Three weeks into the first lockdown, interior designer Francesca Rowan-Plowden came up with the brilliant idea of providing room makeovers for frontline workers.
She planned to create sanctuaries for them to relax in at home after tough shifts, by pairing up stylists and designers with nominated NHS staff.
Francesca reached out to test the water, and the response was staggering.
She was inundated with offers from over 300 fellow designers and generous donations from more than 400 brands.
Her initiative, Design Havens For Heroes, signed up ambassadors to spread the word, and a team of volunteers to coordinate the work.
Despite the challenges of the past year, makeovers got underway and two have recently been completed.
Midwife Vanessa Dodds was in desperate need of a new-look living room in her two-bed terraced house in Dagenham, which she shares with her young daughter Ariella.
‘It was a little unloved and the carpet was tired and the wall paint was very dull. We needed more storage, better window privacy, and some light and colour,’ she recalls.
Interior designers Julia Alexander and Fiona Duke came up with an inspirational mood board to show her what could be possible, and worked with her virtually via Zoom to produce a scheme to suit her style and practical requirements.
Wayfair kindly supplied a table and chairs, rug, shelving, lighting and accessories and the walls, ceiling and woodwork were painted in the same soft grey blue shades.
All the work was carried out by tradespeople who were volunteering their time and skills, and Vanessa couldn’t be happier.
‘I needed an oasis and somewhere to relax after the long days. It is such a joyful space to be in now and it has really become our haven,’ she says.
‘Seeing Ariella enjoy the floor is great — it is her favourite place to do the splits and the sofa has become her reading corner, which makes me smile.
‘The work hours are long and the pandemic has put a strain on everyone. I hadn’t even considered how to design my room so was grateful to have such wonderful creative designers to help me. In a time where everyone is facing their own challenges I really appreciated the designers and brands donating products to myself and other NHS workers. Above all, I felt appreciated.’
The pressures of treating Covid patients on the frontline meant that Claire Fraser Taylor, a NHS hospital doctor, had no time to focus on her new home in Tooting.
Design Havens For Heroes stepped in, putting her in touch with designer and stylist Amy Davies Pereira, who created a calming, uncluttered living room scheme.
It’s centred on a forest-green velvet sofa from Snug Sofa, and a painting above it acts as a focal point.
Picking out colour accents from the artwork, Amy choose deep blue velvet curtains from KLS Interiors, plain and patterned cushions, and a palette of toning paint shades.
A scalloped-edged jute rug, rattan bar stools and a soft throw add texture and interest.
‘When I connected with Amy and she asked me where I relax in the house, I got tearful as the place was full of half-started projects needing professionals to complete,’ says Claire.
‘I had no sofa as it had been caught up in Covid delays and nowhere to “zen”, and the thought of having a magical space at the end of this has really been something to hold on to.’
To find out more or to make a donation, go to designhavensforheroes.org.uk.
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