A well-appointed home can be good for your health. That was the goal for the Veterans Project at the new Sugar Hill Development in Midtown Detroit. Featuring 14 units planned specifically for veterans using a concept called “trauma-informed design,” the aim was to create spaces that promote safety, well-being and healing.
Value City Furniture contributed 14 mattresses for the units along with additional discounts and furniture donations. Most of the pieces were chosen with functionality, minimalistic design and durability in mind.
Four key organizations, Interior Designers Coalition for Change (IDCFC), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Michigan Chapter, International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and American Institute of Architects (AIA) Detroit formed an alliance with the furniture retailer. “We had a fabulous partnership that was able to help reduce the cost and we discovered ‘trauma-informed design,’” says Carolyn Dwyer, board president of IDCFC.
Assistance from other organizations included a composite survey taken by Volunteers of America to get feedback from the veterans on wall colors, accents and more. Mobility and bed height were among the other considerations. “Participants wanted a comfortable and peaceful space that was light and bright,” says Dwyer.
“The apartments were designed with people in mind who experienced some type of trauma,” says Doreen Hunter, president, ASID Michigan Chapter. “From a health and wellness aspect, we wanted to fulfill their needs with restful color spectrums and specified materials. We took a lot of things into consideration for them to have a healing environment.”
In addition to feeling safe and protected, they also wanted things that bring them joy. “The designers really met the challenge, working within a budget and with a lot of creativity. They answered the clients’ needs before doing anything extra,” says Hunter. “Everyone met the challenge for us all to come together and create and respect the space.”
Ricky Gonzalez agrees. “The design aligned with their needs and we learned from this process and experience,” says the visual merchandising creative director of Designer Looks only at Value City Furniture. From a media cabinet with a light finish and cutouts for wires to nightstands in a soothing gray at the right height for a glass of water, the ergonomic designs have a calming effect and require less effort from the end user.
Dining chairs with cushioned seats and backs provide added comfort, while nature-inspired art and shades of blue create a peaceful backdrop. Rounded shapes can be found in furniture like ottomans, while macrame wall art offers a tactile touch. Acoustical panels, draperies and bedding help to control sound.
An accent pillow in a mustard color that has since become a trend has a sunny outlook. Soft neutrals also perform well in the new units the veterans are expected to occupy in the near future.
Thoughtful selections like these could potentially help others dealing with trauma adapt their own personal environments for better results. “The takeaway is that we realized in addition to therapy, medication and community support, interior design can be part of the healing process,” says Dwyer.
Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at [email protected].