Gothic Glamour

Paul Lewandowski of Paul Designs Project lets us into his firm’s vaulted office space hidden in Portland’s State Theatre

Our conference room is in the old administrative suite in Portland’s State Theatre building. It’s rather ornate, with a vaulted, carved wood ceiling with these motifs of grapes and leaves, amazing trim, and two-paneled stained-glass windows. It’s all original to 1929, when the building was built, and it has a Moorish/Gothic feel. There are four characters, like brackets, that hold up the ceiling; on one side, we have an architect and an artist—which is very interesting because we are both of those things—and then on the other side, it looks like a banker and a mason. We can’t quite figure out why these people, but they are these great little characters in the space. There’s also a closet with an arch-top door that has unique hinges on it, and there’s a beautifully carved ship on the crest of the door that someone told me is the PS Portland, which sank in 1898 off Cape Ann, Massachusetts. The five-paneled, heavy wooden door has this cool knocker and a little viewport, so you can see if anybody’s coming.

“I started the architecture and design firm four years ago, and we just hit our three-year mark of being in this space. I think this room is one of those hidden Portland treasures in terms of the original architecture. And the midcentury modern feel we’ve brought hopefully livens things up a bit. We’ve put in a Louis Poulsen light fixture in pink, because that’s our color—our logo is predominantly magenta and red—a vintage steelcase credenza, a Shaw Contract flooring area rug in distressed shag, some artwork that I’ve made including sketches as well as fiber art, and a variety of chairs around a boat conference table. It’s a bit of a laboratory for us because we’re constantly testing new things.

“We’ve covered one side of the room with pinup space, which we use when doing our charettes for projects. We’re working on some wall coverings for a client now that are pretty cool, as well as some new buildings. We are split about 50/50 between residential and commercial projects. We are currently designing a new, environmentally sustainable residence for the park ranger of Popham Beach, and we just had our first charette in the office on that.

“The only structural change we’ve made here was to redo the little kitchenette, which used to be the safe for the entire building. We would do more restoration, but we just lease the rooms. Like I said, we’re an architecture and interiors firm, but we’ll tackle fashion; we’ll tackle a chair, like the MillerKnoll Chair competition, which we recently won, custom wall coverings, et cetera. It’s nice to be able to just pick and choose what kind of things you want to work on. I’m fortunate enough to have really creative folks here, and we have a lot of fun doing things that are off the wall.”

—Paul Lewandowski, Paul Designs Project 

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