Lenny Kravitz holds up a swatch of cloth and inspects it with oversize hands. “There are so many palettes,” he says. “This needs a little more ash or gray in it.”
It’s early evening at the downtown Manhattan headquarters of Kravitz Design. Since it began in 2003, the company has designed high-end homes, a resort in the Bahamas and even the set of The Queen Latifah Show. In the conference room where Kravitz is seated, one wall is plastered with photos of various styles of furniture, each given labels like “Industrial Chic” and “Comfortably Rich.”
Kravitz just came from a photo shoot for his new album, Strut, and now he wants to examine stage-design sketches for his upcoming tour, as well as some new ideas for his Paris home. Two employees unfurl a layout for the second floor, when Kravitz is struck with an idea: outfitting each room in the house with a vintage TV that would only play episodes of Soul Train or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert or favorite Eighties movies like The Hunger. “It’s a vibe,” he tells his associates, who nod and take notes. “I want an installation in each room.”
Kravitz turned 50 in May, but you would hardly know it. With his toned arms bulging out from a sleeveless black V-neck, he looks so much like his earlier self that people working on a new photo book about his life have mistaken recent shots of him for vintage photos. Twenty-five years after he launched his career, Kravitz is a respected veteran and all-around brand: Besides his design career, he’s also a part-time actor (he recently played Cinna in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).
“I like making music that’s rooted in playing instruments. You don’t hear that so much now.”
But his main gig remains jet-setting rock star. Kravitz recorded Strut at his beachfront studio near his other home, in the Bahamas. His last album, 2011’s Black and White in America, incorporated R&B and hip-hop (including Jay Z and Drake cameos). For Strut, he returned to the gritty, pared-down sound of records like Are You Gonna Go My Way – and, as always, played most of the parts himself.
“I like making music that’s rooted in playing instruments,” he says. “You don’t hear that so much now.” He has a passing knowledge of EDM (“It is what it is,” he says noncommittally), but he’s stoked about acts like Irish teenage rockers the Strypes (“I thought, ‘Wow, these dudes can play’ ”) and Bruno Mars, whom he joined the night before at Madison Square Garden to play “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”
The design meeting concluded, Kravitz hops into an SUV. “Let’s head for Bed-Stuy, bro,” he tells his driver, who works for the same company that’s been driving Kravitz around since he was 14. Every few years, Kravitz revisits his old neighborhood. As a child, he’d live there during the week with his maternal grandparents, while his own parents worked hectic schedules. His dad, Sy Kravitz, was a producer at NBC; his mom was the actress Roxie Roker. “People always thought I was from Beverly Hills or some shit,” he says as the SUV hits the Brooklyn Bridge. “I’m from Bed-Stuy. Me, Biggie, Mike Tyson.”