A Designer Challenge With A Purpose

It’s a concept that would make entertaining television. Take 14 top interior designers from Boston, hand each of them a small studio apartment, give them tight budgets and see what they can do. Better yet, make sure the project is for a good cause: providing housing for homeless men and women who are successfully reentering society.

This is exactly what’s happened at the South End’s Project Place, which moved into a new building at the corner of Washington and East Berkeley streets this week. The six-story facility houses two floors of affordable housing for formerly homeless people who have been improving their lives, have found jobs and are in need of a place to live.

These 14 “efficiency” apartments — studios that include kitchenettes and bathrooms — seem like sophisticated college dorm rooms. Instead of Farrah Fawcett posters and beer bottle collections, however, the interior design motifs are more urbane. That’s because each of these rooms has been designed by well-known Boston designers, many from the South End.

Heather G. Wells Ltd., Dennis Duffy’s Duffy Design Group and Terrat Elms are just some of the interior design companies that donated time, money, labor and goods to furnish and design affordable apartments in Project Place. The design effort, dubbed Adopt-A-Room, besides serving an admirable cause, could serve as a case study in inexpensive design for small spaces.

Each room is different, and each room reflects the tastes and styles of the designers that created them, noted Heather Wells, whose own modern design features soft colors and a “New England flavor.” “If you know the designers, [the rooms] do feel like them,” said Wells, a South End resident. “Going room by room … it’s a lot like how they did their own houses.”

The rooms are small, approximately 250 square feet in area, according to Suzanne Kenney, executive director of Project Place, though some are slightly larger and some are slightly smaller. Each room has a modern kitchenette and a relatively large bathroom. Each of the rooms is furnished with identical beds, dressers and desks, though most of the designers provided additional furniture.

The people who will be living in these newly designed rooms are people who “need a second chance,” explained Wells. The formerly homeless residents will be on their path to reentering society after struggling with unemployment and living in shelters and transitional treatment programs. They’ll be alcohol and drug free and employed, on the path toward fulltime employment. “These are folks who have made a commitment, who have gotten themselves back in the workplace,” said Kenney. (Read More)

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