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Shelter Reveal – The Family Room

The reveal of the Family Shelter (that so many of you generously donated to) is finally here. Without driving too far into sappy town I’ll just say that designing a space for families with children that would otherwise be on the street or living in their car was a very, very, very, very, very, very, very good opportunity. It was intensely satisfying on every level. Whether it turned out to be beautiful or not I was going to be proud of it, but the fact that so many companies, and you, gave so generously to help make it look beautiful was a massive bonus. We believe STRONGLY that coming home to a house (temporary or not) that you are proud of effects your mood which effect your actions and therefore your future. Pretty design makes lives better. It just does.

As a recap: This shelter will be their temporary home ’til the parents can get back on their feet, where they can learn the skills that can help them find and keep jobs and homes. Meanwhile their kids (as young as newborns and as old as teenagers) can have a safe, healthy and comfortable environment to be raised in – environments that you and I take for granted on a daily basis. I never had to sleep in a car as a child, and my children hopefully won’t. For those of you who can say the same thing, know that this isn’t the reality for everyone. And now there are dozens less kids that don’t have to know that as their reality too.

Life just got wildly better for them thanks to the San Fernando Rescue Mission. Better lives for families with children = a better world for all of us in the future.

The shelter is broken down into a few different spaces. This one, today, is what we called the ‘Ray Romano Room’ because well, Ray Romano gave a lot to the entire shelter to help make it pretty. He and his wife have a foundation which gives generously and rather anonymously to child advocacy and educational programs. It’s not like he wanted or asked for this call out on the blog, I can’t imagine he reads the blog. But Ray, I heard you donated a lot to the shelter so we dedicated this room to you. Thank you. Also, I loved you in Parenthood 🙂

As you might remember we joined this whole task as the building was in serious construction phase and we had nothing to do with the architecture or the main finishes of the space (paint colors were chosen, carpets were already ordered, etc). This was both good and challenging. It was great because it was less work in a lot of ways especially since commercial design isn’t exactly my specialty, but if we didn’t like the choices then we kinda had to work with them anyway.


Here’s where we were when we first started – total construction site then a big empty room. To the left (down that hall) is where all the family sleeping rooms are (which we’ll show you later, but picture really cute dorm rooms). This room is for families to spend time with each other – helping with homework, playing games and yes, movie nights. It’s basically their family room, so it is meant to be for fun and relaxing. There are computer labs, classrooms and other common areas of the shelter, but this room should be more inviting and more for fun.

But it was a bit tricky. It was long and narrow, with lots of different doorways and hallways leading into it.





Now, they had chosen two paint colors for the main space – a darker slate gray and swiss coffee (I think Valspar). When they told me it was ‘Swiss Coffee’ I thought ‘Great!’ because I thought it was the Benjamin Moore or Behr Swiss Coffee which I used here and is VERY pretty. But this ‘swiss coffee’ is made by a different company, and is the one that I have had in a few apartments which is not great. It’s a heavy, dark beige, with a decent amount of green in it. I thought we could work with it in the design, but we couldn’t. It was bumming us out. So the night of the install (the night before the opening event) we painted it. We chose Half Moon Crest because basically we KNEW that we loved it and that it would go with the slate gray.


The second the roller hit the wall we breathed a sigh of relief, not to sound dramatic or throw that color under the massive bus or anything, but never use that color. ‘Swiss Coffee’ from Behr. Just stay away from it.

As this room was pulled together we became VERY excited. The layout was tricky, the finishes were a challenge but with a lot of really happy furniture and accessories, in a color palette that we loved, we designed something that we are all pretty happy with.


Now, that is a family room. I haven’t been inside very many (if any) family homeless shelters, but this space sure doesn’t feel like what I would normally picture. In a good way.

Ginny was the lead designer and project manager on this project and together we really pulled together a beautiful family friendly space that will undeniably make people happy and proud when they come home.


The families have an area to gather in, the kids can sit around the table/chairs and the older kids or adults can do work or homework at the tables in the back. There is a TV on the opposite wall to those club chairs (which we didn’t shoot) for movie nights. When we had the opening gathering everyone IMMEDIATELY hung out in this room. There is a larger more formal living room that doubles as a the main common area downstairs (which we are shooting today, actually) but it’s not as fun and playful. I think that this room is a room that is hard to not feel happy in. I don’t think I’ve ever gushed about a project that I’ve done before so much – I realize I sound like I’m REALLY into my own work, but first off Ginny gets a lot of the credit, and secondly I think I just didn’t expect it to turn out so well.


As we were designing it and pulling together all the furniture and accessories I knew that it would have potential and that it would be a great space, but I didn’t expect it to look this good. I didn’t know that it could be a portfolio piece.


Working on a pro-bono project can be tricky because you want to prioritize it high on your list but there are days when you just can’t because all your paying jobs are staring at you, demanding results with terrifying and stressful consequences if you fail in any way. My team was paid of course so they stayed on top of everything, so thank you. Designing and managing this size of a job is huge and there are a lot of moving pieces. The shelter staff worked a lot with us to help with the ordering, coordinating and unpacking (with help from a lot of volunteers) which is really the unglamorous and most tedious part of designing.


