Dwell With Dignity: Changing Lives through Interior Design

Story by Mary King-Moore. Photos by Jan Osborn.

What makes a house a home? A lot can contribute to making a house feel like home. Of course it is the people who occupy it, but also the interiors. The right interior design can enhance creativity and inspiration, and certain elements can bring warmth and comfort to a house, helping struggling families thrive. Because our moods and energy levels are heavily influenced by our environments, having a comfortable house to come home to can really affect your quality of life. Lisa Robison realized this was the case for many families who have escaped poverty and homelessness and are on a journey forward in transformation. Robison founded Dwell with Dignity in 2009. With a team of dedicated designers and volunteers, they provide complete home interiors to families in need with the goal of inspiring families to maintain a standard of living in which they can thrive.

We met with Community Projects Designer Kristyn Ampofo who said the clients they serve have evolved over the years. Dwell with Dignity began helping moms and their children, but is now also serving fathers and grandparents who are raising kids. In addition to helping families, Dwell with Dignity has added community projects. They partner with other non profit organizations or under-funded programs and design or makeover areas in need like community centers, teacher breakrooms, and student areas. One of the Dwell with Dignity’s recent community transformations was Lincoln High School. In collaboration with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Dwell with Dignity updated the South Dallas school’s Community Resource Center to utilize the space and provide a number of resources to the school’s nearly 700 students, their parents, and community members.

The families are referred by caseworkers from organizations throughout the Dallas metroplex that are partnered with Dwell with Dignity. Families who have completed a social service program are eligible to be nominated. Once a family is awarded the interior service, they meet with the staff to begin discussing ideas for their home. This year, the nonprofit even expanded to Tarrant County with its partnership with The Net, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit that addresses sex trafficking and exploitation and supports survivors.

“It’s really a magical process, Ampofo said. “The organization is just a happy place. It’s a celebration because the families are being rewarded for doing a great job in some capacity.”

Kristyn began as a volunteer with Dwell with Dignity when she moved to Dallas four years ago after working with a similar organization in Connecticut with the same idea. Speaking as a volunteer, she loved how easy it was to get involved, especially with no drawn-out orientation process.

“You are literally getting hands on training the day you walk in,” says Kristyn. “I love the way that connections are made with other volunteers and the friendships that are happening. We have so many dedicated volunteers who come in every month.” There are many volunteer opportunities from renovating furniture pieces in the warehouse to onsite installations. 

In 2021, Dwell with Dignity completed a total of 24 family home transformations and six community transformations, serving over 3,500 people total – a 2,700 percent growth from the previous year. In 2022, they have continued the same trajectory completing at least two installs per month. A lot of the prep work happens in the 10,000 sqft. warehouse. “It’s where the magic happens,” Kristyn says. “There is a room where we paint and repair and other rooms for artwork.” 

Volunteers typically work on projects during the week and can do a number of different tasks, which is part of the fun. When she was a volunteer, installations were Kristyn’s favorite volunteer opportunity. “I really do enjoy the installations the most, seeing it all come together and seeing the smiles on their faces as these families come home for the first time and see their forever home,” she said.

Dwell with Dignity relies on donations and partnerships to support the project as each residential installation costs approximately $5000 and community projects start around $10,000 depending upon the size of the space. While some items for the homes are purchased, some are donated. Partners like Benjamin Moore donate materials like paint to the organization to help further their cause.

Thrift Studio, the annual fundraiser, is Dwell with Dignity’s biggest event of the year. Sample showroom furniture is donated, and local designers are selected to participate by setting up room vignettes for sale. All of the sale proceeds benefit Dwell with Dignity. It is a highly anticipated event in the design community, and is open to the general public. If you are looking for inspiration and great deals, the Thrift Studio should not be missed. The preview party is August 25, and general admission tickets go on sale July 1. The pop-up store is located at 1215 Slocum and will be open from August 26 to September 24 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturdays.

Families that “dwell with dignity” are continuing to thrive in a safe and functional environment. In 2021, one hundred percent of families remained self-sufficient following their home installation, without the need to return to their prior agency for ongoing services. More than ninety percent of families say they managed their finances better due to their improved living conditions and feel their home has inspired them to make other positive changes in their lives. 

In addition to volunteering and attending fundraising events, another way to help is through Dwell with Dignity’s Amazon wish list. The organization can always use dressers, small tables and chairs. There is a complete list of acceptable items on their website.