Lenny Kravitz is leisurely lounging on a buttery-soft, velvet chocolate couch inside the Bisha Suite, one of the three suites and 13 rooms situated on the seventh floor his Kravitz Design firm envisioned for Bisha Hotel & Residences. Moments before we’re to meet, I’m in a nervous haze — with ample shots of adrenaline coursing through my veins. And then a much needed moment of levity arrives when JoJo approaches and nuzzles up to me. I glance down and it’s a welcome and darling face — JoJo Dancer (his full name) is a Lenny Kravitz family member; he’s a speckled mocha-hued rescue pupper (a Bahamian Potcake breed) who, right now, requires some friendly pats on the head. JoJo’s timing is impeccable and in these precious moments, I’m able to collect myself in front of the legendary singer/songwriter. JoJo then scurries off and in greeting Mr. Coolness-Personified Lenny Kravitz, the first thing that strikes me is what he’s wearing: denim on denim and aviator sunnies.
You’re rocking the Canadian Tuxedo look. Was this outfit intentional, considering you’re in the country to promote your Kravitz Design work, as well as being on tour for Raise Vibrations?
[Chuckles.] These are kind of like my pyjamas; I just like to wear denim.
It sounds like you’re a fan of creature comforts then. Is that what you want guests to feel when they’re staying in these rooms and suites?
Well, everyone will have their own reactions and feelings I truly believe that. But yes — I do want them to feel comfortable. Invited, definitely. And to feel good in the space.
The rooms and suites you designed are described as “cozy, seductive, and warm” — considering that you travel so much for concert tours and other artistic endeavours, are these key components you seek out in a place (e.g. hotel) to ensure you get a proper night’s rest?
Cozy, definitely; it’s what I’m seeking. Seductive… [chuckles] yeah — that’d be great. Warm? Yeah, all that. And clean. Because I’ve spent my life on tour for many years, we’re in a different hotel room and bed. So these elements help you feel invited and to feel at home. That it can be ‘home’ for that day, you know? Because you’re craving that feeling, especially when you’re going like this everyday.
So when you enter a hotel room or suite, what’s the first thing you look for to be at ease?
Really, it’s just the feel and vibe of the room when you walk in. Like, ‘Okay, this feels good.’ You clock ‘it’ right away.
In regards to creating ideal spaces to stay in, were there any considerations you kept in mind when designing Bisha’s seventh floor of rooms and suites? Did you break any “design rules”?
This floor is different from the other ones of the hotel; we wanted it to have its own personality. It’s different from the lobby and the rooftop restaurant, for instance. But it’s still done in a mindful way so that it flows with the rest of the property. So we utilized dark(er) and earth tones, as well mixing organic textures with sleek ones.
And I don’t want people to misunderstand that just because we use dark colours that the rooms are dark. No, you’re wrapped in light and it feels open and airy; it’s counterbalanced with all the natural illumination that’s coming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows and private terrace behind us. And speaking of which — outdoor space, for me, that’s really important. I like having natural, real air — and I don’t like using forced/artificial air. Because I sing, indoor air can be very dry, so any hotel that offers a window, balcony, and/or patio is what I consider to be luxurious.
When you were drafting the designs for the rooms and suites, was there a particular ‘lens’ in which you envisioned these spaces? Do you filter it through what others describe as your “rock star” persona?
No, I’m just a person. I’m an artist. I do different things. Whether it’s photography, music, acting, art, whatever it is… But no, I’m very schizophrenic when it comes to creativity, so I have lots of different styles which I want to share. Since founding Kravitz Design [in 2003], if you looked at the different projects I’ve designed throughout the years [New York, Paris, Brazil, Toronto, etc] based on the variety, you wouldn’t even know it was the same people working on them. For me, it ultimately has to do with each location, getting to know the landscape, and the special sense of place it offers. It’s key for me — for instance, one of my favourite projects was the fazenda in Brazil. When I was first on-the-ground, I immediately felt free and fed by the energy there. So the property design and echoing these elements is secondary.
But does music or your ‘musical mind’ still play a role or inspire you in this field of creative design work?
Yes, music is always part of the story. A lot of times when I’m in a space, I’ll always envision a song, a genre, an artist that will inform my vision. Like when I was working on Paris, Miles Davis was the inspiration for the townhouse — which brought forth specific moods, colours, shapes, and forms. For Toronto (Bisha Hotel), I got a little bit of Miles Davis, as well as Isaac Hayes. More so the latter, because of the texture of his music and the colours he wore back then — which were these chestnut and tan shades. So the resulting feel of this is all very sultry.
And you’ve been immersed in art and design — as well as being surrounded by creative people — essentially from birth. Anyone in particular who most inspired you in this line of work?
My parents. Before my mom was on television, she was a secretary and doing theatre at night, Off-Off Broadway. And yet — their apartment in New York City was cool in the look and feel. My parents could walk into any nearby shops and buy something cheap or reasonably priced to furnish their home. But you couldn’t tell it was ‘cheap’ because it had pleasant aesthetics and quality-made.
And so in a sense, with their resourcefulness, did you learn about versatility and working with ‘high-end’ and ‘low-end’ pieces? Is this your way of democratizing design?
Yes, it should be accessible on all levels. While the dream is to have a client say ‘no budget, no boundaries,’ balance is very nice too. As long as the forms are correct and cohesive to each other, you can have an accent piece that’s $200 put beside a painting or piece of furniture that’s over $200,000 — which I’ve done before.
Woven throughout our chat is the notion of feeling at home. In fact, you’ve been quoted as saying “home should be a place where you feel like yourself and where your spirit is comfortable.” What essential element(s) do you require to feel at home and to ensure your spirit is comfortable and at ease?
That element would be me. How I am inside. If your spirit isn’t right, I don’t care where you are — you can be unfulfilled. So it starts with you. Especially being someone who travels all the time, I learn how to make home here [touches heart]. And after that, I just look for space, which can be as big as this [touches couch] or as huge as this suite, where I’m seeking out that feeling of home and comfort. And even if it’s temporary, it’s rejuvenating.