This Organization Is Spotlighting Designers of Color — and Its First Project Is a Stunning Hotel Renovation in the Berkshires

The Kaleidoscope Project encourages the hospitality industry to paint outside the lines. 

Two photos show a redesigned hotel lobby paired with a portrait of the designers
From left: The lobby of the Cornell Inn, reimagined by Everick Brown; Brown with his wife (and frequent design collaborator), Lisa Walker Brown. Photo: Form left: Frank Frances Photography/Courtesy of The Kaleidoscope Project; Scott Morris/SGM Photography/Courtesy of The Kaleidoscope Project

The field of art and design should represent the full spectrum of colors and textures in the world — as well as the people in it. But in the interiors industry, as in many others, connections and influence often lie in the hands of a few. One nonprofit is trying to change this culture of exclusivity: The Kaleidoscope Project, which provides platforms for designers of color.

Launched in December 2020 by Amy Lynn Schwartzbard, Kaleidoscope was spurred by the same headlines and protests that forced many companies to re-evaluate their commitment to diversity. "I've been in the furniture and design industry for nearly 30 years, and it's the place I knew I could make an impact," Schwartzbard says. "Our BIPOC talents do not get the recognition they deserve. It's past time that changed."

The initiative brings together designers of color and amplifies their work for a wider audience. The first project was a show house held last spring at The Cornell Inn, a B&B in the Berkshires town of Lenox, Massachusetts. Twenty-three designers were given a palette and a theme — rest, reflection, or rejuvenation — as inspiration to make over 18 of the 28 guest rooms, as well as the lobby, bar, and dining room.

It took four months to gut and renovate the 19th-century property, with help from sponsors like Design Within Reach and Saatva, which furnished mattresses and bedding. "We applaud Kaleidoscope's commitment to developing talented young designers of color," says Saatva CEO Ron Rudzin. "The members bring a fresh and vibrant perspective to interior design. We were proud to partner with them."

Each room at the renovated Cornell Inn is unique, with some incorporating floral wallpaper reminiscent of springtime in New England, and others accented in red silks that pay homage to the Metropolitan Opera. All ticket proceeds from the show house were put toward creating scholarships for students of color studying art and design, and the rooms are now available for booking.

There are a number of activities to explore in the surrounding Berkshires. Nearby in Lenox, lively tapas and pizza spot Brava is great for a glass of Italian wine varietals like Barbera and house-made meatballs, and at Alta, a tender braised lamb shank is best enjoyed with a plummy Malbec. In Great Barrington, the civil rights leader's family home is on display and open for walking tours at the W.E.B. DuBois National Historic Site. In the fall, Bartlett's Orchard in Richmond offers 13 varieties of apples and views of sherbet-colored foliage.

The Kaleidoscope Project will announce three more projects around the country in the coming months, with diversity and sustainability at the forefront. A television show is also in the works. Read on for a closer look at some of the featured designers.

Rydhima Brar

Raised in Kuwait by Indian parents before relocating to Los Angeles, Brar is constantly looking for ways to celebrate her multifaceted heritage. The guest room she created for the Cornell Inn incorporates natural stone, fabrics in turquoise and gold, and a bathroom with hand-painted wallpaper with a classical Indian motif. "The project provides designers of color an equitable opportunity for designers to showcase their creativity," she says.

Doreen Chambers

The New York-based designer focused on silver and sage tones for her guest room, which features luxe wallpaper from French legacy producer Brunschwig and Fils. "I'm seeing a definite uptick within the industry to be more inclusive and supportive of designers of color," Chambers says. "One important avenue for up-and-comers is to join professional organizations that promote diversity and inclusion."

Everick Brown

Brown, also based in New York, reimagined the inn's lounge as the Kutana Room — named for a Swahili word that means "meet" or "encounter." His design combines Japanese minimalism with the feel of the rural Northeast. Brown's advice to designers of color building their portfolios: "Believe in yourself. Have a purpose and know your brand, mission, and personal style. Don't blend in!"

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