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Our Feel-Good Makeover Takeovers Are Going National With Pen And Napkin (AND YOU?)

Ok. while the world isn’t ‘back’ by any means, we are ready to do more of the really fulfilling things we weren’t able to during the pandemic – Feel Good Makeovers. And right now it feels like it’s needed more than ever. The economic disparity is just insane in this country and while solving it individually feels impossible, we know these free home makeovers change lives. After a long conversation with Catie Bouchard, the founder of Pen + Napkin, we are very excited to partner up with them and scale it to go national (international, actually). We can help more families, decorate more homes, in more places.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by brady tolbert and emily edith bowser for ehd | from: the feel good flash makeover a.k.a my favorite thing of the year

In case you are wondering (or new here) Pen + Napkin is a WONDERFUL non-profit founded by Catie and supported by her incredible team of women – Danni-Lynn Carter, former client turned volunteer, who now oversees development. Shawna Beaugard – our volunteer and event coordinator and Synthia Avina & Miranda Ament our in-house designers. Half of these women are also mothers. So incredible. It’s the epitome of using our interior design passion, for good. As you can imagine no mom wants their kids to be sleeping on a mattress on the floor and the rate of recidivism (of being un-housed again) drastically drops (by 90%) if a family has a welcoming home they feel proud of and like spending time in. Obviously, we feel PASSIONATELY about the uplifting power of loving your home – we know that it affects your self-worth which can bleed onto all areas of your life (jobs, career, and other relationships). Feeling proud of your home (and not embarrassed by it) especially for moms and kids can change lives forever. But we also know the time and resources it takes to furnish and decorate your home and when you are dealing with the trauma that these (mostly) moms are trying to heal from, even thinking about buying the “right rug” is impossible, let alone having the extra money. We, as privileged design enthusiasts, can help not only give nice bedding for kids to sleep on and a cozy sofa, but seriously change the trajectory of these families lives, forever. I’ve SEEN IT FIRST HAND.

pictured above: me and catie (founder of pen + napkin)

Catie, truly an angel, has three kids herself and as a stay-at-home mom has given of her time – full time, really, to this cause for the last 7 years. When we recently donated all the props in our studio to her for her next rummage sale, she showed up with all three kids in tow, she just GETS IT DONE. She’s one of those people who inspires me to want to be a better person, get rid of excuses – and luckily her non-profit provides me (and you) the ability to help others. She works with transition centers to be notified when a family is ready to transition – when their caseworker has found them their new home, and with little resources, she assembles a team to get it done. We have worked with them on fundraising through that epic EHD rummage sale a few years ago and then my team (led by Velinda) made over an apartment for a single mom with 4 kids last year before the pandemic. I can tell you first hand how A. wonderful Catie and her non-profit team are, and B. how rewarding it is to be a part of drastically helping a family during extremely dark days. AND IT IS SO MUCH FUN. It’s a win win win win win win win!!! It’s styling and decorating for a cause!!! And it’s all I want to do. A lot of these families (usually single moms) are escaping abuse (which is why they are likely not going to be in photos or videos) and are trying to start over and give their kids a loving, safe, environment to thrive. If you are looking for meaning in your life, or trying to find your purpose (like I have been for years now) I can tell you that this will help. Once I figured out how to use my set of skills and this blog to help others in their homes, it checked this massive box in my head. It makes the days where we post about budget lamps or Ikea hacks, worth it. And yes, I feel like the luckiest person that I can call this part of my job.

