What a difference design makes!

Centro Hispano is the latest recipient of a Design for a Difference facility makeover from FLOOR360 and dozens of area interior design partners who are normally business rivals.

It’s the rare nonprofit that can call its offices and facilities palatial. Some are even lucky if they can use the words attractive, modern, or functional when describing their workspace.

Like many nonprofits, Madison’s Centro Hispano has long eschewed cosmetic improvements to its offices so it can instead pour its resources into assisting the community it serves. It’s one of the reasons the charity was selected as this year’s Design for a Difference makeover sponsored by FLOOR360 of Madison, which has been providing these makeovers since 2015.

“Centro Hispano was chosen for 2017 based on their incredible programming with a large outreach to the community,” says Bob Tobe, FLOOR360 CEO. “Centro has many programs, services, and volunteers to support the Hispanic community, yet their space did not function to support these services and did not reflect the level of professionalism, caring, and love that is evident in what they provide to the community. Like many charities, the available funds for Centro Hispano are used to provide the human services, and their physical space is neglected.

Centro Hispano's reception plaza before a Design for a Difference makeover …

… and after the makeover.

“Design for a Difference is an opportunity for the design team to use their talents to do a great makeover for a local charity,” adds Tobe.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Centro Hispano since the general call for entries in January for the Design for a Difference project.

After entries were received, a committee consisting of FLOOR360, NBC15, BRAVA Magazine, and Design for a Difference design ambassadors reviewed entries and selected finalists for further consideration. Site visits were scheduled during which discussions with the charity leadership regarding specifics such as structure, function, and needs were considered. Centro Hispano was announced as this year’s winner at the Spring into Design event held at FLOOR360 in March.

Past project winners include the Center For Families Respite Center on Fordem Avenue in 2015 and the Rainbow Project on East Washington Avenue in 2016.

Since March local interior designers have worked with an army of suppliers, installers, painters, and other volunteers to plan and provide the much-needed interior design makeover for Centro Hispano’s 18,000-square-foot facility at 810 West Badger Road that was previously used by a printing company.

Planning and execution of the project occurred in four phases:

  • Planning – April and May

  • Designing – June and July
  • Procuring Elements – July through September
  • Installation – October

The installation, in particular, provided the final flurry of activity on the project. Beginning on Oct. 2, the installation was completed in less than two weeks and the refinished space revealed on Oct. 15.

Nearly 40 local design professionals and business owners — many of them women — comprised the design team for the Centro Hispano makeover, a unique collaboration of professionals in the interior design field who are technically competitors.

“The DFAD design team in Madison has really become a new circle of colleagues and friends,” notes Tara Buedding, owner of The Happy Home Organizer and a Design for a Difference national ambassador. “We have joined forces and collaborated and it is so great to see new friendships formed through this project!”

Each design team member dedicates many hours to being involved in this design process, explains Angela Skalitzky, FLOOR360 vice president of retail and design and a Design for a Difference national ambassador. “These are hardworking professionals who make time to give back and this opportunity is so important to them that many of them choose to contribute year after year. We have design team members who specialize in many areas including kitchen and bath design, commercial interior design, color specialists, etc. With a full range of experts on the design team, each shares their knowledge with the full team to ensure a professional and dramatic makeover.”

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Designers sign up to participate in the Design for a Difference project at the March kick-off when the current year’s recipient is announced.

“We all gather at a preliminary meeting to see pictures of the space and find out the general needs/wants of the organization,” says Cathy Driftmier, owner of Driftmier Design and a Design for a Difference national ambassador. “Designers then break into smaller teams to work on different areas of the space. We usually decide on a color palette as a group, especially for the common areas, but individual staff offices may be tailored to their users.”

According to Buedding, each design team meets with the staff who are using that space to assess their individual needs and wants. “We may ask about color choices, but generally the designers select the aesthetics in conjunction with planning for better function and workflow. We consider all aspects of the space, including clientele, staff, and how they interact with each other in creating a new, functional, and aesthetically pleasing space.”

Buedding and Driftmier both say the accelerated pace of the Design for a Difference project — design, planning, and execution of the project takes place in just six months, whereas a similarly large project normally takes 12 months or more just in design and planning — make for a sight to behold once installation begins.

The charity temporarily moves or suspends its operations to allow for a concentrated two-week period where activity is happening day and night to complete the project in an amazingly short time. It almost has to be seen to be believed!” exclaims Driftmier.

Approximately 50 donors and partner organizations donated time, money, and materials to make the Design for a Difference makeover happen this year, and donated project costs are close to $600,000, notes Tobe.

The results of the project are nothing short of amazing, says Karen Menendez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano.

“When you see 5,000 clients a year, our space and our building are almost as meaningful as our programs,” she says. “A redesign of our space will have tremendous benefits on the effectiveness of our programs and the capacity of our staff. Having a space that is warm and reflective of the quality of our programs will go a long way for our community, as well as our supporters. I’m overjoyed. I hope my words reflect that because it’s absolutely incredible. It’s such a gift.”

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