A designer showhouse renovation of the historic Cornell Inn, the Kaleidoscope Project celebrates the work of Black, Indigenous and People of Color within the design industry. Learn how Designer Shawna Underwood transformed the guest suite into a refined and timeless space

Photography by Edward Underwood Photography, Frank Frances Photography, & SGM Photography, @sunderwooddesign

You were chosen as a designer for the Kaleidoscope Project. Can you give us a little background about what the Kaleidoscope Project is?

The Kaleidoscope Project is a Designer Showhouse venture to showcase the diverse talent of 23 BIPOC designers.  This was a unique showhouse because the designers were tasked with renovating 18 guest rooms and suites, a lobby area, small dining room and bar at the Cornell Inn, a centuries-old bed and breakfast in the historic village of Lenox, MA.  The newly designed spaces will remain intact at the Cornell Inn for guests to enjoy.

You designed a guest suite and adjoining bathroom. Can you tell us a little bit about your style direction for both spaces?

My space is a small guest room with an adjacent bathroom, walk-in closet and outdoor balcony. The style direction for my guest suite was to embrace the idea of a New England Inn experience that instantly makes guests feel welcome and engulfed in warm, textured textiles and soft neutral floral prints.  I wanted to layer modern elements for a fresh interpretation by playing with color, shape, scale, texture and whimsical details. 

Can you share three tips when designing for a small space, like this guest suite?

1.  When designing for a small space, focus on the details.  The details in a small space will be the highlight of the space taking the focus off the size.  

2.  Designing a small bathroom is an opportunity to explore or splurge on more expensive materials like marble or decorative trim pieces.  A smaller footprint may allow for the design to stay within a manageable budget for a greater impact.

3.  Be creative with the materials.  Create an unexpected tile layout, mix materials or introduce fun textures.

You incorporated three different formats of our Savoy tile in the Ricepaper glaze into your design – what is it that drew you to our Savoy tile collection?

I absolutely love the Savoy tile collection!  Savoy offers an elegant, classic style that is timeless.  I thought incorporating a traditional subway layout of the Ricepaper 3x12 tile bordered with a vertical ribbed tile and pencil liner would embrace the traditional style of the Inn and add a modern twist. Savoy comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors that provides the opportunity to be really creative with the design.  

After the run of this designer showhouse this property will return to its original function as The Cornell Inn. What are some little touches that you included in your suite that will make it memorable for future Inn guests?

My ultimate goal for the suite was to include details that would be intriguing to the guests during their stay. I hoped that the little touches would inspire them to try them in their own home.  Some of my favorite moments are the gray bordered Ricepaper tile that perfectly complements the textured woven wallpaper in the bathroom, the ombre ball trim on the window treatments, the whimsical pillows on the bed and the moody paint color in the closet.