In early 2011, interior designer Vanessa de Vargas (Turquoise-LA.com) and design consultant Vanessa Kogevinas (VanessaKogevinas.com) came up with a unique idea for a good deed: to make over a residence at Los Angeles' Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women & Children where women live for up to two years as they move from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Within six months, 30 local designers had transformed one room apiece, working nights and weekends and using donated furnishings to complete the makeovers. "We wanted to inspire these women to move beyond the hardships they've suffered," says de Vargas. Here's a look at some of the character-rich spaces they created, plus some tricks of the trade that could work in your home.
"I wanted this room to be an oasis, a place that gives a sense of calm." - KRISTINE KAMENSTEIN, DESIGNER, JacksonPaige.com.
POP IN COLOR: Use a bright color in a hidden place (say, a bold yellow or hot pink in a closet) for a secret thrill.
"The pinks and greens are feminine and soothing, like an island hotel suite." - DANA NORRIS DOUMANI, DESIGNER, DanaDoumani.com.
USE MULTITASKING PIECES: In a small space, storage is key. Hide it under a skirted table or within a pair of ottomans that function as either stools or a coffee table.
WORK IN PAIRS: "Symmetry is calming, especially in a bedroom," says Doumani. Double up on everything from lamps to wallhangings.
"My goal was a room that's cheerful, warm and sophisticated, one that would encourage the woman who lives here to move forward." - TYPHANIE PETERSON, DESIGNER, TyphaniePeterson.com.
ADD ARCHITECTURE: Moldings (real or painted on) instantly upgrade a featureless space. "They make a room look bigger and grander," says Peterson.
MAKE YOUR OWN ART: Frame wrapping paper, maps or art-book pages as good-looking—and cheap!—alternatives to photography or paintings.
"I was going for an eclectic, comfortable room with a Mediterranean feel." - AMES INGHAM, AmesIngham.com, WHO DESIGNED THIS ROOM WITH OLIVIA WILLIAMS, OliviaWilliamsInteriorDesign.com
CONSULT YOUR CLOSET: No idea what color to paint the walls? Check your wardrobe. "That happy feeling you get wearing your favorite blue sweater? You'll get it when you walk into your blue room," says Ingham.
"I tried to create a fun and rela room, a place that felt happy and safe." - VANESSA DE VARGAS, DESIGNER, Turquoise-LA.com
PLAY WITH PATTERN: Wallpaper can be too much on all four walls of a small room but exciting on just one. Paint the adjoining walls in the wallpaper's background color.
START FROM NEUTRAL: White furniture creates a blank canvas so you can scatter color throughout the room. Doumani and de Vargas both spray-painted mismatched pieces so they would work together.
ABOUT THE SHELTER: Founded in 1984, Los Angeles' Good Shepherd Center serves more than 1,000 homeless women and children each year through mobile outreach, short-term and transitional housing, counseling and job training. To learn more or donate, visit GSCHomeless.org.