When a woman finally breaks away from her abuser, she's probably tried to leave six times already—especially if the relationship is long-term and involves children. So the scene at Safe Horizon's domestic-violence shelter in New York often includes a frightened woman at the end of her rope. She's coming from a police precinct with crying children and, if she's lucky, a few belongings hurriedly stuffed into garbage bags. The past is scarred by pain and failure, the future uncertain. Unimaginable, even.
"That's why I had to do something with this entry hall. It felt like the walk of shame," says interior designer Elaine Griffin, O at Home's Good Works Makeover dynamo.
During a lightning-fast three weeks on the project—with much of that time spent talking with residents and staff about their routines and needs—she came up with a decorating scheme that's equal parts warmth, comfort, and empowerment. She papered the hallway in red-and-green color blocks and free-form stripes and lined both walls with beautiful black-and-white photographs of local children. (Not shown here.)
Elaine made the foyer welcoming with a Liz Claiborne settee and Butter and Eggs pillows. Liz Claiborne also donated the rug and the étagère. The vases are actually wineglasses from Bed Bath & Beyond, and the abstract paintings hanging against the wallpaper are from Blonder Home Accents.
At the end of the nondescript corridor, an equally nondescript foyer opened onto offices and a common room. This 270-square-foot space had a basic conference table and chairs for weekly support meetings, and one computer perennially occupied with kids doing homework or someone looking for housing, scanning want ads, or e-mailing the friends and family she'd left behind.
Now when residents enter the common room, they're blown away. "An oasis," one resident says, sighing at the sight of the buttery walls and everyone's hands-down favorite, a pale celery-colored love seat by Liz Claiborne. Weekly meetings held here are critical for helping people talk about their lives. "It just takes one woman opening up," says program director Annie Bautista Ortiz. "Then they realize they're not alone."
Elaine Griffin chose Liz Claiborne Home's chairs, love seat, and ottoman, all arranged on an area rug from Home Decorators Collection. Throw pillows come from Butter and Eggs. On either side of the love seat stand Chinese tables from Antiques by Zaar and lamps from Robert Abbey; above it hang nine Oly mirrors. Crate & Barrel provided the tray and vase. The paint is Valspar's American Tradition. Hung in three rows above the love seat, nine round mirrors bring a subtle glamour to the room, while two Chinese antique carved end tables add just a touch of fancy.
Safe Horizon had a simple kitchen for staff use...
Instead of changing the cabinets, Elaine gave the kitchen a whole new look by painting them with three coats of American Tradition paint in Honeymilk. Lowe's did the project's heavy lifting, including the kitchen renovation. Lowe's donated Whirlpool's stainless steel gas range and microwave as well as the countertop and backsplash in LG's Hi-Macs, a durable, nonporous acrylic solid surface installed by Counter-Tech Industries. A Crate & Barrel colander and Bed Bath & Beyond canisters add homey-ness.
The rest of the common room now divides into two sections. Four striped denim lounge chairs surround the rectangular table that constitutes the library, where residents and staff share meals, watch the wall-mounted plasma TV from LG, or use the four computers Elaine corralled from Gateway.
A fashion label that's expanded into home furnishings, Liz Claiborne has also been raising public awareness about domestic violence for the last 14 years. At Safe Horizon, it donated an astounding $47,000 in merchandise—most of the ground floor's furniture and, for each woman, a gift set of bed linens to take away, plus the ultimate job-interview empowerment tool: a head-to-toe outfit of suit, shoes, and handbag, even perfume.
"When you nurture an individual woman, you nurture her entire family and the extended community," says Malaak Compton-Rock, a Safe Horizon board member and the wife of actor Chris Rock. "Elaine's makeover provides such a wonderful refuge, encompassing the spirit of safety along with comfort, tranquility, beauty, and strength."