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Lenny Kravitz discusses NYC influences behind his interior designs and ‘black glamour’

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The legendary artist and actor divulges what it was like growing up in New York City and how his experiences have molded his style

Griffin Lipson for The New York Times

Lenny Kravitz has lived a life filled with accomplishments. The rock n’ roll icon won much of the world over with hits like “Fly Away” and his cover of “American Woman” and as if that wasn’t enough, the living legend went on to become an accomplished actor.

Kravitz is now investing more time into his newest realm of creative excellence; he’s thrown himself into the world of interior design and has already mastered numerous large-scale projects. Helming his own design firm under the moniker Kravitz Design, Kravitz has successfully launched a 20-piece furniture collection with furniture store CB2 and has catered to clients that include the Morgans Hotel Group and Swarovski Crystal. More recently, the New York native just completed the interiors for a luxury residential project in Nolita, 75 Kenmare.

Many are wondering what led Kravitz to take on interior design. In a Times Talks, presented by The New York Times, the artist discusses his influences and gives insight into his creative process.

Kravitz spent his childhood growing up between Bed-Stuy and the Upper East Side, two vastly different neighborhoods that sparked a fondness, though distinct, for each of them that would manifest in his work. He found a unique aesthetic about the working-class families around him, including his own and there was something special about making do with very little. “My parents didn’t have money before my mother was doing television and our place looked really great,” said Kravitz. It also helps that Kravitz grew in the presence of legendary artists like Miles Davis and Gordon Parks, who weren’t super rich at the time, but lived in apartments that were full of character and just downright “funky,” as Kravitz describes it.

It’s these types of memories that have influenced Kravitz as an interior designer and unconsciously led to a style that some have described as “black glamour.”

“I never thought about it, but my house is full of African art. It’s full of African American photographs, pictures of my family...the black experience is up and down my staircase,” Kravitz states. Bringing “black glamour” isn’t a conscious thought in his head while designing, but more or less a result of his childhood. Memories of the colors and patterns found in the New York City apartments of family members and friends of his parents have imprinted themselves into his own style.

While Lenny Kravitz has achieved success thus far with Kravitz Designs, Times contributor and moderator David Netto couldn’t help but to highlight the lack of diversity when it comes to architecture and design. “There is a conspicuously short list of black architects and designers...and it’s always kind of puzzled me because black people have the most style in many ways,” says Netto. Kravitz agrees but is incredibly grateful to now be amongst the few. “I’m happy to represent,” he states.

When it comes to Kravitz Design, it’s about culture, quality, and embracing one’s surroundings, which is why he chose to exude “the eccentric Downtown vibe while integrating elegant materials” when designing 75 Kenmare. Kravitz is working leaving his mark on the design industry and whether intentional or not, his city upbringing has greatly contributed to his unique style.