Personality: Saving Face at the Historic Bryant School
When Jane Iredale takes on a project, she doesn’t do it halfway. The England-born, United States-educated businesswoman founded her cosmetics company in 1994, and today Iredale Mineral Cosmetics are sold in more than 40 countries. Iredale recently worked with Croxton Collaborative Architects to convert the historic Bryant School building in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, into her company’s LEED Gold-certified headquarters. We spoke with her about this adaptive reuse project and her love of old places.
Why the Bryant School?
It just happened at the right time. There was this 1889 Arts and Crafts–style building with river boulders and cedar shingles. We knew the building was very sound architecture. We really liked it because it spoke to our brand. We wanted something that had personality, something that could be an extension of the way we feel about [our] brand.
What's it like to work there?
The light in the building is extraordinary. The original builders oriented everything to the south, so we get a lot of passive solar. It makes a lovely work environment. We maintained as much as we could [such as the original exterior and the maple floors].
The building gave us a lot of opportunity to express ourselves, because the bones were so good. It was [previously] filled with schoolchildren, and there were some wonderful murals on the walls done by the kids. We couldn’t save them, but we took pictures and the architect framed them for me in Lucite. We’ve got them hanging in the lunchroom.
Do you live in an old house?
Our house was built in 1835. W.E.B. Du Bois was born on our street! I love bringing buildings back from the dead. I like to find places that need TLC or a facelift.
What do you like about historic buildings?
Generally I feel really comfortable in spaces that have had some history. The truth of the matter is, the craftsmanship is so good. You just don’t see it today, no matter how much money you spend. There are materials—the wood, for example—that you just can’t get anymore. This Bryant building is so solid. It was built so well.Maybe it goes back to my English roots. I walk into an old house and it’s like a pub in England. There’s a smell to it—a feeling to it—that just resonates with my soul.