The medical crisis involving a child is the hardest thing a family can face. Parents spend weeks or months away from home as their children receive treatment, separated from the support of other family members. The financial burden of finding housing during that time is daunting. That’s where Ronald McDonald Houses across the country step in, providing a ‘home-away-from-home’.
Born out of a desire to help these amazing families, Project Design began in 2013 with the idea that one’s environment could make a difference during a difficult situation. With many Ronald McDonald Houses getting on in age, it was clear that a revitalization project was needed, and who better to revamp an interior than a group of local talented interior designers?
“That’s where I came in,” says Suzanne Costa, Member, Board of Directors at the Ronald McDonald House Charity of Long Island. “I was asked if I’d like to take on a room in our local house during the first Project Design ever attempted. Once I got started I was hooked! The impact we had on the lives of these children and families just by doing what we do as interior designers was so fulfilling.” She left that experience knowing she wanted to implement the same strategy in Southwest Florida.
While the change in the home is dramatic, and the finished rooms are beautiful, the most impressive part of this project is the generosity and heart of the local design community as members came together to create a home which will nurture and support families physically and mentally as they face a tough battle for the health of their child.
My desire for this space was to create a warm, beautiful entry with a nature-inspired healing aesthetic. As the grand foyer is the first room you see upon entering, it was important to have a fireplace centered to create a focal point and “heart of the home.” The butterfly art was commissioned to represent a nurturing experience of being in the love of the house and leaving better for it.
Large, open spaces with frequent foot traffic can create a challenge, and require thought to accomplish a room with both function and form. Keeping the function in mind during the design process helped me make a commercial space feel like home for these families of seriously ill children. This truly is a home away from home.
Inspired by the feeling of happiness, my objective was to create a clean, bright, and functioning office space with an uplifting effect for the occupants. Using color on a background of white materials, I added wallpaper, laminates, and files to make this office fun. Accents of bright magenta and yellow give the space a vibrant quality. The office was quite small for two people, so I had to be creative with the desk plans, designing one large desk accessible from both sides. This enabled me to have a dramatic and symmetrical view when entering the room.
The Ronald McDonald House is such an excellent organization impacting the lives of so many people and I wanted to contribute my time and efforts to help these families carrying such large burdens.
We designed the Volunteer Office, which is one of the first spaces you see as a visitor or guest. The volunteers greet and register the families, so we wanted it to feel welcoming and vibrant. To accomplish this in the windowless space, we chose bright, happy, and fresh finishes. Since we didn’t have an opportunity to use fabrics in the office, we decided to introduce color and pattern in an unexpected way — on the ceiling. The dominant elements are the beautiful custom aqua-colored cabinets and the hand-painted ceiling tiles.
We continued our color palette of aqua and beiges for artwork including the piece found on the tiled feature which simply says L-O-V-E — the most important commodity at the Ronald McDonald House.
When Dwayne’s twins were born, they needed to stay in the NICU for a week. He personally experienced what it was like to be present for his family 24 hours a day at the hospital. It is exhausting and emotionally draining. The Ronald McDonald House provides a safe haven for families experiencing some of the most difficult times in their lives, and we are honored to be able to assist in providing a visually comfortable environment for each of them.
The dining room is the place where families have an opportunity to refuel physically and emotionally. We were thrilled to create an environment where people can easily connect with each other and other families experiencing similar circumstances. The environment is soothingly simple yet upbeat and positive.
SOHO Kitchens and Design
Our space was on the larger size but needed to feel like a normal kitchen for the families. It now has clean lines with the white upper cabinets paired with the warmth of the wooden cabinets below to make it feel like home.
After creating a design with three kitchens in one space, we needed the team to make this happen. We are so fortunate to know both people and companies that can make the impossible possible and we had help from SOHO Custom, Bremtown Cabinetry, Summit Design, and Harlan Cabinets — all of them took up the challenge. The hutch with the splash of colors was my favorite aspect of the design.
The original oil ‘Splash’ painted and donated by Patti Felix was my inspiration for the space. I felt it represented the reason these families were here, as they are dropped (like a cannonball) into their situations. Using that as the color in the restroom, I wanted the rest of the space to be light and serene and simple.
My favorite part of this small bath is the wall and door finish. O’Guin Decorative Arts let me choose from a few options they were willing to generously donate, and I selected the Satori Japanese Wall plaster. It’s a simple yet sophisticated finish. The door was covered in “Granyte” by Triarch. We loved watching people at the Grand Reveal party wondering just what this fabulous textural looking finish actually was.
