Designs for Dignity
Interior designer Susan Fredman believes that "all human beings deserve to live and work within creative environments." She had been long troubled by excess in the design industry of lovely items rejected or discontinued when she was asked to give design help to a center for abuse victims. So she enlisted vendors to help furnish the 11,000-square-foot facility. "Everything was donated," she recalls. "This was a critical a-ha moment."
Susan, who works full-time at her own design firm, founded Designs for Dignity in 2000. It provides recycled items and pro bono design services to Chicago-area nonprofits serving those who suffer from poverty, violence, addiction, and discrimination. "At nonprofits there is sometimes an idea that you're doing your job better if you're working in ugly surroundings," she chuckles.
Over the past decade, Designs for Dignity has completed 75 projects, transforming spaces through sweat equity, vendor solicitations, and donations. In 2008, more than $205,000 worth of donated goods--flooring, furniture, and accessories--were re-used on project sites.
Susan was one of 30 designers on a project helping people move out of government housing into affordable housing of their own. She collaborated with a single mom, a city bus driver who mused that she was thinking of wainscoting. "This taught me about preconceptions," Susan says. "How did she learn about wainscoting? It was so interesting and rewarding to help enhance her life with details she wanted in her home."