Matthew House is a small, inner-city shelter that assists newly arrived refugees from all over the globe, offering them a safe haven and a new beginning. It's truly an amazing place.
As a physical structure, Matthew House is an old, semidetached building that has seen better days. Always at capacity with 12 refugee "residents," it often has more people at mealtimes, including volunteers and former residents who come back to visit and help out. The cramped living and dining rooms are action central, but years of wear and tear and a hodgepodge of worn-out furniture have made the space look drab and dull.
The goal of the small staff: that people who find Matthew House will also find peace and hope and have their dignity restored. So I wanted to make this a warm and welcoming place that looks as special as it is.
I kicked off the makeover by knocking down a wall in the dining room to expand the space. Worn-out flooring was ripped up, recessed and track lighting was installed, a sleek stainless-steel gas fireplace was placed at a height where it could be enjoyed from anywhere in the space, and the walls were painted a warm, creamy shade to lighten and brighten.
When people have come from turmoil and uncertainty, it's important that a space offer a feeling of permanence and stability, so I started with a hard-wearing vinyl floor that looks like beautiful, century-old reclaimed wood — like it has been here forever. Then, around the fireplace, I added a timeless-looking wall of natural stacked stone.
I packed a lot of seating and function into the small living room. At the front of the room, I tucked a brown-velvet, tufted-back settee into the bay window and placed a small, round, dark-wood table by the fireplace. With distressed-leather club chairs, some cute little Louis chairs and two tall bookcases, the area is ideal for reading, homework and quiet conversations. Farther down the narrow room, a super-long, spoon-back sofa sits across from a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall above an antiqued blue console with lots of storage for toys, games and DVDs.
This is no ordinary "family" that gathers at mealtimes. So, with the wall gone, I brought in a fabulous 80-inch round, dark-wood pedestal table and enough wasabi-green leather chairs to comfortably seat 12 to 16 people. A large mirror on the blue accent wall expands the space, and because the residents of Matthew House have a whole new world to get to know, we hung a very practical work of art — a huge, framed map of the city to help give guests the lay of the land.
All the windows received a simple treatment of ivory vinyl shades and ready-made ivory-damask drapery panels that we customized with a band of blue linen. And to punch up the rich, dark colors of the eclectic mix of furnishings, I filled the whole space with pillows, throws, dishes and serving platters splashed with color.
Incredible lighting provided the wow factor — and a touch of elegance. From the spectacular crystal chandelier in the dining room and sconces flanking the television to the smaller chandelier in the front window, the home offers a beacon of hope to light the way.
Matthew House deserved a new beginning. So with lots of inspiration from caring and compassionate people, and an eclectic mix of new decor, we made a warm and welcoming place to call home. Now that's divine!