For 5-year-old Jana Said, the living room is the place to be at the Ronald McDonald House. She likes to watch volunteers cooking meals in the kitchen, families coming and going through the front door, and house manager Lynn Hughes bustling about, keeping things running smoothly.
"She likes to see people. When she is not feeling good, it distracts her," said Rima Tana, Jana's mother.
Thanks to the talents of members of the Interior Design Association of Western New York, the living room has a whole new look for Jana and other children undergoing medical treatment at local hospitals. Jana, her two siblings and their mother are among the more than 600 families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House on West Ferry Street each year, coming from across the country and around the world. This becomes their temporary home away from home while their sick or injured children or premature babies receive treatment and care. Community volunteers, donors and staff members want to create the best possible place for them.
"After long hours in a hospital environment, they can come back to a beautiful, serene house like this – lovely surroundings, emotional support, peaceful respite. A place to recharge their batteries," said Sally S. Vincent, executive director.
In addition to the living room, IDA members over the past two years volunteered their time and talent to redecorate two upstairs bedrooms and work on the football-themed family room.
For a second year, several IDA members also decorated the house for the holidays – trimming Christmas trees, wrapping garlands, setting up vignettes.
"They came in here at Thanksgiving and in 2½ hours had this whole place decorated. It would have taken weeks for any of us to do that," said Vincent, noting that the IDA donated most of the materials for the holiday decorations.
The local Ronald McDonald House, which opened in 1983 and offers 15 bedrooms, a stocked kitchen and laundry facilities, asks each family to contribute $15 per night per room. Throughout the year, it depends on a network of volunteers as well as donations, goods and services from the Western New York community (see www.rmhcwny.org). For these recent redecorating projects, the local IDA stepped up.
"We'll have a gift of money to do a project but with the small staff that we have we're not attuned to decorating, we don't have the time and we need help. We also don't have the contacts in terms of knowing vendors to use," Vincent said.
The decorators were given a budget – it was $10,000 for the living room – and some guidelines.
The existing deep evergreen carpeting was not to be replaced, for example.
"We had to consider the green carpeting on the first floor. The wallpaper (muted eggshell blues and greens with a bit of burnt red) in the main hallway when you first walk in was staying, too," said Michelle Peller White, who runs a local interior design business called Chochkey's.
In addition, fabrics and other materials had to be durable, practical and easy to clean.
With this in mind, they got to work – with the help and donations from more than 20 sponsors in the local design community, most of them strategic partners with the IDA.
Here are some of the highlights (and, yes, readers may find a few ideas for their own homes):
* The living room: While a degree of formality echoes the gracious style of this 1895 Neoclassical Revival-style brick house, no furnishings are too fancy here.
The end tables and lamps are new; the existing loveseat, sofa and chairs were reupholstered in coordinating fabrics in colors such as Ocean Mist and Peacock; another fabric called "Tweet Tweet" features a fun bird motif.
Birds, in fact, are found throughout the living room. One tops an apothecary-style jar filled with glittery ornaments. A pair of ceramic birds peek out from the lower shelf of a side table. Others nestle in the garland on the decorated mantel. In addition, several frogs add whimsy to a lamp base.
The living room walls are painted Benjamin Moore's Sherwood Tan while the ceiling is Imperial Gray, which has a hint of eggshell blue. The woodwork is white, including the original plaster cornices. The window treatments were created using two coordinating fabrics hung from rings on thick rods installed above and off to the sides of the windows.
"It's a bright room. The windows are huge, and we did not want to cover them because the woodwork is beautiful," White said.
In keeping with the serenity of the room, IDA decorators focused on green, ivory and subtle metallics for the Christmas decorations.
"To me, it's more like a home than it is a hotel," White said. "It's a room for people to come in, sit down, curl up and watch TV," White said.
* The bedrooms redecorated by members of the IDA (www.interiordesignwny.com) also feature ceilings painted in a different color from the walls. In one, it's C2's Calliope, a coral-orange. The walls are a neutral color called Nuance. One highlight: The headboard was painted by local muralist Tim Martin in the same pattern as the fabric used for the window treatment and accent pillows.
* The redecorated family room, which is located on the lower level near the Fisher-Price Play Space, boasts a football theme. The room's renovation, funded by former Buffalo Bill Phil Hansen and his wife, Dianna, was already in the works when the decorators stepped in to help.
Decorating highlights here include Buffalo Bills and NFL memorabilia, a turf-green area rug that resembles a playing field, a big screen TV, a game table, a lamp with a base that looks like a football, two additional lamps with clear bases filled with miniature football helmets, cushy brown sofas, a Christmas tree and lots of red decorations, and other special touches.
As one mother staying at the house put it: "We love it here."