That there is the Ray Romano Room. The Family Room. All set and ready to create so happy family memories for these families.


1. Rug | 2. Be Brave Throw Pillow | 3. Fox Throw Pillow | 4. Curtains | 5. Ram Head | 6. Task Lamp | 7. Elephant Head | 8. Lion Head | 9. Play Table | 10. Arm Chair | 11. Copper Side Table | 12. Northern Electric by Jessica Brilli | 13. Fox Head | 14. Lounge Chair | 15. Play Stools | 16. Table Lamp | 17. Upside by Alexandra Nazari | 18. Table Top | 19. Pool by Kelly Ventura | 20. Climbing by Happy Red Fish | 21. Table Leg | 22. Dresser

*Before photos by Jessica Isaac for EHD. After photos by David Tsay styled by Ginny MacDonald. 

A quick word about David Tsay. He volunteered to shoot this shelter which I was obviously PSYCHED about. It’s a tricky place to shoot with a lot of overhead commercial-style lighting and frankly we needed someone really good to capture the space. Thank you once again David for far exceeding my expectations. This was shot when I was in Spain, and it was the first project of mine EVER that I didn’t style and instead let my team style it. They did SUCH a great job. Thanks, everyone.

See the beginning post here, the first update post here,  a last little nudge to our indiegogo campaign here, an art roundup of our favorite work from the artists that have donated here, and a big thank you to those who donated here.

For more Shelter Reveals: The Nursery | The Bedrooms | The Playroom

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8 years ago

Great job! This space is beautiful and upbeat. You guys will brighten up the days of a lot of folks with this room. Can’t wait to see the other spaces.

8 years ago

What a wonderful, bright, happy place to come home to. You all are so wonderful for taking so much care and putting so much into this project. Thank you from a follower of your blog and work.

8 years ago

So beautiful! I can only imagine coming home to this instead of a sterile institutional space would make all the difference in the world! Great job EMD team!!

8 years ago
Reply to  Elyse


8 years ago

AMAZING AMAZING WORK. Well done and congrats 🙂

8 years ago

Very. Very. Nice. This is absolutely something I would want in my own home! There’s not even one thing I like better than another. It’s all VERY GOOD. Congrats! The only thing I kept thinking was, wow, that ceiling is a hot mess!

Karen Stacey
8 years ago

I just have two words for you, Emily. God bless.

Karen Stacey
8 years ago

Just two words, Emily: God bless.

8 years ago

This family room is so beautiful! I love how bright, and colorful it is and how inviting and comforting it is for young children, especially when they’re most likely going through a lot in their lives if they’re in the shelter. You’ve created a great space for them!


8 years ago

Wow! It looks wonderful! So fun and inviting! And also… can we please tell contractors to stop using that Swiss Coffee color because I am pretty sure they are all in on this big joke of painting every single room in the world dark puke-y beige. Blech.

Megan LaMacchia
8 years ago

Wow, this is beautiful! What a wonderful place to come home to for these kids. You are so wonderful for doing a project like this! Also, this really doesn’t matter but I’m pretty sure the Swiss Coffee paint color you were talking about is from Valspar. The Swiss Coffee from Behr is an off white color. Again, that detail really isn’t that important, but I thought you just might like to know!

8 years ago

I was going to say this, too! I’ve used the Behr Swiss Coffee, and it’s not NEARLY as dark as whatever builder beige is on those walls in the before photo. But you definitely made the right call to repaint. The room looks awesome!

8 years ago

I asked a paint store about ‘swiss coffee’ once, since I had the Dunn-Edwards version and I think Benjamin Moore had one, too. He said they all try to make it about the same but it varies. I think they all have their own versions, it sounds like. Mine was fairly bright white. Not at all like that Behr color.

8 years ago

I was going to chime in with this as well. I just gut renovated a raised ranch I inherited and put on the market. Upstairs went all light greys, but the basement has an amazing ceiling (nine feet, with exposed beams and floorboards from the floor above), and we used Behr’s Swiss Coffee to bridge the space between the ceiling’s warm, dark wood and the wood-look plank vinyl we put down on the floors to match. It looks like the living room you linked above, a nice, bright, warm off-white. Don’t know who makes this awful beige Swiss Coffee, but it isn’t Behr.

8 years ago

The condo we rented a few years had every single wall painted that awful heavy beige, with carpets very close to the same color. We were not allowed to paint, and it was awful.

Emily K
8 years ago
Reply to  Elisabeth

I would have done it anyway. Deposit be damned. Likely they wouldn’t have even noticed. I’ve painted places I wasn’t allowed to paint before and sometimes I just painted it back before I turned the keys in.

8 years ago
Reply to  Elisabeth

The house I bought a year ago had this color on EVERY.SINGLE wall and ceiling, with flooring close to the same color. I felt like I was living in a cardboard box! Luckily, I AM able to paint and am slowly making my way through the whole house. However, ALL of my friends and family thought I was crazy to hate it…glad to have some reassurance from this site.

