• LOCAL HERO
Interior designer Francesca Rowan Plowden spearheads a charity in charge of room makeovers
One woman’s pledge to create beautiful homes for NHS heroes
I had my light bulb moment about how I could help support NHS workers while sitting in the bath.
It was at the start of lockdown and I was at home in East Sussex. On that particular day, I had watched a nurse talking desperately about the impact of COVID-19 on the patients in her care. She said, ‘Just stay at home. Just please stay at home!’ I wanted to do something meaningful for the people who were working flat out to help us – that’s how Design Havens for Heroes was launched.
I asked contacts if they would donate their time or products to do makeovers for local NHS workers. I tentatively set up an Instagram page and did an initial shout out. Susie Hetherington and Tori Murphy were two of the first designers I contacted. The response was truly overwhelming. On day one, Design Havens for Heroes had 50 followers. On day three, it hit 1,000 followers and I had
300 DMS with offers of help and nominations. I knew we were on to something powerful.
The charity’s aim is to create room makeover ‘havens’ for accredited NHS key workers. Just a way to say a big thank you to these selfless individuals who go to work regardless of the risk. These people need the benefit of rest and calm in their own homes, after dealing with the demands of tackling the pandemic.
I was able to call on friends and influencers in the design world to support the initiative. Nina Campbell really got the ball rolling, as well as Kate Watson-smyth of @mad_about_the_house. They were followed by interior designers who volunteered to design a project – anything from a wall colour scheme to a new pair of curtains. Very quickly a collective of more than 500 high profile home brands joined the ranks. Names such as Sanderson, Neptune, Sofas & Stuff and Edward Bulmer Natural Paint are complemented by curtain makers and decorators – I was thrilled to recruit Greg Penn of @manwithahammer fame and Gabrielle Blackman from DIY SOS.
There’s a sustainable element to all this, too, as many suppliers have surplus stock, products from past seasons, or ex-display items, which can now go to a great cause.
We’ve had more than 1,000 NHS healthcare workers nominated so far. The charity team matches them with a designer in their region. I’ve started catching up with keyworkers via IGTV, too. I chatted to Gigi Cardozo, a London paramedic, about the mental health impact of the work and how important it is to retreat to a home you love after a long shift. Amy Davies Pereira of @littlehouseinlondon has done one of our first makeover designs for a doctor. It has a holistic and nature-loving vibe. We can’t wait for lockdown to end so that we can bring these designs to life. I want this to have a long-lasting legacy and hope to transform staff rooms and wellness rooms in the future. Follow the Instagram account @designhavensforheroes or go to designhavensforheroes.org.uk to learn more about the charity.
Many high-end brands have donated products in support of Francesca’s work, including Edward Bulmer Natural Paint and Sofas & Stuff