Our objective for this space was to create an inviting atmosphere for the families as they are first introduced to the Ronald McDonald House through the intake room. We wanted to create a stress-free environment during a difficult time for these families. The playful decor and calming color palette is intended to set the families at ease and create a relaxing environment as they get to know the staff during their intake session. The room also serves as a “getaway” space for quiet personal time.
We love the marriage of modern furnishings and the whimsical, fairytale inspired floral and butterfly motif. This “mash-up” brings the vision of the Ronald McDonald House together, celebrating fun-loving children’s fantasies with the modern care and amenities the House provides.
What drew me to this cause was the opportunity to create an environment of encouragement and hope for these special families. Each design selection represents the message of optimism for the healing of their seriously ill child. The vibrant wallpaper is a modern take on a rainbow with touches of gold found in the lighting fixtures and cabinet hardware. A colorful pair of high back chairs state the message of the home — Hope & Healing, Love & Faith. The custom art above the built-in work table depicts a child doing a cartwheel, sending a message that their child’s health will soon be restored. The play area with tangerine chair keeps siblings close. A globe-like pendant fixture represents the far-reaching love and hope provided by the Ronald McDonald House.
In this bedroom, vibrant colors sit under a hand-painted canopy. The trompe l’oeil employed in the room creates the feeling of a beach cabana and the colors and artwork choices have a fun coastal feel. Comfortable bedding is complemented by an elegant dresser and matching desk.
The charming elements in this room make it the perfect place for a family to spend quality time together as they surround their child with love and support.
Our goal was to create a light and restful living space for the families staying in our bedroom sanctuary. To bring nature into the room, we created a virtual skylight and incorporated water inspired colorful fabrics for an inviting environment. Our completely renovated bathroom also includes glass tile that sparkles like the twinkle lights in the bedroom sky, hopefully bringing a much-needed smile to the guests.
By creating a built-in wall in place of basic furniture, we were able to incorporate the functionality needed in a bedroom. Dresser storage supports a countertop and desk with shelving on top. We wanted to provide no fuss bedding, so we upholstered the box spring surround and devised a way to separate the bed from the headboard for easy and necessary cleaning.
Having been in and out of children’s hospitals with my own daughter, I know how draining it is when your child is ill. Given my experience and, since the foundation of all my work is based on the notion of “sanctuary”, this project was a natural fit for me.
I believe deeply in the healing power of nature, and I also love a good story so “Where the Wild Things Are” became my design guide. The sea green wallpaper with printed gold tree trunks has a woodland feel. I added gold stars to the ceiling and used natural wood tones for the furniture. A painted chest keeps the design fresh.
My hope is this is a place where monsters are fought and love wins out.
My own baby girl was born five weeks early and spent time in the Health Park Hospital NICU. That period was one of the most emotional and challenging experiences of my life. During that time we met several families in the NICU utilizing this Ronald McDonald House during their child’s stay, so I was thrilled to participate in this project. I hope this bedroom can provide comfort and support to a family giving everything they have emotionally to their child.
I wanted to create a calming space with a soft, soothing color palette and homey feel. The design also needed to be usable for the families, so we provided several storage options through two chests, a desk, and a new closet system. Flexible window coverings completely darken the room for daytime rest.
Our objectives in the space were to emphasize an ultra-relaxed and calm environment, with a homey non-formal feel. We wanted the space to encompass as much natural light as possible. From the soothing cool blues to the soft and airy bedding, we wanted families to come back to a warm and inviting environment and de-stress from the day’s events. The artwork depicts soothing ocean hues and rolling rhythmic waves for a further calming effect.
The idea behind the Ronald McDonald House is such an amazing cause. These families go through so much emotionally that we can only hope to donate enough of our efforts to help. Giving back to our community is such a vital part of the design field, and where giving is concerned too much is never enough.
The design plays off of the different elements of water, represented through the color palette, textiles, fixtures, and artwork. Using cool colors to evoke a sense of calm and well-being, we strived to create a tranquil environment where families can escape from the harshness of reality.
The design emphasizes the use of natural light and is sophisticated while tastefully incorporating fun and whimsical elements throughout. The 3D wave wall made from modular panels and the nautical shell ceiling detail (the nautilus represents a journey of growth and meaning) reinforce the coastal concept of the room
Design West is extremely honored to have participated in such an impactful project. Seeing talented members from the community come together to help children and families in need was a very powerful and fun experience.
