Many believe society has a long way to go in removing the stigma attached to mental health, but Dwell with Dignity is doing its part to speed up the process. With a strong focus on wellness, this nonprofit agency’s mission is to help families escape poverty and homelessness through design, providing them with interiors in which they can thrive and be proud.
“What better way to promote well-being than to give them that self-esteem with a home for their family?” said Andrea Waldrop, RID, IIDA, vice president of the Dallas-based waldrop+nichols studio. Waldrop and founding partner and President Reggi Nichols, RID, IIDA, have been donating time, services, and money to Dwell with Dignity for more than four years. “It was a perfect fit because Dwell with Dignity is all about interiors, but it’s also about emotional and psychological well-being,” Waldrop added. “They go hand and hand.”
Dwell with Dignity was founded in 2009 to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and it was able to open a second branch in Atlanta just a couple of years ago. “That’s a testimony to their success and passion for what they do,” Waldrop noted.
waldrop+nichols became involved with Dwell with Dignity because it found its purpose to be in line with the firm’s culture. “Basic needs are food, clothing, and shelter,” Nichols said. “And everyone deserves that. Sometimes we as people who are more fortunate lose sight of that. I think just being able to give somebody those basic needs is important to us.”
Waldrop added, “In the hospitality industry, the budgets that we work with, you tend to forget the value of something. So when you’re working with people in need and a nonprofit that doesn’t have an unlimited budget, it’s a reminder of the things that we do take for granted and how lucky we all are to have what we do.”
The two have participated in the agency’s evening workshops at its warehouse, where they’ve painted furniture and created artwork, among other things, to help prepare product for installation and reveal to the family to be placed in the home. This year, Waldrop and Nichols took their efforts a step further by designing a vignette for Thrift Studio, Dwell with Dignity’s annual fundraising event.
Thrift Studio brings together approximately seven designers from the area to each design a room filled with highly discounted and donated product. After an opening VIP party, Thrift Studio turns the space into a pop-up shop for 30 days to the public, with the furnishings available for purchase. The Dallas location’s Thrift Studio event took place in May, while the Atlanta branch will celebrate its first later this month. Opening night is Sept. 28, and the shop will run from Sept. 29 to Oct. 20 on Mondays and Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm.
“We approached it like a retail store,” Nichols said. “We wanted to stock [our vignette] with as many things as possible, which is of course far different from how we might approach designing a home. We went over the top—lots of layers.” Customers could buy accessories, pillows, books, trays, frames, and bigger pieces as well.
The overall aesthetic was that of a library study. “We wanted something warm and cozy, and something that would lend itself to being stocked well,” she continued. “But spaces like these can also be the heart of the home, where you feel comfortable, safe, and secure. And we wanted to have underlying tones of what the whole charity is about.”
Thrift Studio provides one-third of the operating revenue for Dwell with Dignity and has brought in $2.1 million over the years. This year, the organization will have completed 22 projects for 20 families and two community partners.
How to Get Involved
Designers can sign up online to participate in a “DIY session” where they can help paint and refinish furniture to be used in a future home installation for Dwell with Dignity. They can also volunteer to prep a space for a “reveal,” where families are introduced to their new homes. This entails hanging artwork and drapes, arranging accessories, or putting sheets and blankets on beds. Dwell with Dignity owner Lisa Robison reminds potential reveal volunteers that understanding the lives of these families can be the biggest challenge. “Interiors need to be easy to care for, resilient, and functional as well as beautiful—don’t use light colors on sofas and bedding that has to be dry cleaned,” she said. “Our families have a very casual lifestyle and creating a space that looks like a showroom or showhouse doesn’t make for the most comfortable environment for our families.”
For those looking to make more of a splash, Robison suggests designing a vignette for Thrift Studio as waldrop+nichols did. While the roster is full for the Atlanta edition later this month, the group can still use volunteers, donations, and of course attendees and shoppers for the opening party and subsequent pop-up shop.
For more information, please visit dwellwithdignity.org/get-involved/volunteer/.