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.
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.
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!):
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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):
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
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.
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