Hello everyone! Ashley of Ashley Fiocco Designs back again to share happy news: We did it! With the generous help of so many of you, we were able to furnish and decorate a lovely home for a local SoCal family in need. To remind you, I volunteered to partner with Pen + Napkin on a Feel Good Makeover to help transform a largely-empty, gloomy apartment into a cozy haven for a single mom and her teenage son. Suzie and Brett (not their real names) had fled domestic abuse, were homeless, but then were able to secure an apartment and have been trying to get back on their feet.
For guidance in the design process, I met with Suzie and Brett to learn their preferences and to discuss how they’d like to feel in their home. I then created a campaign page to raise the funds needed for the makeover project. Pen + Napkin and I were amazed (and moved) by the response! We surpassed our fundraising goal and almost all of the items on Suzie and Brett’s wish lists were purchased directly by you, EHD readers. I spread the word where I could and was able to gather many excellent, gently-used items from members of my community. Nearly 170 (!!!) people came together to make this transformation happen. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we are so thankful to be a part of such a kind, caring group.
Here’s where we started:
The apartment was dark, with broken blinds that left the interior exposed. Suzie and Brett each had, in their bedrooms, a mattress on the floor—but not much else. The space was neither welcoming nor functional.
And now here’s what Suzie and Brett are now able to come home to:
Needless to say, they were delighted! Suzie said the space felt “bright, like sunshine” and was “uplifting and cozy”. This is precisely what I was hoping the feeling would be! She said her heart was warmed “all the way through” and couldn’t decide whether to spend more time in her bedroom or the living room, as she loves them both equally. Brett nodded with approval (and I also caught him smiling!) when he first saw his bedroom. He especially liked his desk setup and thought the overall vibe was “cool,” particularly the pops of bright red. Coming from a teen boy, this is high praise!
I wanted Suzie’s bedroom to be warm and calming, just for her, with a statement wallpaper to anchor the space and bring in some soft pattern. Once Suzie told me the colors she likes (browns, pinks, and deep blues), I knew the Asana Dusty Pink was THE wallpaper for the perfect backdrop. I contacted the team at Rebel Walls and when I told them about this Feel Good Makeover, they generously provided all the wallpaper. It’s a Peel & Stick application so if Suzie and Brett ever have to move, the paper should be easy to remove. It completely makes the room! A huge “thank you” to the wonderful people at Rebel Walls.
In Brett’s room, we added comfy layered bedding with a grid pattern to bring in visual interest, while the dark green printed curtains provide light control and extra privacy. We kept and framed the anime posters Brett already had. The black and red desk and chair were a necessity, in order for him to have a dedicated space for homework (and video games). The pair of green framed mirrors flanking his new upholstered bed brings in symmetry and reflects light. The red metal locker nightstand provides needed bedside storage while adding a bit of youthful edginess that I knew Brett would appreciate. We organized his spacious closet, allowing us to remove the bulky (and broken) dresser that had previously dominated the room. Brett now has ample space inside the closet, not only for his clothes, but extra storage too, and some negative space around his bed makes the bedroom feel much larger.
In the living room, I wanted to create a cozy, inviting space in which Suzie and Brett could relax. The first thing I sourced (for each of the rooms) was lighting, so their home would be properly illuminated. Lighting alone, of course, makes a huge difference. The broken window blinds were repaired and we installed both sheer and blackout curtains. Now Suzie and Brett can keep the blinds open all day, as the drawn sheer curtains provide sufficient privacy, while still letting in ample natural light. At night the blackout curtains provide full privacy and a measure of security which I know is important to them.
The wall-mounted bookshelves frame the TV, which now sits on a lovely donated media console. The living room is quite large and is the main communal space when friends or relatives are over, so I wanted there to be plenty of seating options. We created two reading corners with IKEA accent chairs, and the deep, soft leather couch was graciously provided by Poly & Bark, a longtime partner of Pen + Napkin. A member of the team said that this is his “dream couch,” and it is very nice. I love the tufted back and the rich cognac tone of the leather—the size is perfect for the room. Thank you so much, Jonathan and Mario, for showing me around the Poly & Bark outlet warehouse and for all your help!
Most of the decorative objects, photo frames, baskets, etc., on the bookshelves and console tables were donated by the little market, a nonprofit organization that works with artisans from around the world to source ethical, eco-conscious gifts, accessories, and home décor. I have a friend on the managerial team there (thank you, Meka M., for all your help!) who was able to coordinate the donation of a large number of beautiful items with which we had fun styling.
Displaying family photos is a great way to make a space more individual and homey. I asked Suzie to provide me with any pictures she had of her with Brett and other family. I framed several and created a gallery wall in the living room so the faces of loved ones will be the first thing they see when coming home. There were also so many messages of support sent with items from the wish lists or with donations from the campaign page that I wanted to capture these wonderful words of kindness. So, I printed as many as would fit and made a framed collage to remind Suzie that there are so many of us with her, eager to lend a hand, shoulder, or heart when one is needed.
I wanted to say a special thanks to the great group of volunteers who assisted during the intense two-day installation: Mauro N. (thank you for the time and expertise you donated to this project!); Chrissy D. (thank you for TWO full days of effort!); Gabby V.; Katelynn; Randall; Salvador and Carlos with S-Team Turnover Specialist and Nick G. (who, at the last second, provided an expert hand to install the wallpaper). Thank you to Olivia Katz Photo for all the beautiful images, and a special shout out to all my Uni. Hills neighbors who donated items to make sure this turned out as well as it did – Cami S., Jodi O., Kim H., Susan J., Chrissy M., Catherine L., Cynthia L., and A.K. There were so many donations collected that there are several pieces of furniture and decor in storage for use on future Pen + Napkin projects. Your kindness keeps on giving!
And to the women at EHD, without Emily’s platform and reach, this project would never have been as successful as it was. The entire team at EHD (I know because I got to work with nearly all of them!) went above and beyond to advocate for this, while also making very generous financial contributions. They care and are the real deal. I can only try to express my admiration and respect for these women. Thank you for using your voice to spread good! And to all EHD readers: Thank YOU! This was truly a team effort, and I’m so happy to have been a part of it. We made a real difference in someone’s life.
The team at Pen + Napkin, mainly Catie and Danni-Lynn, are dynamos doing inspiring work – I’m looking forward to working more with the organization.
An anonymous donor to this project quoted Laura Ingalls Wilder in a note included with her donation: “Home is the nicest word there is.” This Feel Good Makeover enabled all of us to contribute to a home for a family who needed a little help. What a privilege! Let’s keep the goodness going: spread a kind word, donate, volunteer, help a neighbor, or get in touch and let’s do more of these! Thanks again, so much, to all.