As the coronavirus pandemic raged in early spring, Next Wave designers Virginia Toledo and Jessica Geller of Toledo Geller, like many of us, were left feeling helpless. And, with many of their design projects put on hold as shutdowns and travel bans were enacted, the duo found themselves with some extra time on their hands. So, they decided to put their talents to good use. "We were seeing all these first responders, and we wanted to do something to help," says Toledo. "And we thought, well, the only thing we're really good at is design. So how can we use that to give back?"
To start, Geller and Toledo took to a familiar platform: Instagram. On March 30, they posted a call for first responders deserving a home makeover. Within days the duo was flooded not only with suggestions for deserving recipients, but with other design teams and home retailers who wanted to help in some way. Ultimately, what the duo envisioned as one modest makeover became three projects-one by them and one each by fellow New Jersey design firms Decorated Interiors and JBT Designs-with over $10,000 worth of furniture donated by designer favorite source Ballard Designs, Stark providing rugs, and a slew of other vendors chipping in on furniture, fabric, and more.
"We realized very quickly that we weren't the only ones feeling like there was something to be done," says Geller.
While the team had originally planned to work with items from their inventory, the brand sponsorships allowed them (and the other two design teams) to spec some new furniture specifically for the spaces.
After selecting three recipients, the designers worked with them over the course of the summer to envision their dream spaces and what they needed from them-then oversaw installation this fall.
See the three projects below!
Toledo Geller's own client was an ER doctor who had recently moved into a new apartment and-thanks to a demanding work schedule-hadn't really gotten around to decorating it. "It was almost a blank slate," says Junior Designer Janine Colicchio, who worked closely with the client on the project, outfitting her bedroom.
As they do with all clients, Toledo Geller began by sending a style assessment plan to determine the client's likes and dislikes, which laid the foundation for the design. These answers led the team to opt for a peaceful, neutral space.
First, they painted the room in Benjamin Moore's Iceberg, a cool white, then incorporated a bleached white headboard and added texture with a gray dresser and woven accent chair from Ballard.
The result was a bedroom that isn't only fully furnished (finally!) but fully reflects its resident. "In our industry we take this for granted, so when you're able to turn that around it's really incredible," says Toledo. "She was so emotional, just that she had this space and that it was done for her."
"We wanted to create a space where she could just kick back, relax, and unwind after a long day," says Campbell Minister, founder of Decorated Interiors of the New York City living room she redesigned for an ER nurse.
The anchor of the room is a Ballard sectional covered in a Sunbrella Indigo fabric for a design that is both chic and super durable. "We wanted this to last for the family over time," explains the designer. Along the same lines, she also added a fabric protector to the neutral Stark carpet.
An ottoman provides useful storage space for the family, while a swivel chair covered in donated Stout fabric adds a bit of texture. For the final touch, Minister enlisted GCB Palmer to create a custom art piece that ties together the colors in the room.
"We are so honored to be a part of this and feel lucky we have people like this on the ground helping us get through this crisis," says the designer.
For the bedroom of a pediatric ICU doctor and mother of two, JBT Designs principal Jamie Toporovsky created a "peaceful and uplifting bedroom to offer a respite from her stressful workday."
In addition, the designer was tasked with incorporating a work-from-home space that felt more like a home and less like a cold office.
To achieve this, Toporovsky paired a Lulu and Georgia upholstered bed with campaign-style nightstands from Ballard that provide ample storage. A colorful Lulu and Georgia rug lightens up the space, as does the white Ballard desk—which also provides ample storage. A standing mirror and glass table lamps from Ballard finish off the space, which is now a favorite room for the doctor and her family.
"This was a way to show our utmost appreciation for her going above and beyond her call of duty," says Toporovsky of the project.