Here’s a quick video that shows the second feel good flash makeover we’ve ever done from start to finish (it’ll start right after a quick ad!):

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by emily bowser and velinda hellen for ehd | from: a colorful, happy home makeover for a very deserving family

So here’s how it’s going to work. Instead of just the EHD team doing 2-3 of these a year (without an in-house design team and me being in Oregon), we are extending the opportunity to all of you who are design enthusiasts, who can pull together a room and are looking to serve others. It’s creative/life fulfillment, in a bottle, ready to drink. Here’s how it will work:

  1. You submit a questionnaire to Pen + Napkin with some basic info and she will organize everybody by location. You can do this with your best friend, church group, family (yes, even your kids can help!). You do NOT need to be an interior designer or do this one your own, just someone who loves design, loves to shop, loves to make a room functional for the needs and wants of the family, and wants to serve others. The design can be as good as you want it to be – you can really flex your creativity. When we did it last year we went all out because that’s what EHD does (and Velinda killed it), but honestly the families just want somewhere that feels warm, inviting, comfortable and safe. So don’t feel intimidated by it – you don’t have to be super experienced or do something magazine-worthy. Hopefully, with a proper budget, you can get creative and make it look pretty.
  2. Once a family is located and ready to move in, in your area, you’ll be contacted and paired with them. You’ll meet with them and maybe their caseworker, see the space and get it going (and it will likely be a quick turnaround – so if you have a demanding job it might be good to do it with a friend or family member that has more time to help organize and execute).
  3. We’ll crowdsource decor. Catie had the best idea. As you start pulling together the design you’ll create Amazon and Target wish lists for the furniture and decor that you’ll need (or anywhere else that has the capability to create wish lists. We’ll then publish those lists HERE on the blog (for now) with an intro post, so that other readers can purchase the cute lamp or bedding and actually see it in the finished room. Spreading the love, involving as many people that want to give as possible. The items will ship directly to the designer in advance of install day. Anything needed beyond that we’ll provide the budget for (including handy people, painters, etc). We likely won’t get partners involved as we can’t guarantee the timing or photography nor do we know the end-design – all things partners want to know, understandably. Depending on how many we do we might do some additional fundraising.
  4. We will help organize manual help for the install by posting here for volunteers. And if in LA or Portland the EHD team or myself will come help when possible. When we did the Rummage Sale, installing the Rescue Mission and decorating the mission for the holidays we loved how many of you showed up (many with your kids) and gave of your time to help. I think that one of the best parts of this is many people, strangers even, coming together with a singular goal of helping others. It’s truly a high that you can’t get any other way. When we did the install of the community center’s kids space I worked side by side with people so different than myself, outside of my bubble, which expanded my brain and views in a lot of ways.
  5. If time allows (and if it makes sense for the family’s schedule) we’ll style and shoot the homes (again, likely without showing the families), to publish here (EHD will help source a photographer – either volunteering or we’ll cover expenses). I want to be super sensitive to the families so it might not always be a big organized shoot day, but we’ll try to get what we can so that all of you (and myself) can see the result of the hard work and feel the goodness.
  6. Publishing and promotion. Everyone involved will of course be credited here and on social media (and I think we could do some really fun social content of the process and install days, too – lots of behind the scenes that we can repost on our channels so more people can watch your makeover). While the goal of this shouldn’t be just for your PR and social media gains, obviously, hopefully if you are interested you could grow your following and portfolio (you can absolutely remain anonymous, too). If you are a budding interior designer or a design student this is a GREAT opportunity to test your creativity, show off your skills and grow a following.
after photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by brady tolbert and emily edith bowser for ehd | from: the feel good flash makeover a.k.a my favorite thing of the year
after photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by brady tolbert and emily edith bowser for ehd | from: the feel good flash makeover a.k.a my favorite thing of the year
after photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by brady tolbert and emily edith bowser for ehd | from: the feel good flash makeover a.k.a my favorite thing of the year

