Located in the heart of downtown Bellingham, the Renaissance Building was originally constructed as a BPOE Lodge (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) and completed in 1912. Although the exterior of this grand, historic structure has remained largely unchanged over time, the interiors have gone through multiple uses and modifications. After an ownership change and accessibility improvements to the building that included the installation of an elevator, Evergreen Beauty College approached RMC Architects in 2021 to create a fresh, contemporary look for their new Bellingham campus.
As an accredited beauty school, Evergreen offers programs in cosmetology, barbering, esthetics, and massage. The interior redesign needed to accommodate open, flexible training spaces; multiple classrooms; a welcoming reception area; offices; admissions; a faculty workroom; a kitchenette and coffee room; and retail space. The scope of work included modifications to the building exit paths at the first floor; an enhanced electrical system; replacement of an old, hazardous staircase; and a complete remodel of the second floor (where most of the college is located). This work occurred while meeting the Historic Preservation Standards of the National Park Service for the historic register-listed building. The project began during COVID with a quick design and construction schedule and a limited design team that consisted of RMC Architects and CDK Interior Design, along with support from Kingworks Consulting Engineers and AMC Engineers.
The remodeled first floor and entry improvements included clean-up and revitalization of the spaces with fresh paint and custom light fixtures. One classroom is located on this floor and provides street-level presence for Evergreen Beauty College in addition to supporting the primary program on the floor above.
The second floor of the building had not been occupied for many years and presented an interesting blank slate to the college. The reception area welcomes students and visitors and includes the installation of a custom RMC-designed desk. A mix of flooring materials were selected to coordinate with the uses of the various spaces. For example, porcelain tile flooring was installed at the highly trafficked reception area and at the water-vulnerable shampooing stations. Oak flooring was replaced throughout the rest of the second floor to honor the original use of the space as the Elks Lodge meeting hall as well as the National Park Service requirements. Because student equipment cases are bulky and heavy, vinyl wall protection was installed as a wainscot throughout the entire tenant area. Whitewashed walls and a high, open-truss ceiling and skylights allow for a bright, cheerful ambiance in the training spaces. Mechanical systems were concealed in perimeter soffits, and the college’s need for high-quality lighting was met with a combination of linear pendants and wall sconces that supplement the available natural light. New painted wood trim and casing around the windows preserve their historic appearance and provide a seamless transition to the modern interior.
The newly occupied building has contributed to the neighborhood revitalization and recently received a 2023 Mayor’s City Center Award for renovation of an existing building that improves the quality of life in Bellingham’s City Center.