This year at Bella Domicile we were excited to partner with Design for a Difference Madison for the fourth year in a row. Design for a Difference was founded by the International Design Guild as the first ever community-driven design movement that brings together local designers and businesses to makeover much needed spaces for local charities. Local nonprofit businesses are nominated and brought before Madison’s DFAD selection committee. This committee considers and assesses the needs and resources of all the nominated non-profits and selects one to receive this monumental makeover. Bella Domicile partners with Floor 360, the head of the Madison chapter, to tackle these projects.
This year’s recipient was the East Madison Community Center. The EMCC was founded in 1966 out of the need to provide activities for both youth and adults. While the original meeting space started in two small apartments on Madison’s East side, the EMCC has expanded over the past 50 years to a large 12,800 square foot multi-service center, incorporating everything from social and cultural programming, to a food pantry and clothing for job interviews. With its various services, EMCC assists over 4,400 individuals each year.
The existing spaces were very sterile and industrial. Painted cinderblocks everywhere, worn, mis-matched carpet, and uncomfortable broken seating. Years of use had caused wear and tear on everything in the building, and the donated furniture needed to be updated. As a non-profit with a limited budget, updating furniture isn’t a priority when the community has the very real need for a well-stocked food pantry.
This year, Bella Domicile worked on transforming the facility’s library space. After talking with the staff at EMCC, we learned that their needs included surfaces for kids to do homework, new books to replace outdated ones (such as old encyclopedias!), and a variety of “soft”, whimsical spaces where kids could curl up and read. This year, for the library, we partnered with Cabinet Masters, The Madison Reading Project, Lerdahl Business Interiors, Iconica, and local artists, Art of Christy and Hireath Art. We collaborated on the design of our space throughout the entire 6 month make-over process.
For two weeks our team worked on and off site to completely transform the library space. The Madison Reading Project weeded through the existing bookshelves and brought in new, donated new books. Cabinet Master’s built most of the new items in the room, including new tables, bookshelves, and two stages. Lerdahl’s donated multiple kinds of seating for our space, and Iconica donated carpet squares for the stages. The artists on our team donated their time and materials to creating imaginative, adorable murals to camouflage the cider blocks. They thoughtfully incorporated children from the center reading in the clouds, and whimsical animals that played up our tree house theme.
As for us here at Bella Domicile, we focused on transforming the unorganized, unused, storage closet into a cozy, reading nook “treehouse”, complete with two hammock pods to sit and swing in! We provided wall mounted bookshelves and donated beanbags to help make the space feel homier. Several of our team members participated in the physical labor of painting, organizing, and moving furniture in and out of the space, as needed. Our clients were even able to get involved when we held a stuffed animal/book drive in our entryway!
In the end, the total project was valued at over $600,000, thanks to the efforts of 44 local interior designers and the contributions of over 250 local businesses. Although we get to design and plan for 6 months, the make-over was completed in secrecy over a two-week period, as EMCC’s employees and community members briefly relocated in order for the transformation to happen. On October 14th, the day of the big reveal, community members and staff eagerly flooded into the space with smiles on their faces. We’re so grateful to be part of such a powerful organization. Design for a Difference projects are truly life changing for the givers as well as those on the receiving end. This is one of our favorite, most anticipated movements to participate in each and every year. Cheers to many more!
For more information about the East Madison Community Center visit eastmadisoncc.org or call (608) 249-0861.
For more information about the Design for a Difference movement visit designforadifference.com.