8 years ago
Reply to  Jill

It seems to be a favorite among apartment leasers/managers/owners (WHY!) and it never looks good. I’m renting a house now and it’s even in every room there. Blargh…. I have plans to paint for sure. If your place has good natural light it’s not as bad but no light? Oh god…

8 years ago

Great cause, wonderful jobs The kids will feel happy in this bright and joyful space!

8 years ago

Confession time: The second I saw the very first picture, I started tearing up because it is so beautiful and for such a good cause. I honestly can’t think too much about how wonderful it is or I will be sitting at my desk with mascara streaming down my face. Well done!

8 years ago

Wow, this is such a beautiful transformation! I had a quick query: I noticed there were no plants in the room. Was that part of the requirement of the shelter for maintenance reasons?

8 years ago

WOW! I had no ideahow amazing this would turn out! TOTALLY GORGEOUS!

8 years ago

Kudos to everyone who made this happen! This is a space that I would be proud to have in my own home and you are right – it’s very portfolio worthy!
Question: Was “Upside by Alexandra Nazari” hung right side up on purpose? It still looks gorgeous.

8 years ago

Hi Emily! I love all your work. I had a heart-attack when I saw you call out Behr Swiss Coffee as that awful “builder’s beige” on the walls. The Behr is a nice clean off-white that I have used dozens of times, especially for trim. I saw that another commenter already pointed it out, but I just wanted to convey my horror in the hopes that you would edit it in your post. You’re such a trusted source for this type of info! Thanks!!

Such a great way to give back to the community. This space is so inspiring and uplifting. I can only image the smiles that this space will make.

8 years ago

What a huge blessing for these families. I also have never had to face what these families face, but living in the oakland bay area I know it’s a huge reality. Thanks for being a part of a better life for them.

Also, I love Parenthood. Thanks, Hank.

8 years ago

Parenthood is AMAZING! and is this room you designed!!

8 years ago

This room looks awesome and not institutional at all! I totally want all of that furniture in my own future family room. Great work Ginny and everyone else!

8 years ago


Lovely work. Sweet stuffed animal heads on the walls. So clever! The room is really inviting.

(And let me chime in on BEHR SWISS COFFEE. I have a chip of Behr Swiss Coffee, and it is a light off white….). Rather lovely, really.)

8 years ago

That room is so lovely. What’s really interesting about this room is that.. IF I cover the spot with the animal heads/kids table, the whole room looks like almost a formal pretty living room….but when I uncover that little kids spot it changes the room dramatically into a fancy playroom. It could just be the photo because I’m not seeing the whole room/adjoining room leading up to it…but I think I would like this room without those kids accents. Or maybe its those particular pieces? I know you didn’t style it. Totally love the room though. And the cause, you’re awesome Emily!!

8 years ago

Emily, Ray Romano makes me think of pasta and laughter and total togetherness and fun with parmesan cheese, and your rooms are full of all things wonderful and comforting and good. Your post moved me to tears and made me wonder why there aren’t such things happening all over the country, in other cities. You’ve given such a gift of design to lift other’s lives; thank you for being you!!!

8 years ago

so awesome!

8 years ago

beautiful! What a meaningful project- thank you for you for doing this for the mission.

Pin, pin, pin! It’s lovely! Our family stayed at Ronald McDonald House while I was preggo with my son waiting for him to be born, long story! But the design of the House made such a difference to our experience and to my daughter, who had a fabulous little playroom with the same feel as this beautiful one.

xx Anna

8 years ago

Bravo! It’s great to see that a good design can take place in a room with rubber baseboards, berber carpet and standard issue fluorescent lights. I’m impressed with how adorable it is!

8 years ago

Amazing work. Very Nice.

8 years ago

Its amazing. Nice work. Thank You for sharing.

8 years ago

So cool. Very happy place indeed. I’m sure it’s gonna improve the daily life of so many people. I like the fact that the color palette is quite different than the ones we usually see.

8 years ago

I’ve been in a women’s shelter, and while I did not go in the upper level apartments, the bottom levels where the kids hung out during the day (for summer programs) were dated and not necessarily sad but not really happy either. This is so bright and welcoming and like you said…a place families will be happy to come home to while they’re rebuilding their lives.

8 years ago

I love the kids’ section, especially the animal heads. But I noticed the lion head is no longer for sale on the website! Wonder if it’s Cecil the Lion backlash happening… I do wonder if it might be misconstrued by some.

8 years ago

Probably the most inspirational/amazing post I have ever read! Love that this was done for families in need.

8 years ago

I don’t know how your involvement in this project came about, but I am not suprised. I always had this feeling you were a good egg.

8 years ago

This is amazing! Terrific job!!!! My family and all our friends would love to hang out in that room. You did beautiful work here…good for you and everyone who gets to enjoy it. So relaxing and playful.

8 years ago

This is incredible. What a fun and vibrant space! Absolutely perfect, yet again 🙂