Friday, December 16, 2011

Beauty In The Desert - A Note to My Design Community

After reading this tweet from the design community's very own @JamesSwan this week, I decided to tell you about a project that is close to my heart.

At the end of February, this coming year, I will be heading up a monumental task: to build a house in a week … in Mexico. I had the opportunity to help with an Extreme Home Makeover here in Nashville a year or so back and I know pulling that off in a week in America, with corporate sponsors and large contractors, was crazy; to try doing it in Mexico with donated materials and all-volunteer labor is quite, well, mad. Why am I involved, you ask? For many reasons, but I will only give you a couple.

For the past three years I have spent my time volunteering at Rancho De Sus NiƱos, an orphanage just outside of Tecate, Mexico. I say orphanage because that is how it began 20-plus years ago; these days it is actually an orphanage, a daycare, a K-through-college school system, a hospice, and a ministry providing free, clean drinking water to area families and garbage service so their community doesn't have to live in filth. It has grown because Rancho people see a need, fill it, and worry about the funding later. It is a faith-based organization and they are being the hands and feet of God. You don't even have to be religious to see the good they do and the financial and social change they bring to a very impoverished area. The couple that runs Rancho, Jimmy and Genea Horner, left a very successful land development and homebuilding business in Southern California to bring their time, talent and treasure to those in need.

So, February 29th through March 7th we will build a house -- a 2,272-square foot, seven-bedroom, three-bath house, completely furnished, at a cost of $70,000. That is only about $31 per square foot; for reference, the average cost per square foot to build in Nashville is around $110 per square foot, unfurnished. I have included a snapshot of the floor plan so you can see the layout. 

Plan View
Now that we have all the particulars out of the way, this is what I am asking my fellow designers, architects, decorators, craftsmen, anyone in the design community: help me with this project. You can donate funds via Hopepark Church (select "Other" and please mark your contribution “Rancho House in a Week.”) All donations are tax deductible. You can talk to your vendors about donating goods and services -- we need everything from concrete to pillowcases. Or you can lend us a hand, literally -- I would love to see some of you actually come to Mexico with me. Post a comment below, follow the links provided, or message me on Twitter (@Billy_Williams) to let me know how you would like to contribute ... you might even have a way that I’ve not thought of. Even if you are unable to help right now, there may be someone in your world who can. So re-post, tweet, facebook, spread the word by carrier pigeon if you have to … just spread the word.

As a design community we have the daily privilege of bringing beauty, form and function to our clients’ lives. Join me in bringing beauty to the desert ... to people who would never be able to afford our services or benefit from our talents.

Thank you,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Perfect Tree

My Christmas tree is a mess, a hodgepodge of items that neither match nor make good sense color-scheme wise. Wood, glass, plastic, paper … unknown substances hang from its branches with no apparent rhyme or reason. It's PERFECT!

I am not so sure that a Christmas tree should be a reflection of the latest and greatest decorating trend. I am of a mind that it should be a story of life, its branches heavy with thoughts and memories, scattered about like jewels. The hand-blown glass ornaments purchased in Colorado for the first Christmas. Four small hand-painted glass balls from the late 1930s, their colors dulled by time. My mother gave them to me a few years back -- they were hers as a child; they hung on our tree when I was a child. Cheap satin red balls purchased at Big Lots, reminders of lean financial times. Three tiny rocking horses which were originally flower arrangement decorations received when our son was born. I made them into ornaments complete with his birth stats handwritten on each one … in Sharpie, of course. I see a green and red construction paper wreath framing the face of my son when he was in kindergarten; he has a son of his own now. Ornaments from friends and family that have come from all over the world and now reside in my world. And it is all topped off with an angel from Sears, her mauve cardboard dress a bit tattered after 27 years. She was a gift from my great-grandmother who passed away in the ‘90s -- in her 90s.

To me, it's not about what my tree contains, but who. I sit looking at each eclectic treasure and see a loved one captured in a moment in time … that is the true gift. So my 2011 Christmas design advice is, if you want a decorator tree with matching black and silver ribbons and bows, go for it. But also take the time to decorate another tree -- fill it with memories. Look at each piece you hang and remember the moment and the person it represents … soak it in. I bet I can guess which of the two trees will bring you the most joy.

What is your favorite Christmas ornament or memory?