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Introducing A New Feel Good Makeover For A Very Special Group Of Women (And We Need Your Help!)

Ashley Newman of Bluestocking Interiors here. Long-time reader, sometime commenter, and first-time contributor (squee!). The end of 2021 was something of a perfect storm for me. First, I read Emily’s post seeking volunteers to take Pen + Napkin national and knew I just had to be part of it – there could never be a more “me” volunteer opportunity than giving people beautiful homes. Then, I realized the level of anxiety I lived with wasn’t normal, and I finally got on medication. Between those two things and switching careers to interior design – something I’d been thinking about for probably a decade (I mean, why design endless imaginary rooms when I could design real ones?) – suddenly everything felt possible. In this career switch, I took a leap and started Bluestocking Interiors with the goal of making it possible for everyone to get the help they need to create a home they love.

But, even though I signed up with Pen + Napkin right away in 2021, I couldn’t find local organizations that wanted to partner with us (uh, what?!?!). Finally, one amazing woman introduced me to another amazing woman who introduced me to another… until I was connected with Oxford House, a nonprofit that sets up sober houses for people in recovery. They were opening a new house in my town, called Bellatrix House, which would house eight women… and they didn’t even have mattresses for people who would be moving in that weekend.

I tear up every time I read what these women have to say about the importance of Oxford House in their recovery. 

Sabrina says, “Oxford House has saved my life in so many ways. Without Oxford House, I would not have a safe and stable place to call home.”

Lydia says, “It’s good for me to be around ladies that can keep me accountable. Oxford House helps save lives.”

Laura says, “I have been homeless, jobless, and emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. Oxford has been life-changing – for the first time in many years I have a safe place to recover. Oxford is such a beautiful thing. It has truly given me so much hope.”

When I first met these ladies and told them what Pen + Napkin was going to do for them, they couldn’t believe it – they said, no one had ever done anything like that for them, that people usually judge them and think they aren’t worthy because of their struggles with addiction. I can’t wait for us to band together and change that.

We even got on the local news, so you can see them say some of what this means to them in their own words.

Anyway, Pen + Napkin came to the rescue with an immediate order of mattresses, but now we need to make the rest of the house comfortable and functional. This includes turning an unfinished basement into a livable space!

One of the fun parts of this project is the mix of single and double rooms. The double rooms are for people who are new to sober living – often they have just been released from rehab or prison, and many own only one box of belongings when they move in. So the goal for these rooms is to create a neutral, cozy space that makes these women feel at home right away but gives them plenty of freedom to add their own personality as they settle in.

For the basement, that looks like this:

Surrounding the room with velvet curtains will feel super luxe while actually being a very affordable way to hide the ugly, and the string lights will add a lot of cozy ambient light without hogging too many of the limited plugs.

Adding some closet racks so they can hang their clothes is another thing that is going to make a huge difference for them! 

For the upstairs:

One thing they’ve requested is inspirational word art, so I made sure to include that, especially in these rooms.

Then for the single rooms, we can really show off their personalities.

One woman wanted black and red, glam, crown motifs, and somewhere to do her makeup.

But another one wanted bohemian, with calm blues:

Having a space that really feels customized to each woman is going to make them all feel so much more at home, settled, and like this hard thing they’re doing is that much more achievable.

So, here’s where you all come in. Even though the house is being designed on a tight budget… well, six bedrooms for eight people, plus a downstairs hangout room, it adds up fast. I thought, “That’ll be like $4,000, right?” Spoiler: hahahahahahaha oh how naïve I was. Despite the biggest pieces are all under $200, by the time you do a bed, mattress, bedding, curtains and curtain rods, a dresser or storage piece, a nightstand, a lamp, and just one piece of décor, it comes out to nearly $1,000 per person.

We have some wishlists of specific items on Amazon and Wayfair if you prefer to donate an actual physical item, but campaign donations to cover things that have already been purchased, items for residents whose rooms haven’t been designed yet, or things sourced from other places, are helpful, too. Plus, if any extra funds are raised, they will be used for future Pen + Napkin projects – maybe even some future Oxford Houses!

