SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 31, 2012

Local designers race to redesign rooms to benefit the Furniture Bank

BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — MARBLEHEAD — Paula Gaull is used to bringing tired rooms back to life. As a redesigner — someone who uses your own things to redecorate a room — she stages homes for sale and helps other clients rearrange what they have.

Tomorrow night, she’ll be doing it for a good cause. She is one of three North Shore designers taking part in a furniture challenge, presented by the North Shore Association of Realtors, to highlight the work of the Furniture Bank Program run by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

Each team will have one hour to create signature spaces from empty, 13-by-13-foot rooms using furniture that has been donated for use by low-income families or those making the transition from homelessness. The furniture used in the challenge will then be raffled off. The whole thing takes place in the group’s furniture warehouse in Lynn.

In addition to Gaull, who owns New Leaf Redesign of Marblehead, designers will include Danika Herrick of Beverly, who runs the Gorgeous Shiny Things blog, and A.J. Aubrey of the Pure and Simple Home store of Topsfield.

Gaull, who is originally from Marblehead, moved back to town four years ago after a number of years living in and around the North Shore.

She didn’t start her career as a redesigner. She had a 20-year career in marketing, public relations, advertising and real estate. Her last job in the corporate world was with the former software company called Groove Networks of Beverly at a time when Microsoft bought the company.

“I remember sitting in my cubicle there saying, ‘Oh, my God, everything is so gray. My days are completely gray. I need to be in color, I need to be surrounded by color,’” Gaull said.

At the time, she was looking for someone to help her redecorate a room, and she looked into using a redesigner, someone who uses your own stuff to redecorate. She found out there was training for this, and it was as if a light bulb went off in her head. She reconnected with a childhood friend who trained other redesigners in California, a move that led her to quit her job and start her company.

Half her business is staging homes for sale, the other half is going to clients’ homes, “shopping” them, then better arranging what’s inside.

“What is really rewarding and amazing is to see people fall in love with their own stuff again,” Gaull said. “A lot of times when they call me, they are feeling really hopeless. They’ll say things like, ‘I haven’t sat in this room for two years because I hate it, I hate everything about it.’

“In a matter of hours, I can take them from hating that room to loving that room, and that is a really cool feeling,” she said.

“Plus, it’s really cool to have a job that, at the end of it, they hug you, they cry. They are so happy. When people send me checks, they have smiley faces on them. Who does that?”

For the furniture challenge, Gaull had a chance to pick the pieces in advance, including an old bench that she painted and had a friend reupholster. Not giving too much away, Gaull said her room will be “a little bit shabby-chic and a little bit relaxed-elegance,” with colors inspired by the fall.

“There’s some really awesome stuff in there,” Gaull said of the inventory of the Furniture Bank. “Like that bench was broken and unusable, and it cleaned up unbelievably. What is interesting about this event is that we have an hour to put together a room, and we are doing it in front of people. Usually, it takes longer than an hour to put together a room, even for me, and I’m pretty fast. So I think that people will get to see the whole process.”

The event will also raise awareness for the Furniture Bank, which picks up donated furniture and takes it back to its warehouse in Lynn for those in need.

When Gaull is not repurposing or staging rooms, she and her husband, Jamie Gaull, have a band called Plan B, which plays gigs around the North Shore.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

IF YOU GO What: Furniture challenge and reception To benefit: Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless Furniture Bank When: Tomorrow, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Where: Furniture Bank warehouse, 15 Bubier St., Lynn Admission: $20 donation to Furniture Bank. No tickets sold at the door. Register in advance at www.northshorerealtors.com.