Pen + Napkin already has some great partnerships (Tuft and Needle donates every mattress, for instance) so this is a great opportunity for brands as well to donate but with no expectation of crediting or tagging (it might certainly happen but since I’m not in control of the design I can’t guarantee anything). At the beginning of the pandemic, California Beach Co. donated enough money to sustain them through the whole year and they were able to serve families, despite the added challenges, they are committed to donating a percentage of all their proceeds every quarter. For the past 3 years, Poly + Bark has been a committed partner, providing furniture, rugs, and lighting to every project. I’d love to grow their home goods resources. It doesn’t have to be your new pieces, it could be what you would sell at a sample sale, discontinued pieces, or even something slightly damaged if still totally usable (like a small cut or pen mark in a sofa is still a great sofa). By doing this we could reduce your waste, too. You don’t have to be a big company to help either. My good friend who owns the best kids store in LA (The Reckless Unicorn) donates all the toys that have damaged boxes that are perfectly good, but unsellable, for instance. We aren’t talking renovations, they are all rentals (for now at least) so it’s really just cosmetic at best (we’ll work with landlords to make sure that they are allowed to switch out lighting for instance, and not burden the family with needing to change it back if they move). Mostly it’s just decorating apartments with comfortable, fun furniture and decor. Most of these homes are small spaces and likely fitting multiple kids sharing a room so coming up with clever solutions is part of the fun. Velinda did such a genius job of fitting a family of 5 in two bedrooms (including a teenage boy sharing with his mom and a newborn baby…here’s the room below):

photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by emily bowser and velinda hellen for ehd | from: a colorful, happy home makeover for a very deserving family

To me, this is a PERFECT opportunity for any of us who might feel creatively stagnant, or generally unfulfilled. Trust me, helping others can help give you purpose. It’s creative, it’s fun, it’s rewarding, it will get you positive attention, while helping others. It bolsters everyone’s self-worth – GUARANTEED. You won’t have to spend a dime of your own money – that’s what I’m here for, just give of your time and creativity. If I could be doing this full time I would, but I know my bandwidth and likely can only do a couple a year. But what I can do and what the EHD team can help with is work with Pen + Napkin (and you) to produce, support, and publish these makeovers and by extending the volunteer design team to you it can go national and help many, many, many MORE. We can be the producers and the platform and create a system where more people can be helped. Plus we all get fun design content, for rentals, on a budget in smaller spaces.

Before we commit to 100 of these we’ll test a few and get some learnings going. Depending on the volume and scale we might have to hire a dedicated EHD team member to help coordinate, etc or Pen + Napkin might have to scale up depending on the demand. If I’ve learned anything running a business in the era of digital media it’s that you can’t really plan or predict ANYTHING. You just need to start, try it out, keep it going, make some mistakes, learn, shift, and do it again better. But I believe if the intent is there if the “why” is clear (which it is), then the rest is just logistics.

We Have The First Family

If you are in the LA area and excited to start NOW, we have a family right now ready to move into their new home, they are incredible and highly deserving. As Catie puts it so sweetly, they are “ready to be blessed” 🙂 And regardless of your belief system or what terminology you use, I think we can all get on board with any family getting back on their feet with some help from angels like Catie and hopefully some of you 🙂

Here’s a note from the family: “Being a victim of DV has caused us to be homeless. This has really affected me and my children’s lives. Moving to Los Angeles was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We were blessed to run into this program Family Promise of the Verdugos, and be accepted as a family. It’s been a long rocky road but we are excited about the future. We survived. We are finally overcoming our struggle.”

She is going to school starting 8/30 as an art major. She wants to paint pictures from digital images for people, but living in her car has prevented her from painting. So she definitely needs art supplies! Her son is also starting school on 8/23 so they both need school/art supplies, a desk & an all-around decorated home they can feel comfortable in.

Other Ways To Help

from: a church community center & kids space

If you want to help out but can’t volunteer your time and have extra budget consider donating to Pen + Napkin via their campaign page (this link goes directly to helping the family we’ll be working with for our first makeover!) This organization is a small but mighty team that will likely have to grow more this year (interested?) so any additional internal budget for them would help immensely. I keep trying to convince Catie to pay herself, but like most founders of nonprofits, she struggles with this. Catie and her husband sold their house this year and are now living in a travel trailer with their kids to have more time, money, and resources to serve more families. When she told me this I was like “OK TIME FOR A SERIOUS EHD COLLABORATION”. Let’s take our feel-good makeovers international and help unhoused families have safe, comfortable homes to raise their kids.

after photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd| lead design by velinda hellen for ehd | styling by brady tolbert and emily edith bowser for ehd | from: the feel good flash makeover a.k.a my favorite thing of the year

Also if you are an interior designer in LA or someone with an inventory of decent used furniture or decor consider reaching out to Catie. She can’t come and get just anything (again, 3 kids and home on wheels), but if you have a lot of good pieces in one place let us know as she or I can store good pieces till they get placed and add to the inventory to pull from.

