The worn-out decor was doing nothing to lift the spirits of the dozens of people whom Miracle House serves each week (asking them to donate no more than $40 a night for a room). Far from home, these visitors desperately need to be comforted. "They call me in tears, not knowing if they're more scared of the cancer treatments or of coming to New York," says Suzanne Keller, the director of client services for Miracle House, which was founded in 1990.
Enter a miracle worker: designer Elaine Griffin, who calls herself a "high-end girl with a huge conscience and a double dose of creativity." She completely renovated two of Miracle House's five three-bedroom apartments, using donated materials and volunteer labor. In a whirlwind of southern charm and persuasion, she got major donations from Baker Furniture ($69,783), Circa Lighting ($10,000), and Bed Bath & Beyond ($6,000). "I've never seen high energy quite so high!" says Keller.
Elaine Griffin was undaunted by challenges that included windowless communal living rooms. You won't recognize the result!
Now guests can watch movies and listen to music on a Philips entertainment system or check e-mail on a new Dell computer. The desk and chairs are from Baker's Milling Road collection.
From worn out and washed out bedrooms to...
Using lively colors and plush furniture to make the spaces feel cheery and relaxing.
Pictured here: Ballard Design's basic headboard with Tommy Hilfiger's Stonewash Denim bedding.
More beautiful and uplifting bedrooms! These cosmetic changes have profound significance. "When patients have a sanctuary," explains Barrie Cassileth, PhD, an expert in complementary therapies and integrative medicines at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, "it helps them get up in the morning."
Pictured here: Chocolate walls complement Tommy Hilfiger's Chino duvet with zebra pillows.
And to help them fall asleep each night, there are plush new Sealy mattresses made up with crisp Tommy Hilfiger bedding, which is most welcoming, especially after a draining day of chemotherapy.
Pictured here: Metallic tiles from Bisazza shine on Hilfiger's British Colonial Batik Damask and Crest bedding.
Replacing what Griffin describes as the "very vanilla" kitchens was essential. Unlike many Manhattan kitchens (which are rarely used), these open kitchens need to be workhorses, since patients often don't have the energy or the financial resources to dine out in restaurants.
With stainless-steel appliances, prefabricated stained-wood cabinets, and sparkling counters in black granite, the kitchens are functional and urbane. "You can't have a cute country kitchen when half of it is in the living room," Griffin says.
Pictured here: Lowe's renovated the kitchens with sleek Whirlpool appliances.
Three weeks after starting the project, Griffin was applying last-minute touches as Alice Strassmaier, a Miracle House guest from Albany, Oregon, toured the renovated space with her husband Tom, whose rare form of cancer resulted from exposure to asbestos as a young man.
Here's what they remembered, and now....
Of the new decor, Alice said approvingly, "It looks like what you see in a magazine!" Tom admired the sleek wall-mounted reading lights and noted that they're a marked improvement from the lighting in his room.
Pictured here: An abstract painting from Reynolds Art & Accent gives the living room a focal point.