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Introducing A New Feel Good Pen + Napkin Makeover For SUCH A Deserving Family (+ How You Can Help)

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!

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11 months ago

Getting straight to business, regarding the loss of her job (….”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.”), she may want to see if her position was protected under CA law, perhaps CFRA.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for their own serious health condition or a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child.
The FMLA and the CFRA are federal and state leave laws that allow eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave. FMLA and CFRA help to protect your job while you are receiving Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits when you must:

  • Take medical leave for yourself.
  • Care for a family member who is seriously ill.
  • Bond with a new child.
  • Participate in a qualifying event because of a family member’s military deployment to a foreign country.

Here are some resources:
I can’t image the added stress of losing a job during that difficult time.

nancy sherman
11 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Besides the fact that this is such a lovely project that they take on, that situation was what caught my eye! It’s horrible that this happens in the United States!

11 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Earn a quick and easy way to work part time and make an extra $15,000 online or even more… a I made $17,990 in my free time last month and am very happy with this job now. You can try it now at by
following the details here…

11 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Thanks for all this, Karen. I’ll speak to her more about this and get more details to see if she is protected in some way.

11 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Fiocco

COMPLETELY second Karen’s comment – also the main thing that jumped out at me. Depending on the type of surgery, Suzie could also be protected under the ADA. If her employer never tried to work with her or compromise with her, the employee may have violated her civil rights. I recommend submitting a complaint, free of charge, to the EEOC: Sending luck, love, and legal vindication your way!

Cris S.
11 months ago

Wishing this family the best – and donated to back that up. Thank you all for your work on this.

11 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Thank you so much! The response already has been so amazing and appreciated! 👏🏻🙏

11 months ago

I was going to buy a throw from the Ikea list, but it wouldn’t let me set the delivery as the gift recipient — maybe because I’m in Canada? Anyway, I donated instead. I’m wishing this mother and son all the best, and that their new home is a cozy, safe space for them to blossom.

11 months ago
Reply to  Christina

Thank YOU so much! 🥰

Roberta Davis
11 months ago

Donation made. All the best to them and to you for doing this!

11 months ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

Thank you, Roberta, for your help!
It’s 100% a communal effort! ❤️

🥰 Rusty
11 months ago

Ashley, great work!
I’m so uplifted to read about this.🤗💞

When I nade over my mentee’s room in a Safe House via Emily’s gracious personal donation, it changed her life.
She is now studying primary school teaching full-time and working part-time at 2 jobs.
She’s sharing an apartment with another young woman and the same furniture looks wonderful there, creating a cozy, welcome space for her.
She will be forever changed for the better as a result of the makeover that helped her realise that she IS good enough, loved and worthy.🥰

I know this will positively change the lives of this mom and son, too!
Sending you all the good vibes and entirely looking gorward to the reveal.

Keep up the good human work!
Hugz, Rusty🥰

11 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty! Yes, I remember your project and kept that in mind while working on this one.
So happy to hear of the long-lasting benefits for her. Yeah for doing GOOD human work! 👏🏻

11 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I missed your project Rusty! I go in and out of following the blog regularly. I just read it then. If I’d seen, I’d have donated as a fellow Perth person! Have donated today – if Emily can donate to a West Australian, then I can surely support a Californian. I usually like to support my local community, or overseas charities but I have made exceptions before on this blog. Needing a helping hand transcends geographical boundaries really.

11 months ago
Reply to  Sally

Thank you, Sally.
I so appreciate this and agree – no boundaries!

Yanina Markova
11 months ago

I remember I was so excited when they rolled out the national matching program – I signed up – but unfortunately they couldn’t match me with a family and wanted me to do quiet a bit of work finding an organization myself, maybe I should check in with them again. I was going to go donate for this campaign but am a little off put that it doesn’t show how much money has been raised already. I bought a console table for them instead.

11 months ago
Reply to  Yanina Markova

Hi Yanina! I just changed that setting so now the total amount $ raised is viewable.
Sorry about that!
Thank you so very much for your donation! 😊

11 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Fiocco

Also, wanted to add to just keep following up! The Pen + Napkin team is quite small, and I was persistent 😜. The timing worked out that a family in need became available close to my area. Keep at it! 💪🏼

11 months ago

Thank you for your work and sharing with us, Ashely. I love Pen + Napkin and what they’re doing to bring
comfort and dignity in such vulnerable moments of peoples lives. I know the EHD community can feel like this vague internet place, but I love this opportunity to come together and show care for each other. Thank you for sharing and showing us ways to participate <3

11 months ago
Reply to  Aimee

Thank you, Aimee! This is so great to read. I also love how projects like this are bringing the global EHD community together for a great cause. Thanks for being a part of it!

11 months ago

I tried to purchase the red cabinet from Wayfair/All Modern, but it doesn’t have the recipient address.

11 months ago
Reply to  Alexis

Hi Alexis!
So sorry & how weird!
Let me see if I can fix that.
I’ll check back in…

11 months ago

Just donated from up here in Canada. I hope Suzie and her son know that we all are thinking of them and want to contribute to their comfort and success as they get back on their feet. Looking forward to the reveal as well. Good on you for this, Ashley!

11 months ago
Reply to  Allison

Thank you so much, Allison! 🤗