We are so excited to get this going & to read through your questionnaires. Again, if you’re interested in helping out by designing homes for newly housed families, please click here to start & we’ll be contacting you soon! Eeeek!

Opening Image Credit: Photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Lead Design by Velinda Hellen for EHD | Styling by Brady Tolbert and Emily Edith Bowser for EHD | From: The Feel Good Flash Makeover A.K.A My Favorite Thing Of The Year


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48 thoughts on “Our Feel-Good Makeover Takeovers Are Going National With Pen And Napkin (AND YOU?)

  1. I love this! Sounds like pen+napkin is doing incredible work. Thank you for all you do. I would like to fill out the questionnaire but it says I need permission? I think maybe you all need to unlock the google form on your end. Thanks!

  2. Hi, I live in Los Angeles and am very interested in volunteering with Pen & Napkin. The google doc will not allow me to open it(something about settings?) can you please correct this? I’m in dire need of some “feel good” opportunities and this is perfect for me! Thank you, Marushka

  3. OooooMmmmmGggggg!!!!
    So, I’ve been crying as I read this post.
    With my own experience of domestic abuse and coercive control that I finally escaped this year during thebpandrmic (in mid-May)….this is close to the bone and my heart.
    I’m massively fortunate that I own my home. Hugely grateful for this.

    I am currently (how’s the timing!?!?) helping a young woman I’m mentoring who has recently escaped domestic abuse by literally fleeing a beating by leaping through a fly screened window! Suffice to say it was brutal, police with body cameras were involved.
    She’s only 19 and now in a safe house where she can stay for up to 12 months.
    She’s been lucky to choose the paint colour of her room as the facility is being repainted. But…it’s clinical looking and feels cold visually.

    I reached out to help her redesign her room on a tight budget and the plan is to go shopping at thrift stores once her room is painted. I’ve already sourced somegear from family and friends, but not much.
    The mental lift that the thought of making her toom her ‘home’ gave her is immense!! It fave her such a boost and made my heart full in being able to do this with her/for her.

    I’m doing a mini-workshoppy thing for her and another couple of at-risk youth, where they’ll create a piece of framed art for their rooms. They’re pumped and already gathering ideas.

    Hence….my being gob-smacked by today’s post!
    I’ve alsolinked in with a case worker who helps women transitioning out of women’s refuges.
    Go figure, the serendipity!!!

    You said that you’re into making this international. I didn’t read how that will work??

    My PC isn’t currently working, so I’m stuck using my tablet, typing with one (dodgy) finger. Ha!
    💗PLEEEEEEASE EMAIL ME as to how this can happen in Perth, Western Australia.

    I knew that as soon as I was free, I wanted to help others. Maybe THIS is how?!?!

    1. HI Rusty! I love that so much. We’d love to help with it, as well. I could venmo you a budget if that helps? Feel free to email me (I think you have it). With Pen and Napkin basically if there is a volunteer designer or design team in another country you fill out the form then Catie reaches out to transition shelters in that area and lets them know that there is someone ready to help when they have a family ready to transition. So its kinda a waiting list (like it is with most cities, actually). Catie says they’ve worked with some families in london and in Sydney. Basically she’ll try her best to find a family for anyone (but with some language barriers some areas might take more time). Rusty, i love that you are finding fulfillment by paying it forward. That girl is very lucky to have you 🙂

      1. Okay!👍 Pretty funny how I’m doing this, but haven’t got my ow house sorted yet!🤣
        I havd an almost completed back porch deck though – my BIL and brother have built it! Clever lads they are, with hearts of gold. 💗

        K, I get how it could work in Perth now.
        With my link with the Case Worker, Catie may be able to connect with her, since she’s working with the shelters (we call them refuges in Aussie) already?

