouse will transition a once abandoned fire station to a newly formed four-unit residential home for the Tyler Street community. Designer Virginia Toledo describes this transition stating, “Whenever we take on a project whether commercial or residential, we have to pull from the history…I am a firm believer in energy that is left in a state.” All four designers and design groups agree through their personal stories that as a designer, there is an integral relationship between designer, client, and the space in which they’re undertaking, in addition to the relationships they have built among each other through their work with The Kaleidoscope Project. Tanya, of the Austin Gray Design Group and founding board for The Kaleidoscope Project, speaks openly of her experience in the design industry earlier in her career “not having a network…not having support” when it was very much needed and now “attempting to make institutional change, shift the paradigm and shift discussion that hasn’t been talked about in this industry.” She continues to say “everything we do as designers is personKal” and because of this personable work the group approaches their projects with three distinctive qualities: “trust, respect, and generosity.” These qualities show up in each of the designers and design groups work, as it seems without these characteristics the success each designer encountered may not have continued or shown up as it has now. Being BIPOC interior designers means showing up for yourself in ways that most outsiders are blind to. Hearing from the designers, they’ve described it as “a lot of pep talk,” “imposter syndrome,” being the singular “Black designer” in a room, less “exposure” and “education” on what the design industry looked like and how it could transform. But now, these same designers are becoming mentors to others and hiring interns through the Kaleidoscope Project to open up doors for the BIPOC design community.
The designers and design groups of the Kaleidoscope Project are truly expressing themselves. Their work is unfiltered and communicates the joy and wisdom they have accumulated throughout the years.