Design team completes job for ‘amazing family’

Published: Tuesday, March 3, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Beth Spencer declared her new family room “breathtaking” while her husband, Brian, said that he would have to take his shoes off to walk on the new tan rug.

The Spencers explored their made-over north Guilford home last week with their two older children, four foster and adopted children and several grandchildren.

The family room redecoration, which included repainted walls in a blue-and-tan scheme, a new sectional sofa and custom-built cabinets with cubbies for the children, came courtesy of DesignWish, a group of five designers from the Shoreline who organized the free makeover. They chose the Spencers, who have taken four special-needs children into their home since 2002, from about 20 nominated families.

“These kids are the ones that need the love (and) they’re the ones that get overlooked,” DesignWish member Kristen Wall said. “They’re really an amazing family.”

A group of more than 50 designers, contractors, carpenters, painters and many others donated their time last week to make over the Spencers’ 750-square-foot family room. It was the second year in a row that DesignWish has chosen a local family for the project.

The Spencers’ adult daughter, Rebecca Hastings, nominated them for the room redesign. Wall said the DesignWish team read the application and each member individually chose the Spencers.

The team then surprised the family on Christmas Eve with the news, and later met with them to discuss their wants and needs for the room. As a large family that holds Bible study groups at home, there was a need for more seating, Wall said.

“The main goal in the room was just to make it more serene, less cluttered and more pulled together,” said Wall, who owns Wall to Wall Home Concepts.

Beth and Brian Spencer both said they were amazed at the result, an inviting room with a beach theme that incorporated new and family heirloom furniture.

“I love it — everything is just perfect,” Beth Spencer said. “It’s just soothing. It’s exactly what we wanted.”

The DesignWish project started in 2007 when Lisa Leonardi, owner of The Room Doctor, approached Wall and Patty MacNeil, an interior decorator who owns Linden Shores Interiors in Branford. Last year, the group transformed a room in a Madison home during a one-day makeover.

This time, the effort was larger and more involved, Wall said. Designers and organizers Robin Reed and Julie Cousins joined the DesignWish team and after Guilford business owner Margaret Tehan donated a Web site design, the group was able to solicit nominations and donations online.

“We hope to make it bigger and bigger every year,” Wall said.

The goal is to choose a worthy family who would benefit from a redesigned room in their home. In addition to redoing the family room, the DesignWish team also scoured the Spencers’ kitchen and reorganized another room, adding desks that had been in the family room.

Beth Spencer called the work “a blessing.” Her six children — Rebecca, 29, Christian, 15, Andrew, 6, Jason, 5, Aimee, 3, and an 18-month-old foster daughter — filled the space as they looked over all the changes.

Spencer said she and her husband adopted Andrew, who has neurological impairments, in 2002 after hearing about him from a friend who is an occupational therapist. Their three youngest children followed soon after that.

“It’s just amazing to me how much God has done — it is God’s hand that we have these children,” she said.

The DesignWish members said that many people responded to their request for volunteers and donations.

“I think it’s a feel-good project that everyone has wanted to have a part in,” Leonardi said. “I think their story is one that’s very heartwarming and everyone wants to give back in some small way.”

The value of the donated services amounted to several thousand dollars, Wall said.

“In this economy, c’mon, that’s just so amazing,” she said. “Our hearts are so full from everyone’s response to this.”

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