        I’ll be in touch. Just heard from my IT guru that he’s coming to look at my PC, so maybe it’ll be working better really soon! (Checking for spyware/tracking…Yikes!)😳 Then I can function better.

        Still can’t believe the timing of this, Emily!🥰

      2. Hey Rusty! You are a beautiful soul and anyway we can bring you on and help you make your dream come true, I am in! Please connect me with the shelter or transitional center in your area, have case workers or team leaders call me. I want to see if we can partner! My email is

  4. I so want to be a part of this in the Orlando, FL. This is exactly what I need in my life right now.

    1. Yaaas! I have been dreaming of partnering with Florida designers. Please look into some local transitional centers (not shelters- we want those ready for permanent housing) in your area, and email me that list. We can start a partnership in your city ASAP. That’s our first step on any out of state project. My email is

  5. This so fabulous and exciting! Great idea!

    And I have one small bone to pick – this phrase and process :
    ‘ most families aren’t going to be picky’ ..’You can really go for it with little to no approval process as long as it meets their needs and aligns with the original brief from them (I love getting favorite colors/interests from kids, etc..”
    This feels little … funky to me.. I do feel that the clients deserve an approval’s not being picky its having a say in how they will live… I get that the big surprise reveal is exciting to post and we are conditioned to it from home makeover shows etc etc. but I strongly feel there should be some mechanism in place for the clients – and they are clients- to have approvals in the process. The clients are often people who were disempowered . Its empowering for them to be collaboration with designers rather than having designers ” go for it” without input. .Not even getting into issues of class/power/ structural inequality with who decides the looks and gives charity and who accepts what they are given as a grateful recipient.. Also there are important choices- a cute light colored outdoor rug that will discolor and shred in a year or a less flashy and more durable option that will last 5? A small jagged edge coffee table or a larger kid friendly one with curved edges? A darker or lighter paint color? I am NOT dissing the idea or anyone’s work, you guys are great. I am just saying I think there is a way to do this that is more inclusive of clients….who deserve to have final say on what they are going to live with..

    1. I see your point and I can rephrase. In my experience they truly just want their family to be comfortable and safe, with their kids favorite colors and hobbies acknowledged and they are rather uncomfortable feeling like the client. we aren’t interested in the surprise reveal (we aren’t shooting that part at alll), i just meant to say that with most paying client jobs it can be a long drawn out process, but this is more fast and creative – as a “designer” it just more fun. But 100% the needs should be met and if the family wants to be involved in the process they absolutely can be and should be, but in our experience they don’t want to be – they feel uncomfortable and they are just trying to heal from their trauma so to be shown pillow options is overwhelming. But i’ll edit to reflect that intention. 🙂

      1. I’m finding with the art project, that the youths are doing this bit to ‘own’ a piece of their shelter home and tge5y can keep it when they move on.
        I get the process and yeah, they need safety, comfort and cozy.

    2. This is a good point about helping clients feel like they have a say in their lives and to feel self-empowered. The big surprise reveal is always exciting but the opportunity is lost for the family to feel a real connection to their new home. Also if there is something in the final design that actually really doesn’t work for them, it may be difficult for them to make changes because they can’t afford to replace or possibly even maintain certain things like big expanses of pale carpet.

  6. I believe y’all have your hearts in the right place, but I question the decision to include that photo of the recipient family. With their faces blocked out (for good reason given their past experiences with DV – totally support their need to maintain anonymity for their safety!), readers can’t really connect with them as individual people, so I wonder what the point of it is. It’s also impossible to ignore race when discussing charity and volunteerism, so to have the family come across as (literally) faceless Black bodies who need Emily and Catie’s (white women) help… it just feels a bit ick to me. I hope you’ll consider thinking about what kind of message you were trying to get across by including it and if doing so truly benefits your cause – helping these families. Best of luck with this work.

