As the clock approached midnight on December 31, 2019, people were preparing to clink their glasses and wish each other a Happy New Year. Many already had plans and resolutions firmly in mind for 2020, and as they drifted off into a slumber for the first few hours of the new decade, no one could have known what was in store.
Within just two months, the words “quarantine,” “social distancing” and “lockdown” were becoming part of our new reality. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way society functions, and many are convinced that things will never completely go back to the way they were. A new normal has crept across the planet, and the old normal just won’t be normal anymore.
“Adversity introduces a man to himself,” said Albert Einstein. Tough times tend to reveal who people really are, and a crisis often brings out a generous, giving spirit in those who want to help. More than that, some have an irrepressible urge to reach out and do something. That’s exactly what happened to Annette Jaffe.
An Idea Is Born
One day, not long ago, when COVID-19 and its attendant restrictions were already very much a part of daily life, Long Island designer Annette Jaffe was walking her dog through the neighborhood. As she looked at the houses that were usually empty on weekdays, she thought about all the people who were now home, working or studying. It struck her that people’s homes had taken on new roles, were being used differently than ever before and needed to function according to these changes.
As a designer, Annette thought she could help in a way that would benefit both the people behind those doors and windows and others who had fallen on hard times because of the pandemic. What if she could offer design consultations for donations and then give the proceeds to charity to help people in need?
Armed with this nascent thought, Annette contacted two other designers she had worked with in the past: Kim Poulos Lieberz of KGI Design Group and Keith Baltimore of the Baltimore Design Center. She pitched her idea to them. Were they on board? Indeed, they were. The three set to work, tirelessly contacting everyone they could think of — friends, relatives, professional contacts and people in their communities. They found that other designers and sponsors were happy to join the effort, and DesignGivers, Ltd. began to take shape.
How Does It Work?
Officially founded in April 2020, DesignGivers is a not-for-profit organization that offers 30-minute, virtual interior design consultations for a donation — the minimum is $150 — and then turns the donations over to help those facing hunger as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential donors can look online and see a broad range of design work, then they can choose a designer they’d like to speak with. They make their donation and then schedule the video consultation.
It’s a win-win-win, philanthropic/commercial/marketing model. Donors are happy to know they are doing something to help individuals and families affected by the current crisis, and as a bonus, they get professional advice to improve both the aesthetic and functionality of their home/work environment. Designers donate their time and expertise, becoming the conduit to help those in need, and they also meet a lot of potential clients. Best of all, those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic are provided with healthy meals.
Where Do The Donations Go?
DesignGivers currently supports Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Food is acquired from farmers, manufacturers and retailers, then is distributed through shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens and other community efforts and programs. With a nationwide network of over 200 food banks, the non-profit organization provides much-needed food to tens of millions of people each year. Feeding America serves nearly every community in the United States, and 98% of all donations go directly to programs serving people in need.
When it comes to the scope of services offered by participating designers and the suggestions they can provide, the sky is the limit. The video consultation can include advice on creating functional and ergonomic workspaces and school study areas, pantry and closet organization, paint color suggestions, furniture placement, room décor, landscaping and outdoor arrangements, staying within a budget, where to buy things, art consultancy and discussing specific design questions. The donor is in the driver’s seat, as they can select the designer they wish to speak to and then tap into the knowledge and experience of the designer in any way they wish.
Donors are under no obligation whatsoever to buy anything or agree to any services. In fact, solicitation on the part of the designer is a violation of DesignGivers’ terms. Of course, donors are free to contact the designer after the consultation and continue with a normal business relationship. On the organization’s website, donors can select a designer who works in the same area of the country as them. Donors can consult with as many designers as they wish, but there is a limit of one consultation with each designer and one consultation per donation.
DesignGivers offers a few suggestions to get the most from the consultation. Donors should have a tape measure, a pen and paper handy; make sure their phone, tablet or computer are working and connected to the Internet; dress nicely for the session; and ensure they have removed any potential distractions so they can give their full attention to the consultation. Above all, they should give careful thought to what they’d like to discuss, perhaps jotting down a few notes and questions ahead of time. After all, 30 minutes goes by quickly, and a lot of good suggestions can be received if the donor is clear on what they’d like to talk about.
Previous Projects From Annette Jaffe Interiors
Something For Everyone
The slogan of the new organization encapsulates its scope of operation: “From the home front to the front line.” DesignGivers provides a valuable service by giving convenient, virtual consultations to those seeking professional advice about design and decoration. Donors can help those in need and receive a little perk in return. And most importantly, life-saving food is made available to those who need it most. Could this be a new model for charitable giving in the future? Only time will tell.
Annette Jaffe Interiors – Annette Jaffe
Annette Jaffe Interiors – Dana Grossjung
Annette Jaffe Interiors – Dawn Ianno
Annette Jaffe Interiors – Kat Wasserman
Baltimore Design Group – Keith Baltimore
Katharine Jessica Interior Design – Katharine Posillico McGowan
Annie Mandelkern Interiors, LLC – Annie Mandelkern
JNR Designs, Inc. – Jennifer Markowitz
Romanoff Elements – Carol Romanoff
Transitional Interiors, LLC. – Bridgette and Jan Gottlieb
Grunberger Interiors Inc. – Claudia Grunberger
Christina Byers Design – Christina Byers
Stage a Space – Jackie Popper
Beata Buhl Interiors, Inc. – Beata Buhl-Tatka
Jane’s Addiction Organization – Jane Abrahams
Adri + Dahlman Interiors – Oshri Adri & Jillian Bhatia
AMI Design Enterprise, Inc. – Carmela Posillico
Keri Fields Interiors – Keri Fields
Beach Glass Designs – Jackie Higgins
Studio HP Designs – Holly Pesahovsky
Habitech Planning & Design, Inc. – Christine Ambers
Kate Singer Home – Kate Singer
Sharon McCormick Design, LLC – Sharon McCormick
Kim E Courtney Home/Kim Radovich Interiors – Kim Hendrickson-Radovich
Glenn Gissler Design – Glenn Gissler
Mark Cutler Design – Mark Cutler
Jacqueline D. Cutler, Inc. – Jackie Cutler
Robin Henry Studio – Robin Henry
L. Bonime Design – Lindsey Bonime
Transitional Designs – Javier Fernandez
Nicholas Vincent Design – Nicholas Proietti
Lois Rapiel Interiors – Lois Rapiel
Kammi Reiss Design – Kammi Reiss
Lucy Harris Studio – Lucy Harris
Margali and Flynn Designs – Kerith Flynn
Luria Design & Style, Inc. – Amy Luria
Mark Langos Interior Design – Mark Langos
Stacey Lapuk Interiors – Stacey Lapuk
Marlene Interiors and Design – Marlene Friedberg
The Lewis Design Group LLC – Barbara Lewis