July 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Smart Solutions

Women's shelter creates haven for rebuilding lives

A reflection room in a local women's shelter that won a national community service award. (Robert DiTommaso)

Anyone who has experienced severe hardship might appreciate the value of a healing environment. When that setting is a direct result of dedicated volunteers and generous donations and discounts, the surroundings become even more meaningful.

Debra Christy, Allied ASID interior designer and owner of Wake Up Your Space in Troy, served as the project coordinator for a Metro Detroit women’s shelter that led to a National ASID Community Service Project award for the Michigan chapter. Two teams worked together: the Michigan chapters of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) and IDCFC (Interior Designers Coalition for Change).

Meetings with Suzanne Coats, the shelter’s CEO, helped them to better understand what the women and children are going through. “When they come to the shelter, they need a place to have a new start,” says Christy. “Safety, of course, was the top priority. They also needed a healing environment.”

Because they had outgrown their original location, a second structure was renovated and expanded to house multiple residential suites and sufficient office space. Communal areas include a kitchen, dining room, play area and lobby.

Color played a major role in the overall plan. “We began by using basic colors that anyone might do in a home,” Christy says. Purple, the symbolic color for domestic violence, set the tone for the staff areas. “It’s a very healing color,” she says.

Green, as seen in nature, and blue for tranquility, became part of a color-coded grid that designates specific areas for the women and for their children.

Everything is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, including the commercial-grade kitchen. “It still has a homey feel,” says Christy, citing that Coats didn’t want the shelter to look like a facility.

The reflection room is especially soothing. “It’s calm and it was designed purely for that purpose,” says Christy. Soft greens and blues envelop the space with a desk area that lets residents do work in peace.

Women and children can spend some quiet time in there, too. “It’s very comfortable with a leather chair and a blanket to curl up and relax,” she says. “It’s meant to bring about a feeling of healing and serenity.”

Residential suites come with fully equipped bathrooms and bunk beds that allow families to share a room. Spacious closets with locks allow the residents to keep their personal belongings in a safe environment.

Designing the entire shelter was a true labor of love. “As volunteers, we worked for two years on this project. It’s pretty commendable what people will do for a good cause. All women have that bond and that bond with their children,” says Christy. “We wanted to give them a peaceful, restful, healing environment, so these women and children can walk forward.”

For information, go to asidmi.org/community-service-project/.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.