In­te­rior de­signer Francesca Rowan Plow­den spear­heads a char­ity in charge of room makeovers

Country Homes & Interiors - - CONTENTS -

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

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