Every building has a story to tell. Robin Adams, senior interior designer and associate at architecture firm CBT, helps buildings tell their tales.
Schrafft’s City Center in Charlestown started out as a candy factory, so Adams brought that past to the fore. Now the interior combines industrial elements with glossy, rich textures that recall the chocolate-covered cherries that used to be made there.
In other cases, a space needs reinventing. The Theater District’s Lafayette City Center was once an enclosed mall, built like a fortress to protect shoppers from urban crime. Now, its lobby is serene, open and airy, with a few bright touches to put it in harmony with the theater lights just outside.
Repurposing spaces has become Adams’ niche, and she speaks with an artist’s zeal about evoking joy and wonder in the people who use them. But her ideas also translate to economic success, according to Emily Cotter, a CBT senior associate. Lafayette Center, for example, garnered a 2014 CBA award for the property owner and a 170,000-square-foot lease with tenant Sonos.
Adams brings enthusiasm for the details and history of each place, but part of her strength is a willingness to encourage dialog and collaboration. “She brings a quirky view and free-spirited mind to the creative process,” Cotter said.
Adams is eager to involve more voices in the work, including younger designers in the firm or the developers themselves. Creating an open flow of ideas can lead to a more successful project, she said.
“It’s fun to see developers and very serious businessmen and women get so worked up about design, and so passionate,” she said. “Our clients love to come in and collaborate with us.” And when the redesign is complete, she noted, tenants are likely to remember and be drawn to a place with a distinct story to tell.
That mix of passion and pragmatism has found an outlet in her side projects as well. Starting in her early 20s, she began buying and renovating apartments to rent, doing much of the hands-on work herself. In the process, she gained a professional boost – contractors on job sites loved to talk shop about her renovation projects. Discussing tools and techniques showed she wasn’t wholly ignorant about construction work, and it helped her earn their respect.
“That was huge for the beginning of my career. It showed that we’re in this [work] together – I’m doing this at my house and I understand how hard this is,” Adams said.
The goal is always to bring out the best in these buildings, whether it’s an apartment she plans to rent, or a defunct factory building in Charlestown.
“It’s kind of come full circle – I’m just so passionate about revealing hidden value, finding these secrets and finding ways to increase the value of a property. … I think I do that for my clients, and it’s so rewarding to be able to do that in my personal life.”