Mark Ashby Design Partners with SAFE Alliance to Create Uplifting Living Quarters
The renowned design firm recently renovated shelters to aid survivors in their healing
By Meher Qazilbash
Photos by Clay Grier
Mark Ashby Design, one of Austin’s premier design firms, recently reimagined 530 square feet of the public spaces of SAFE Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sheltering and supporting survivors of violence, sex trafficking and domestic abuse. The collaboration resulted in a cheerful and relaxing environment for residents.
The process to beautify the communal living quarters began in 2020. Throughout the pandemic, Mark Ashby Design raised money for this project by incentivizing their clients via interior design discounts, donating proceeds from design projects, volunteering to design events for corporate donations and fundraising with a public GoFundMe campaign. Corporate sponsors played an instrumental role in putting the space together as well, with McCoy Rockford supplying about 90% of the furniture for the project.
The intention behind the renovation was to produce the feeling of a fresh start in the survivors’ lives and encourage more positive change. With the education from SAFE Alliance’s staff, designers were well informed about how the space would be used and how to ensure comfort.
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“In the end we wanted it to feel joyful and have a lightness to it,” shares Christina Simon, Senior Designer at Mark Ashby Design. “That’s how we came about with the fabrics and different colors we selected.”
The arrangement of the rooms encourages social interaction and creating memories in a warm environment. Simon and design partners Callie DeLuca, Ashleigh Malen and Annie Bacon utilized calming colors, such as blues and earthy greens. The rooms are flexible in their use with kids’ playtime spaces and abundant seating for family dinners, one-on-one time and group conversations.
Functionality is also largely emphasized, benefitting both the staff at SAFE Alliance and the shelter’s inhabitants. The team picked matching furniture sets and durable fabrics to withstand everyday wear and tear. Changes as simple as these help to simplify issues of replacement or restoration, making the space overall easier to manage.
“We wanted to bring in a cohesive look and feel,” says Simon. “The project was also to honor the staff that dedicate all of their time there and work so hard. We wanted to give them something to be proud of too and make their lives easier.”
Constructing these new living quarters is a huge victory for the mental health of the survivors. An orderly, safe and visually pleasing environment like this can help uplift them in the midst of their recovery process. Along with beauty’s ability to positively affect the mind, the renovation reminds survivors that there is a community behind them.
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“Survivors can know that there’s a whole world that sees the possibilities for change in their lives,” shares Simon. “People care. People want them to have beautiful things and to feel inspired to make their lives better. There’s a component of that [in the renovation], just knowing that there’s a support group of humans that want you to be okay.”
SAFE is a Central Texas nonprofit committed to providing safety, stability and healing to anyone who has experienced violence and abuse. Learn more at safeaustin.org.