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Designers take design challenge to help the Habitat

By
From page C3 | October 12, 2012 |

You will find this hard to believe. You will wonder how this could be. I did.

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But you can furnish your home, or a room in your home, beautifully, for one-third what it would cost if you bought the same furnishings retail, and, in doing so, help provide housing for others who need it and help the planet.

Get out!

That’s what I said when I learned how Habitat for Humanity ReStores worked. Folks like us donate home furnishings and building materials to ReStores. The stores resell them to other folks at incredibly low prices. Profits go back into the community in the form of decent housing for low-income residents.

Lovely, you say (OK, I said), but who would buy other people’s cast-offs for their homes? I have donated to Habitat ReStores. I have unloaded extra lumber, drywall, trim, paint and other shrapnel and fallout from my remodeling projects. But I never considered shopping in one.

The idea seemed as appealing as eating someone else’s leftovers while wearing hand-me-down clothing in an abandoned car.

Was I wrong. Last week, to celebrate World Habitat Day, three Orlando decorators along with Emmy Award-winning TV personality and former host of “This Old House” and “Renovation Nation” Steve Thomas took on a design challenge.

Using only furniture acquired from local ReStores, they created a showcase room and unveiled it to a disbelieving public.

Somehow, I got invited to help moderate the event. I was dubious about how the room would turn out but, hey, it was all for a good cause, so I played along.

Well, my friends, I ate sawdust. Any homeowner would be proud to have the room – in this case a man’s den — this design team put together. It was classy, warm, harmonious and cheap!

I asked how they did it. The women all talked at once, but here’s what I think happened. They independently shopped six local ReStores. (Habitat operates 780 ReStores throughout the United States, so one is probably near you.) They snapped pictures of items they liked and texted them to one another. If they got the thumbs up, they nabbed the item, a sofa here, a table there, a rug someplace else.

“It was like being on a treasure hunt,” said Luisa Padilla, one member of the design challenge team, “but you had to act fast. The good stuff goes.”

They delivered the furniture to one ReStore in Casselberry, Fla., where they installed it in a three-sided, 12-foot by 12-foot showcase room.

Besides adding celebrity pizzazz, Thomas contributed the No. 1 most-desired skill in a man: “I just did what I was told,” he said.

He and a few handy volunteers assembled a wood floor, put up moldings and did the heavy lifting.

The plan to create a masculine den clicked after Orlando decorator Christina Russell seized on a coppery-brown leather, two-seater movie chair with cup holders. Then Julie Baker, another local designer on the team, found a set of vintage golf clubs and two framed golf prints that coordinated with the sofa. Padilla picked up a dart board for $4, which she knew she could embellish for a focal point.

They pulled the caramel tone from the golf art and sofa for the wall color.

Baker, who owns a furniture store and knows the product lines, estimated that if purchased retail the cost for the room’s furnishings would have exceeded $3,000. The team got everything for less than $1,000.

Priciest items were the sofa ($225), the entertainment center ($300) and the coffee and side tables ($150 combined). As usual, the $200 spent on accessories — the rug, art, silk plants, chess set and golf-props — gave the space its wow!

“This helps the planet, too,” Thomas said. “All this stuff most likely would have wound up in landfills.”

Thomas’s commitment to Habitat kicked in last year when he went to Kenya to build homes for citizens sleeping in tents. “Snakes would literally crawl in their beds for warmth and wildebeests would eat their foods,” he said. “You think I’m making this up.”

The Habitat mission is simple, he added, “to build a world in which everyone has a decent place to live.”  Here are ways you can make that happen and benefit yourself:

  • Donate new or gently used furnishings, including working appliances and building materials, to Habitat ReStores. You get a cleaned out house and a tax deduction. Habitat trucks will pick up large items.
  • Shop the ReStores for great finds and steals. With some patience — you may need to visit several stores more than once — and some imagination, you, too, can score beautiful home furnishings for a third of what they would otherwise cost.
  • Feel good whether you give to or buy from the ReStores. You’ll know proceeds go directly back into your community to provide housing for those who need it. The homes are not handouts. Recipients help build them, then pay back Habitat’s interest-free loans.
  • Volunteer at a ReStore or connect with a local Habitat in your area to help build homes. Invite your church or school group to pitch in.
  • Help the planet. Over the years, ReStores throughout the United States and Canada have diverted an estimated 250 million tons of would-be waste from the landfills, Thomas said.
  • Change lives. “Homes, no matter where they are, change people’s lives,” he said. “How can a family feel safe if they don’t have a door that locks?”

You win. They win. Your house wins. The community wins. The planet wins. Believe me now?

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.

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