Designs for Dignity Remodels Boys Hope/Girls Hope Homes

Like a garden in bloom, or a soaring sonata, a well-designed home can lift your spirits.

Just ask Glory-Lieb Tetuh, a Girls Hope scholar who lives in an Evanston home that was recently redecorated through Design for Dignity’s Heart Homes Initiative.

“Designs for Dignity has filled our home with light—literally. The house has been brighter and there is more light now than before,” says Tetuh. “The house suddenly feels airy and clean. It makes me happy.”

Boys Hope/Girls Hope owns and operates three residences in Evanston that house about eight scholars each. The girls are on scholarship at Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, while the boys are at Loyola Academy. All are from at-risk homes in neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago, where they were living at poverty level, and all are on academic scholarships.

The girls’ home, purchased in 1996, is over 100 years old. Inside, the furnishings had been generously donated, but had fallen into disrepair. Stuffing was coming out of the couch. A table was held together with tape.

“If I lived in a house where the stuffing was coming out of the furniture; how do I feel about myself?” asks Wilmette-based interior designer Diane Falanga, whose Heart Homes Initiative undertook the redesign under the auspices of Designs for Dignity. “Now, the kids can say, `I can have nice things.’ They aren’t simply living with someone else’s castoffs.”

Falanga says that the project posed unique challenges. When she needed to create room for four girls to study along a narrow section of wall, she was stymied. Then one day, she was at a client’s house and realized that a table they wanted to donate could be cut down the middle, and bolted to the wall to create a long, narrow computer desk.

“The key is to see a piece in a new light,” Falanga says. “And all my clients who donated pieces loved it,” she says. “They get to purge items that no longer work for them, while keeping that item in the lifestream.”

The kids agree.

Boys Hope scholar Javan Kyler says, “When I walk into the room and see the furniture, it inspires me to work hard so that I can have nice things like this some day.”

Tour the newly redesigned Boys Hope/Girls Hope homes from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun., April 10. Wine and appetizers will be provided, courtesy of Catch-35 Restaurant. The Girls Hope home is located at 1127 Hinman, the Boys Hope homes are located at 823 and 827 Gaffield Place, both in Evanston.