A fresh start: sustainable interior design makeover for a women’s shelter

In this post: We share one of our favorites, sustainable interior designer Alex Shield Design's pro bono interior design project that made a local women's shelter feel more like a home. All images courtesy of Alex Shield Design.

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In the best of circumstances, interior design can be challenging. No project is ever the same and there are so many variables to consider in creating a successful space: budget, client preferences, sustainability, longevity, logistics and so much more. Alex Shield faced the challenge of a lifetime when she began a pro bono interior design project for Old Brewery Mission, a shelter for women experiencing homelessness. 

Old Brewery Mission had recently changed its floor plan, turning one large dormitory space into smaller, semi-private rooms. Now that the structural work was complete, they needed to refresh the interior design but didn’t know quite where to start. An extra challenge that is often faced in non-profit interior design, every dollar spent on the design was a dollar not available to further their mission of helping people in need, so keeping costs down was extremely important.

Not one to back down from a challenge, Alex decided to add one more requirement to this project: to make it as sustainable as possible. She also wanted to make sure that her final design was comfortable, calming, and felt like home to the women staying there.

How this pro bono interior design project came to life

One of the first things that Alex did was work with Old Brewery Mission to understand their objectives and what she had to work with. In addition to being conscious of budget, the shelter also emphasized that they needed the final space to be durable and easy to clean. When it came to existing materials, while Old Brewery Mission had some existing furniture, they weren’t sure it would fit into their new space and thought new furniture may be in order.

Giving the existing furniture a facelift

With her expertise in sustainable interior design, Alex had reuse high on her list of tactics to accomplish a more eco-friendly and a more budget-friendly solution. She examined bunk beds that were slated for the landfill and felt certain that with a fresh coat of paint, they could become a central part of the final design. In the end, Alex was able to have the beds sandblasted and repainted which ultimately saved thousands of dollars for Old Brewery Mission and reduced the project's environmental footprint.

A practical, durable, and beautiful floor covering

The next consideration was floor covering. When it comes to rugs, there is a wide range of how durable, sustainable, and healthy available options are. After a good amount of searching, Alex found a solution that checked all the important boxes. 

Because the rug was made up of individual tiles that could be easily removed and cleaned, it was the perfect durable solution for a high-traffic space. In addition, the manufacturer had a keen focus on sustainability. Each rug was made of 85% recycled materials and — even better — can be sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled at the end of its usable life. The manufacturing process also keeps sustainability in mind, utilizing 100% renewable electricity in the manufacturing process. The final product is also Green Label Plus certified which means it has lower emissions and is better for the air quality of the space it is in.

Color inspiration

Color can have a huge impact on the way a space feels and Alex knew she wanted to stay away from anything that made the rooms feel institutional. She chose mint green as a lead color, knowing that it is associated with tranquillity, good health, and good luck, and helped give the space a fresh feeling. Alex added pink as an accent color to bring contrast to the room and provide a feminine touch.

The final touches for Alex's pro bono interior design project

When it comes to making a space feel like a home, the details are important. Alex knew that adding some living elements to this space would have a positive impact on the well-being of the women living at Old Brewery Mission. To this end, Alex added a living wall to the final design and added plants throughout.

The result

The pictures speak for themselves, Alex truly succeeded in creating a space that is a beautiful respite that anyone would be excited to call home and it’s been well-received by Old Brewery Mission.

“Everyone who comes through can’t believe that it is the same space.  It is now a calming, joyful and dignified space for our ladies and for the staff that accompany them…What she has done has turned a somber shelter dormitory into the most adorable rooms that offer every level of comfort.”  

— Chantal Rollin,  Codirector of Operations, Women’s Services for the Old Brewery Mission

In the culmination of her pro bono interior design project with the Old Brewery Mission, Alex Shield has not only transformed the physical aspects but also breathed new life and dignity into this important space. By intertwining sustainability and resourcefulness, Alex's design is a testament to the power of design to transform every day life and bring comfort and tranquility where they are needed most.

Other examples of sustainable interior design

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