    1. I agree. You better expressed my sentiments on it, but it also felt weird to me. I love the work though and can’t wait to see the results. I think you should take out the picture though.

  7. I submitted the questionnaire! I can help in the Seattle area. I would love to help.

  8. LOVE to see you leaning into this. No idea if you can use an interior designer in Alabama, but I’ll submit and be ready if needed. My firm once donated design hours to a homeless shelter, and transforming the living spaces for the women and children was pure joy. Everyone is worthy of a safe place to land, and making it beautiful is a special task.

  9. I am so excited about this! I’ve already filled out the form. Please come to Nashville and PICK ME! Please and thank you. 🙂

  10. this is super exciting and inspiring! i cannot wait to see the good that comes out of this. I’m no interior designer, but if anyone here participates and wants art for their spaces I’d love to help and donate some of my prints. I paint watercolor animals that are great for kids’ spaces but not so ‘childish’ in style that they couldn’t be enjoyed for all ages: http://www.wanderinglaur/shop

  11. This is so exciting! I’ve been thinking about starting a similar charity in Atlanta (though perhaps focusing on kids aging out of foster care into their first home) so I am so excited to be a part of this with an established organization!

    1. Oh, this is such a need! People don’t realise that once they hit a certain age, they’re out on their own!
      So. Worth. It.
      This is my starting point with the group home my mentee is in. They’re basically still kids in sooo many ways.

  12. This is so amazing! ❤️ Can’t wait to hear and see more about this and find some way to help out.

  13. This is awesome! I love this idea and I can’t wait to hear about it playing out in a bunch of different communities!

  14. Wow, I am OVER THE MOON about this opportunity! I already filled out the google form (yay!), but just wanted to reiterate how excited I would be to be a part of this! I live in Los Angeles and have actually been doing makeover projects as a volunteer. Emily and team, I have been following all of your feel good makeovers for years and I love this partnership with Pen and Napkin! Volunteerism and design are MY JAM! My passion! My purpose! Please do reach out to me as I live locally (LA!!) and could offer my design skills and sweat! I sent a link for a video of one of my makeovers, but if it didn’t work, I’d love to re-send it (just need to know where to send). Thanks again for putting this idea out there- this will change so many lives!

  15. I love that you are organizing such a wonderful effort to support Pen and Paper. For those readers who live in Illinois and are looking for a similar organization, Love your Neighbor is headed up by Nancy Shepard. She owned a Home Goods/decorating store in a vintage house in my hometown of Wheaton Illinois. She too decided to help the homeless through design. She closed her business, sold her family home and moved into the small vintage home that use to house her store. She leads a team of volunteers to design and furnish houses for families transitioning out of homelessness. The apartments are furnished all with donated items from local businesses or other families . She also leads the fundraising effort. It is a wonderful organization. Love your Neighbor is on facebook if you want more information about this great organization. They are always looking for volunteers to help design and set up the apartments! Or they would love furniture donations! Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I hope this is okay that I did this on your site???

    1. I would love to connect with them. I have a little network of non-profits like ours and it’s so important for us to encourage one another in this mission.

      1. Yes. That would be great. I think her phone/email is listed on the facebook for Love your Neighbor. If you have difficulty contact me

  16. Wow. This is really nice. 🙂

    I have no talent but I look forward to seeing what readers who do have talent can do.

  17. This is such a lovely idea! Thanks for always aiming to do good work with the platform you have. May I gently suggest that future photos be sensitive of how we portray who has power (the “do-gooders”) and who doesn’t (the recipients)? I always feel uncomfortable when all the givers are white and all the recipients are black/POC…and I’m a white lady. I can’t imagine how terrible I would feel as a person of color to see this on the pages of EHD. This pattern unconsciously (and, here, 100% unintentionally!) reinforces race-based good/bad, power/no power dichotomies. I don’t know how to say this any more gently, so I hope my suggestion comes of lovingly and encouragingly!

  18. Love this!! I am so down to be an install volunteer in my city, whenever this does pop up.

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