The world around us affects our well-being. We are hard-wired to respond to our environment, so we feel different when we enter a soaring cathedral as opposed to a slum apartment. The world comes inside of us and creates a feeling. This feeling affects our sense of well-being, self-esteem, mood, and even our sense of empowerment. We start to believe we are that feeling inside.
As we spend much of our time at home, it is useful to be mindful of how color and material selection, as well as the furniture and furnishings, all call us to feel differently and respond to the world in a different way.
For those who have struggled with poverty and even homelessness, attention to interiors is the last thing on their minds. It is those in such difficult circumstances who need a splash of color in their lives more than anyone. This is where Dwell with Dignity makes a real difference.
Dwell with Dignity, a nonprofit organization, is made up of interior designers dedicated to creating comfortable and inspiring homes for families facing poverty and homelessness. Aided by volunteers, Dwell with Dignity provides and installs home interiors including furnishings, bedding, art, kitchen supplies and cupboards filled with food. Their mission is “To help families escape poverty and homelessness through design; one household at a time.” Dwell with Dignity believes that if you change a person’s surroundings, you change their outlook on life. In particular, providing children with a safe and nurturing home environment can inspire a standard of living that will pass on to future generations. This standard of living is created through art and good design. Dwell with Dignity wants to have a positive impact on families and enable parents to feel proud of a home where their children can thrive.
Quite often after a family has received training and support from social agencies they find themselves unable to access and maintain a home in which they can progress with their lives. Dwell with Dignity addresses this critical need through their mission. They create inspiring homes with the help of dedicated volunteers and with the generosity of donors. They also educate families about design and simple, creative ways to style their homes.
The People Behind The Project
The Dwell with Dignity project was founded by Lisa Robison, a Dallas based interior designer. A passion for all things design and a strong desire to give back to her community culminated in the concept of Dwell with Dignity. Robison says, “I read this Oprah book and it said to find what it is that you’re passionate about and what you’re talented at, and then find a way to give that back to your community — that’s the secret to happiness.” She adds, “It’s often the people who cannot spend the money on the design who can benefit the most.” This strong belief that great design can improve quality of life led her to develop the non-profit Foundation in April 2009.
Lisa met Kim Turner, also a Dallas interior designer, at El Centro in May 1995 when they started design school together. Fourteen years after their first meeting Kim heard about Lisa’s Foundation and immediately knew it was something she wanted to be part of. She shares Lisa’s belief that lives can be inspired with design and dwelling with dignity is, and should be, a possibility for all.
Thrift Studio – A Shopping Event Like No Other
Spring in Dallas is defined not only by its wild thunderstorms but also for Dwell with Dignity’s pop-up Thrift Studio. Far from a regular thrift store, the 30 day pop-up shop was created to raise funds for the project through the selling of donated furniture, accessories, and high-end designer finds to the public. All proceeds go towards the Foundation and its future work in creating stylish accommodations for families in need.
Each Thrift Studio has an ensemble of skilled designers who create and install vignettes using items from the Dwell with Dignity’s warehouse as well as items they have personally donated or secured through their industry connections. This also allows designers to showcase their remarkable talent.
Dwell with Dignity helps families who are transitioning out of homelessness. Dwell with Dignity works with local agencies that have a track record in helping families struggling with poverty. The organizations Dwell with Dignity works with have accountability based programs that address areas like housing, education, career, finance, and life skills. These Dwell with Dignity approved organizations nominate families for the project. The selected families have demonstrated a commitment to becoming self-sufficient.
Dwell with Dignity’s 22nd project, and their first outside of Dallas, was for Rocio Almanzar and her three little girls in Little Havana, Miami. Rocio had spent nearly seven years in homeless shelters and rehabilitation programs and had no idea how to decorate her new apartment. With the help of Miami businesswoman and owner of the Design District’s NIBA Rug collection, Beth Arrowood, and interior designer of Atmosphere Creations, Charlotte Dunagan, Rocio now has a home that has made her proud and grateful.
When Arrowood and Dunagan heard about Dwell with Dignity at a conference for interior designers, they immediately contacted Robinson to get involved and the collaboration began. Arrowood and Dunagan decorated Rocio’s apartment with donations from local businesses as well as personal items. These included tables, upholstered furniture and specially commissioned paintings of Rocio’s twin girls. Rocio’s apartment has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a family room, dining area and kitchen. It is fully furnished and now has a television, a luxury Rocio’s daughters, 18 months old twins and a 4 month old at the time, didn’t have before.
Rocio says she feels extremely grateful for the “angels” at Dwell with Dignity. “This means security for my children and a brighter future… I hope that they can learn from my experiences, and my dreams for them are to be a million times better than me.”
Designer Dunagan believes that design is very personal and is also about creating a sense of safety, “It’s where you come home after your day and unwind.” Arrowood said that she wanted to create a sense of family in the design industry. “This is about making a difference in people’s lives and changing the community of Miami, while making a difference within the design community itself.” Arrowood and Dunagan hope to start their own Miami-Dade County chapter of Dwell with Dignity.
Continuously looking to spread their protective wings outside of Dallas, Dwell with Dignity’s next project will be in Atlanta as they team up with the design experts at Nandina Home & Design. Giving back to the local community is an important part of the Nandina philosophy. When they heard about the Foundation they jumped at the opportunity to sponsor and design a project in their local area. The team at Nandina are looking forward to creating a beautiful space that can inspire and promote well being for its inhabitants.
For more information about the Foundation you can visit their website: http://www.dwellwithdignity.org/