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DESIGN EXCHANGE Revamps Ali Forney Center Emergency Housing

DESIGN EXCHANGE has redesigned and furnished one of The Ali Forney Center’s (AFC) Emergency Housing apartments. AFC Emergency Housing is lodging for youth in crisis and often acts as the first bed these youth have seen since leaving home. 80 percent of AFC residents are homeless because they were kicked out of their homes for being who they are (LGBTQ).

One’s sense of self is challenged through traumatic experiences such as being homeless. The living environment for these youth acts as the foundation for rebuilding their lives. By providing a comfortable, welcoming, and aesthetically pleasing environment, we improve their quality of life, their outlook, and their self esteem; increasing their chances of success.

Designers Sean Carlson Perry and Amy Hill started out by meeting with the Deputy Executive Director of AFC, housing managers, and the staff of the Brooklyn location to determine the needs of the space. The list consisted of additional storage, new living room furniture, furniture layout for watching TV, and new dining room furniture. The goal was to create a space that is visually open, inviting, and comfortable with clear delineation between dining and living spaces.

In order to provide durable pieces with greater longevity, the team opted to start the palette with black and brown leather/vinyl upholstered sofa and chairs. By clustering the furniture off the walls and on the rug around the TV/windows, we created an inviting landing area for residents to relax, socialize and watch TV. We made sure include a new TV and Roku in the budget as TV was an important part of the youth’s wish list. To balance out the cooler darker finishes, warm walnut dining tables, bookshelves, TV credenza, and pull up side tables were brought in. A sprinkling of round marble side tables adds variety to the scheme. New walnut egg crate bookshelves anchor the space and provide clean storage. Pull-up swivel side tables allow residents to work on a laptop, read, write or eat while relaxing on the sofa or lounge chairs. An assortment of lush green plants bring in color, make the space more inviting, and help purify the air; most importantly, plants have been proven to reduce stress levels. A cream/grey chevron pattern rug from FLOR was selected to contrast the furniture in color and style.

A series of round dining tables (instead of square/rectangle) were laid out about the space as they are easier to move around and make the space feel bigger. The molded plastic dining chairs contrast the dark finishes, and are lightweight and durable, making them perfect for this space. Rich velvet aubergine drapes frame the the over-sized windows (the color aubergine stimulates imagination and calms emotions). Matching velvet accent pillows tie in repeat color. White sheers allow for greater light transmission while providing privacy when needed.

Local artist Alexandra Wisniewski donated prints of her hand crafted “Weavings”. Each piece incorporates two unrelated vintage prints/advertising/images which are cut and woven together, creating a cohesive work of art. We love these pieces as they are visually iconic, abstracted/fragmented yet recognizable, and achieve a nice balance of light and dark.

The Design Exchange team couldn’t be more proud of the space. One of the shelter residents, Henry, 20 years old (came to AFC after being kicked out by his family for coming out as gay) says: “Oh my gosh, it looks so awesome! Everything is bright. Before everyone would just go to their room, but now everyone wants to sit on the couch and watch TV together, and are interacting with the staff even more. It was a good change for the house.” Carl Siciliano, Director of the Ali Forney Center, shared his views on how Design Exchange’s generosity has impacted this center, “We want our clients to feel safe, worthy and above all loved. Nothing shows this more than a beautiful place to call home.”

To visit the DESIGN EXCHANGE Website click here

DESIGN EXCHANGE would like to thank the below vendors for pitching in!!!


FLOR’s Carpet For a Cause Program donated the living room rug (“Jump Jive”) and a long runner at the entryway (“Mild Mannered”). Allmodern donated $500 of merchandise (pottery, floor lamp, drapery rods, kitchen stools, throw blankets). Alexandra Wisniewski donated prints of her artwork


Soho Concept provided furniture at wholesale pricing (TV credenza, bookshelves, marble side tables, dining tables, wood side tables, lounge chairs) Mary Marie Knits provided hand-made poufs at a discount New York Artistes hemmed the drapes Lafo

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