Art in Hallway
Painted by Diane Davich-Craig, this piece of art is a giclee of the original which is a 24 x 36 oil painting on panel titled ‘The Great Escape’. While grocery shopping, Davich-Craig came across a box of animal crackers which she took home and used as the inspiration for this work. The concept is both whimsical and relatable, as these animals are escaping their situation and liberating themselves from the box. The broader metaphor applies to our own everyday lives but is especially poignant in a place where people are facing situations that are less than ideal. The animals and colors in the piece keep the tone light and relatable for the children running the halls of the Ronald McDonald House.
With a less-is-more design approach, we knew a minimalistic space would create order and allow flexibility in the boardroom. To accommodate meetings both large and small, a clean-lined light and stackable chair style was selected.
Keeping in mind the nature of the Ronald McDonald House, it was important to provide a functional yet playful atmosphere. We selected primary colors and the playful art of Keith Haring. Bright blue and white window treatments were used to soften the space while adding a much-needed acoustic quality. The conference table has a rich toned sapele-mahogany top. The matte silver table base coordinated beautifully with the Quorom chandelier.
We were thrilled to have this opportunity to do something for our community that would impact the lives of others.
Executive Director Office
The most challenging aspect of my space was its size. The Executive Director’s office is only seven feet wide and fifteen feet long and is a windowless space. To open up the room I visually widened and extended the walls by drawing the eye up with custom cabinets for the far end of the office. I also added mirrors to the doors to create depth and the feeling of space.
My design inspiration was the symbol of the circle, as it represents the unity of family and life. I used this symbol throughout the space. Once completed, my favorite element in the office were the soothing colors, but I also loved the smile and hug I received from Laura Ragain, the hardworking Director of the Ronald McDonald House.
The living room is a place where families can gather together to meet and support one another. Since people at the Ronald McDonald House are facing similar situations, the ability to create a supportive community is important.
With plenty of comfortable seating options, this room is a calming place that facilitates relaxation and conversation. Light streams through windows that open out onto the green space and a painted table is the perfect place for siblings and new friends to draw or play games.
In this multi-purpose room used for work and events throughout the year, the challenge was to make four individual and functioning workspaces while still keeping an open flow throughout the room. This was accomplished by well-designed desks and storage cabinets lifted off the floor along the far wall.
A favorite thing was catching the coastal vibe in an office setting with the use of material. The grey textured cabinets along with the Cambria Stone desktops and wall color archived this look.
We wanted to create an oasis for the weekend manager in our space. The room needed to be user-friendly while still feeling like a private retreat. We incorporated pops of turquoise and orange with coastal accents like the upholstered turquoise and ivory headboard, vinyl grasscloth, neutral colored bedding and a painted sliding barn door covering the closet.
The most challenging aspect was completing the design updates within the construction time frame. From adding the planked ceiling detail to retiling the entire bathroom, we were fortunate to work with some of the most talented installers around.
I had a wonderful experience at a Ronald McDonald House when my daughter was in the children’s hospital, so giving back to the organization through the Fort Myers project was a blessing.
For years, I’ve known of the good work that Ronald McDonald House does for the community and I was thrilled when we were asked to participate. When we came onboard, the lanai certainly didn’t encourage anyone to spend time out there. We wanted to make a covered outdoor area that residents would enjoy spending time in, whether alone or with a loved one.
We knew that the space was small so everything we used would have to provide a large visual payoff. Covering the two end walls in varying sizes of wood slats provided a strong visual and a great surface to attach orchids and staghorn ferns to. The philodendron printed outdoor fabric on the furniture is a favorite element, and we paid tribute to the Golden Arches with two yellow ceramic tables.
House Manager Apartment
Our space was the home of the House Managers, creating a unique challenge. This is their full-time home so rather than full creative license we had a ‘wish list’ from these selfless women who make this their home. After getting to know these two ladies we found that Grandma loves purple, and daughter loves Nascar. They both are into ‘Old Florida’ design with bright colors but also are drawn to mid-century modern.
Seeing the two ladies walk through the house exclaiming “you listened to us” made the challenge of incorporating specific requests totally worthwhile. They were crying happy tears and seemed genuinely thrilled. Seeing their excitement was the greatest reward — these two wonderful women deserve to live in a beautiful space.
Generously and anonymously donated, the outdoor space is the perfect place for families to play or recharge. New landscaping with a small seating area opens up into a private green space at the back of the home. Adjacent to the living room, parents can keep an eye on their children as they are allowed to forget about the stressful situations they are facing as a family.
If you would like to volunteer your time and/or donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida, please contact them at 239.437.0202 or www.rmhcswfl.org.