Hello and happy Friday! Ashley here, of Ashley Fiocco Designs. I am a LONG-time reader of this blog, so to be writing this right now is SURREAL. After having my two boys, I left my decade-long career in the culinary/celebrity chef world, to go back to school in order to turn my passion for beautiful interiors into the meaningful career I now enjoy! I’m a 1-woman studio based in Orange County, CA, taking on projects with budgets big and small. It’s important to me to help others, regardless of income, to live in spaces that make them feel their best. Obviously, sustaining my business is a goal, but the benefits of assisting anyone and everyone I can to realize their visions of homes that will bring them joy, confidence, and serenity are so much more fulfilling to me.
Back in 2021, when I read this EHD post seeking volunteers’ help to take their Feel-Good MOTOs national with Pen + Napkin, I immediately wanted to get involved. However, at the time, I was living in London with my family (a perk of being married to a professor is we all get to go on sabbatical!). So I had to settle for submitting an application and hoping to connect in the future… And now, a year and a half later and back in SoCal, I’ve been matched with a family that I am so grateful to be able to help!
Suzie, a hard-working single mom, and Brett, her teenage son, (not their real names) are survivors of domestic violence. As Suzie puts it, they’ve “been through a storm.” After escaping a horrible situation a few years ago, they had nowhere to go and ended up homeless. They made their way to OC and now have a roof over their heads. When I first visited them in their apartment to see it and get a feel for their preferences, it was apparent that the space was not ideal in decor or function. Suzie and Brett have been sleeping on mattresses on the floor. There are no wired lights in the main living area or bedrooms, and they don’t have the resources to buy lighting, so the apartment is quite dark. As a designer, this really struck me—ample lighting is so important, not just for purely functional reasons, but also to create an ambiance of warmth and coziness. The apartment also has no curtains and many of the blinds on the windows are broken, so even inside you feel quite exposed. With neighbors and strangers walking by, able to see inside, Suzie mentioned how she and her son often feel vulnerable. The little furniture they do have (just a few, broken pieces) was handed down or found on the curb.
Shortly after securing their apartment and getting back to work and back on track, Suzie lost her beloved dad, whom she called her “hero”. A few months later, one of her closest friends died of cancer. If things couldn’t get worse, she then had to have emergency surgery. This resulted in her losing her job since the time she needed off to recuperate couldn’t be approved by her manager.
To put it simply, Suzie and Brett need some help. Talking with them, I learned their greatest desire is to feel safe, cozy, and settled – Suzie, understandably, just wants a HOME for her and her son. She likes browns, dark blue, pinks, scented candles, and 80s music. She has young nieces and nephews who sometimes come over, so their home needs to be child-friendly. Brett is on the autism spectrum and feels more comfortable attending high school virtually for the time being. He needs a proper desk on which to do his homework and the appropriate setup in his room to read and play video games. Once, when I was over, Brett was sitting on the floor of his bedroom, trying to do schoolwork in his lap—there was nowhere else private to sit. Similar to many young men, he is into anime, sports cars, and basketball, and likes cherry red, black, and gold.
With all of this in mind, I created these designs that I hope will provide the mental and physical comfort Suzie and Brett are seeking. Suzie used the word “cozy” to describe her ideal home so many times, so I really tried to design spaces that will allow them to exhale, to make them feel like they’re getting a warm, pleasant hug. After all they’ve been through, they could really use a hug!
So, here’s where you all come in. Even though this living space is being designed on a truly tight budget, the costs of furnishing from scratch an essentially empty, 2-bedroom apartment are still significant. We need all the help we can get! The itemized wish lists of affordable furnishings and furniture at Wayfair, IKEA, and Amazon can be found here, and we have a donation link to try to cover other things we’ve already purchased from Target and other major retailers, as well as some higher-quality thrifted items, decorative objects, etc.
Pen + Napkin and I have launched a campaign page for donations. We are SO VERY grateful that this page is being shared with you all on EHD, but we could use your help in further spreading the word. Please send the link around to your communities, your social media networks, etc. If any extra funds are raised, they will be used for future Pen + Napkin projects, which I hope Ashley Fiocco Designs can be a part of, too! It’s tremendously satisfying (and fun!) to help paying clients achieve their preferred vibe and desired look in their homes. But to be able to do so for people who, without the initiative and expertise of the Pen + Napkin team, combined with the generosity of many others, would not have this opportunity—people who would still be sleeping on the floor or, literally, sitting in the dark—is an even more wonderful feeling — THE ULTIMATE wonderful feeling! Please, if you can, join us and be a part of this amazing effort, something kind and loving and just, basically, GOOD.
Let’s make MORE GOOD together.
You can follow along on the journey here where I’ll post progress made and updates, and we also plan to share an after post, once enough of the hoped-for items have been installed, so you can see the final transformation that (hopefully) you will have also played a part in. I, myself, cannot wait to see it and share it with all of you! Thank you!