E Erik Kolacz is the co-founder and principal of Contrast Design Group. He first gained national recognition in 2007 on the first season of Bravo’s Top Design, though his career spans nearly twenty years in almost every corner of the design industry. He’s served as an expert speaker and consultant for a variety of notable brands, including Amerock, Basil Hayden’s, Cocktails by Jenn, Elkay, Kohler, Phylrich, and Sargento. He also worked closely with Closet Works to create and promote an innovative upper-bracket product line, The Designer Series by Erik Kolacz. Between all this, he’s consistently busy transforming the spaces of clients from coast to coast.
All of his projects are imbued with a subtle, almost unconscious rhythm. The ingredients are simple–texture, color, lighting, and material—but each project is ultimately as unique and diverse as the clients he serves. Like most artists, he’s not interested in repeating himself. His spaces are consistently as dynamic and unique as the people who live in them. His own personal style weds the modern and industrial with softer touches of nostalgia. Some of this came from his family, who were industrial and farming families in the rust belt of northern Indiana. They taught him to seek out heirloom quality: things that never go out of style, that last forever, that deserve to be passed down.
Prior to founding Contrast, he spent years learning the ins and outs of the trade at a variety of premier national design firms, gaining extensive knowledge in furniture, model merchandising, and high-end residential design. He’s dedicated to giving back to his community in Chicago, and lends time, support, and expertise to numerous local causes, especially those benefitting animals and the homeless: The Boulevard/Interfaith House, Center G, Designs 4 Dignity, Teen Living Programs, PAWs, and the Ronald McDonald House. He’s equally comfortable in the public eye, behind the scenes, getting his hands dirty, and serving his community. Whatever the situation, he brings the same spirit of kindness, enthusiasm, and creativity to everything he does.
Keitha Brathwaite is the co-founder and principal of Contrast Design Group. With more than 25 years of experience in the design industry, her design sensibility is multi-layered, multi-cultural, and refined. Her numerous accolades include “Designer to Watch” by i4design magazine, being featured in Uptown Magazine and she was recognized as one of the Top 20 African-American Interior Designers in the nation. She has also done design segments for ABC7 Chicago, NBC Chicago, and WCIU.
Her mission is to create spaces that are a unique expression and reflection of each client. She assesses a client’s needs and lifestyle prior to beginning the design process and maps out an overall vision for their home from presentation to installation. She focuses on the fine details of the projects, with an emphasis on space planning, functionality, and creating inspirational color palettes. She feels the most rewarding part of the process is when clients are thrilled with their completed space and their expectations have been exceeded.
Prior to founding Contrast, she honed her technical skills as the drafting department director at a premier national design firm. She earned a BFA in Interior Design from the International Academy of Design and Technology. Born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and raised in New York, she now calls Chicago home. She has lent her creative energy to Designs 4 Dignity by assisting with their annual fundraising event for several years as well as donating design services for private residences on their behalf.
After working with Rayette Knight previously, we sought Rayette out to be a Senior Designer at Contrast in 2005. Her signature style is driven by ingenious combinations of fabrics, colors, and textures. She loves to customize and create one-of-a-kind design whenever possible. Rayette is also the life line to our vendors and resources. She maintains the relationships with Contrast’s vendors and introduces us to new, fresh offerings to present to the clients.
Before joining Contrast, she was the senior designer at a premier national design firm. She earned both a BFA in Photography & Film from UIC and a BA in Interior Design from The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago. Her expertise in product and set photography is a major asset in our creative process. Rayette’s eye for detail, stemming from her expertise in product and set photography, is a major asset in our creative process.
Ephraim Mahou joined Contrast Design in 2013 as a design intern. After noting his attention to detail and positive energy, Contrast decided to bring him on as our design assistant and logistics coordinator. His role at Contrast is comprised of analyzing project objectives, providing creative input, sourcing materials and furnishings, and translating design problems into solutions based on our clients’ unique needs. He also handles all scheduling of the trades, assists with installations,
Prior to joining Contrast, Mahou studied architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy, earned an associate degree in construction management from Dawson Technical Institute, and was a project engineer at a national commercial general contracting firm. A Chicago native, Ephraim is always seeking new experiences and has a passion for all things creative.