Introducing A New Feel Good Makeover For A Very Special Group Of Women (And We Need Your Help!)

Ashley Newman of Bluestocking Interiors here. Long-time reader, sometime commenter, and first-time contributor (squee!). The end of 2021 was something of a perfect storm for me. First, I read Emily’s post seeking volunteers to take Pen + Napkin national and knew I just had to be part of it – there could never be a more “me” volunteer opportunity than giving people beautiful homes. Then, I realized the level of anxiety I lived with wasn’t normal, and I finally got on medication. Between those two things and switching careers to interior design – something I’d been thinking about for probably a decade (I mean, why design endless imaginary rooms when I could design real ones?) – suddenly everything felt possible. In this career switch, I took a leap and started Bluestocking Interiors with the goal of making it possible for everyone to get the help they need to create a home they love.

But, even though I signed up with Pen + Napkin right away in 2021, I couldn’t find local organizations that wanted to partner with us (uh, what?!?!). Finally, one amazing woman introduced me to another amazing woman who introduced me to another… until I was connected with Oxford House, a nonprofit that sets up sober houses for people in recovery. They were opening a new house in my town, called Bellatrix House, which would house eight women… and they didn’t even have mattresses for people who would be moving in that weekend.

I tear up every time I read what these women have to say about the importance of Oxford House in their recovery. 

Sabrina says, “Oxford House has saved my life in so many ways. Without Oxford House, I would not have a safe and stable place to call home.”

Lydia says, “It’s good for me to be around ladies that can keep me accountable. Oxford House helps save lives.”

Laura says, “I have been homeless, jobless, and emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. Oxford has been life-changing – for the first time in many years I have a safe place to recover. Oxford is such a beautiful thing. It has truly given me so much hope.”

When I first met these ladies and told them what Pen + Napkin was going to do for them, they couldn’t believe it – they said, no one had ever done anything like that for them, that people usually judge them and think they aren’t worthy because of their struggles with addiction. I can’t wait for us to band together and change that.

We even got on the local news, so you can see them say some of what this means to them in their own words.

Anyway, Pen + Napkin came to the rescue with an immediate order of mattresses, but now we need to make the rest of the house comfortable and functional. This includes turning an unfinished basement into a livable space!

One of the fun parts of this project is the mix of single and double rooms. The double rooms are for people who are new to sober living – often they have just been released from rehab or prison, and many own only one box of belongings when they move in. So the goal for these rooms is to create a neutral, cozy space that makes these women feel at home right away but gives them plenty of freedom to add their own personality as they settle in.

For the basement, that looks like this:

Surrounding the room with velvet curtains will feel super luxe while actually being a very affordable way to hide the ugly, and the string lights will add a lot of cozy ambient light without hogging too many of the limited plugs.

Adding some closet racks so they can hang their clothes is another thing that is going to make a huge difference for them! 

For the upstairs:

One thing they’ve requested is inspirational word art, so I made sure to include that, especially in these rooms.

Then for the single rooms, we can really show off their personalities.

One woman wanted black and red, glam, crown motifs, and somewhere to do her makeup.

But another one wanted bohemian, with calm blues:

Having a space that really feels customized to each woman is going to make them all feel so much more at home, settled, and like this hard thing they’re doing is that much more achievable.

So, here’s where you all come in. Even though the house is being designed on a tight budget… well, six bedrooms for eight people, plus a downstairs hangout room, it adds up fast. I thought, “That’ll be like $4,000, right?” Spoiler: hahahahahahaha oh how naïve I was. Despite the biggest pieces are all under $200, by the time you do a bed, mattress, bedding, curtains and curtain rods, a dresser or storage piece, a nightstand, a lamp, and just one piece of décor, it comes out to nearly $1,000 per person.

We have some wishlists of specific items on Amazon and Wayfair if you prefer to donate an actual physical item, but campaign donations to cover things that have already been purchased, items for residents whose rooms haven’t been designed yet, or things sourced from other places, are helpful, too. Plus, if any extra funds are raised, they will be used for future Pen + Napkin projects – maybe even some future Oxford Houses!

Amazon Wishlist Link | Wayfair Wishlist Link | Campaign Link

Of course, we’ll come back and show you the final results so you can share in their excitement!

On behalf of the Oxford House ladies and myself, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Live beautifully <3


Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: New Reveal: A Colorful, Happy Home Makeover For An Incredibly Deserving Family

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