MILAN -- Lenny Kravitz has taken a childhood compunction to decorate his bedroom and turned it into another creative endeavor.
To rocker, songwriter and actor, add designer.
Kravitz created a series of chairs for Kartell based on Philippe Starck's iconic "Mademoiselle" armchair, clad, like, at times the rocker himself, in python, leather or fur. And he designed black and white tiles inspired by water drops and waves for Lea Ceramiche.
Both projects were unveiled this week against the squealing backdrop of adoring fans during Milan Furniture Fair, which runs through Sunday.
For Kravitz, it all goes back to childhood, to his drive to create an environment where he felt comfortable to create, to write songs.
"Since I was a kid, it was always important how my room was put together. I would buy all these posters, fabrics and lighting, and I would make the room the way I wanted it to be," Kravitz said in an interview late Tuesday night as he perched on a leather version of his chair in a Kartell store window made to look like a stage.
Outside, fans held back by barriers snapped photos with smart phones, the eager hoard blocking traffic. The attention at a design event seemed to surprise Kravitz – despite his status as a rock venue veteran fresh off tour in Korea, whose most recent film appearance was in the box office hit "The Hunger Games."
"The most important thing was to create a vibe," he said. And once that vibe was achieved, "my world was set."
Kravitz exercised his designer spirit decorating his home, and his first creation, an L-shaped sofa upholstered in crocodile, still adorns his New Orleans home.
"When I started getting my own homes, I found myself making pieces maybe I couldn't find, or making pieces I couldn't afford and copying them," Kravitz said. "It was always about creating an atmosphere."
Along the way, he drew the favorable attention of Starck, who got to know Kravitz through his musician daughter, Ara Starck, half of the band, "The Two." Kartell's unofficial designer emeritus introduced the rock star to the design house, and "Kartell goes Rock," was born.
"It is just a beginning. But he did it well," Starck said. "He is very, very smart guy. And like all musicians, with a very strong intuition. And also he can bring the air of the night, the fresh air of the night, in design. Design is creative, but always a little bit sleeping. We are cool guys, but we are not from the night."
Kravitz said his aim was to give the chairs "feel, texture and plushness."
"It is just about reinterpreting it and putting my spin on it. For me, it was about feel, texture and plushness," he said.
Kravitz arrived in Milan with design credentials of his own. He founded his own design company Kravitz Design Inc., in 2003, and has previously worked with Swarovski on a series of crystal chandeliers, designed a luxury recording studio in Miami Beach and conceived the Florida Room lounge at the Delano hotel in Miami, among other projects. The two Milan debuts represent a step toward larger scale production.
His tile collection for Lea is called "Goccia," Italian for drop. The tiles – in smooth anthracite black or sleekest white – create an undulating impression along a wall. Kravitz said he was able to realize the concept through trial and error – creating prototypes, getting samples and making improvements – until he achieved the effect he sought.
"They are really fluid," Kravitz said.
Kravitz seems to be hitting his creative stride, and yet finding time for it all. He said he brings his design team on tour, and they work after shows, one endeavor fueling the other.
"I love that I am maturing. I am glad to be doing what it is that I love. I appreciate it now more than ever. When you are younger ... I think I was running so fast, I didn't get to take it all in," Kravitz said. "I am really savoring being creative, I am really savoring each moment."