Amazon Wishlist Link | Wayfair Wishlist Link | Campaign Link

Of course, we’ll come back and show you the final results so you can share in their excitement!

On behalf of the Oxford House ladies and myself, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Live beautifully <3


Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: New Reveal: A Colorful, Happy Home Makeover For An Incredibly Deserving Family

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10 months ago

Ashley this is such a beautiful endeavor! I just ordered a few things for the project via Amazon. Note, some of the items can’t be shipped as a gift, so you may want to look into that. Thank you for taking on this important work and making the transition for these women a bit easier. Bravo!

Ashley - OP
10 months ago
Reply to  Steph

Thank you so much!

10 months ago
Reply to  Steph

Was just going to say the same! I had an item in my cart and wouldn’t let me ship it to you.

Jen Marie Bee
10 months ago

Hi Ashley!
I think this project is amazing — as is your willingness to devote your time and effort. Just sent you something off the wishlist. I originally intended to send a bed frame, but the shipping would have been as expensive as the frame itself. I wonder if it might make sense to try to source things like that someplace near where you are rather than ship them (or choose items that have free shipping). I’d also encourage you to make your own inspirational wall art rather than buy the expensive Wayfair versions! You can get inexpensive canvases at an art supply store, or even paint some some larger wood scraps white. Then paint on the saying of your choice; there are even markers now that essentially mimic paint strokes. (If you aren’t sure about your freehand writing skills, you can use a stencil or hit up a friend who has great penmanship for help.) Good luck with this wonderful project!

Ashley - OP
10 months ago
Reply to  Jen Marie Bee

Jen Marie, yes – I tried to pick things with free shipping, but you know how it is – shipping changes, or prices changes, or things aren’t available by the time people are ordering. Thanks for the heads up – I’ll go double check the list and see if I can swap things out.

And thanks for the craft ideas! I am not artsy *at all* and have no faith in my ability to make it look nice, but the stencil/friend/marker ideas are all good ones so I may have to reconsider!

10 months ago

I was hoping to order some bedding & a bed frame but it says they can’t be shipped to a gift registry address. Hopefully you can add some more items that are shippable! I’ll keep an eye out!

Ashley - OP
10 months ago
Reply to  Tracy

Tracy, thank you for contributing!! And UGH, that’s annoying. I’ll double check the list. In the meantime, there’s always the option of donating the cost of an item directly via the campaign link.

10 months ago
Reply to  Ashley - OP

Jumping in here because I had the same issue. I hope you’re able to get it fixed but I’ll try to find something else you need in the meantime.

10 months ago

My niece spent six months at an Oxford House in Texas as part of a plea agreement. The best thing was that her youngest could stay with her — giving her extra reminders of the Why as much as the How. She’s 18 months clean now, being a great mom to all three kids. We are so proud of her and so grateful for Oxford House. PS And she loves those encouraging messages. I’d figure out a way to do a lot and a way to easily move from room to room or wall to wall by the women themselves, depending on what speaks to them day by day.

Ashley - OP
10 months ago
Reply to  AK

Congratulations to your niece! It’s such a wonderful program (for lack of a better word). And I love your idea of interchangeability.

10 months ago

Hi Ashley! I love this project! But check your Amazon wishlist. I tried to order the Edenbrook Miller Low profile headboards, but the grey is unavailable. It’s so important to be in an environment that feels safe and clean and beautiful. Good luck! The mood boards are awesome!

Ashley - OP
10 months ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Thank you for the compliment and the generosity! I’m so bummed about the headboards, but I’ve updated the wish list.

Monique Wright Interior Design
10 months ago

Hi Ashley!

I wanted to let you know that some of the items on here are “ not able to be shipped to a Wish List.” I tried to add the bed and some curtains, and it wouldn’t let me. (I attached a pic of one of the messages.) Also, it’s showing some of the items as unavailable. I was able to add some lamps though. 🙂 Just a heads up on the others! What a great organization. ❤️