By Collin Kelley
Editor
Natalie Saxon’s love of repurposing furniture not only led to the creation of a business, but a personal project to help women in transition.
Saxon created her interior design company, Expressions by Natalie, last year, and found immediate success with clients who needed to spruce up a room, but had a limited budget. Saxon decided she wanted to give back to the community and took on her biggest project to date.
Through The Repurpose Haven Project, Saxon is working with Women of Gilgal, which provides housing for women who are transitioning from homelessness and addiction. Women of Gilgal has two homes in Atlanta with 17 bedrooms for 25 women.
“All the rooms were the same color and full of handed down, mismatched furniture that didn’t fit or function,” Saxon said.
Rather than do all the work herself, Saxon is working with the women to reconfigure, rebuild and repaint the existing furniture in the bedrooms. She’s been going to the residences twice a week since last September.
“I bring paint brushes, rollers and tools to help repurpose the pieces together,” Saxon said. “The women get to take a break from the verbal aspect of treatment and focus on more quiet time and painting. I enjoy working with them.”
Since the bedrooms are small, vertical space is at a premium, so creating storage has been at the top of the list for the women. One project they’ve worked on is getting old trunks from thrifts stops and turning the lids into bulletin boards and the bases into shelving units.
They’ve also worked with old barrels to create tables and surfaces for both inside the homes and out.
Saxon said the project has been an education for her as well. “I’ve learned so much from the women,” she said. “They are so strong to even be there and be honest with themselves.”
She said bringing light and color into the women’s lives, as well as teaching them helpful skills is part of therapeutic process. “My hope is that they will be confident to fix up their own places when they are living independently and realize they don’t have to spend money to have a nice place to live.”
The project with the Women of Gilgal will wrap up this month and Saxon is also planning a benefit concert for The Repurpose Haven Project on Friday, Feb.17, from 7 to 10 p.m., at Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee at 6640 Akers Mill Road. Visit nataliesaxon.com/outreach for more information.
Saxon, who grew up in Atlanta, said her knack for repurposing furniture began when she moved to Seattle a few years back. “I didn’t have any spending money, but it was important for me to me make my space homey and comfortable.”
She said it became a running joke with her friends in Seattle because she was always asking them to stop so she could inspect some discarded piece of furniture left on the side of the road. She also haunted estate and garage sales looking for items to repurpose. The friends who were laughing were soon asking Saxon to help them with a project.
When Saxon moved back to Atlanta in 2010, she started blogging at nataliesaxon.com about her finds and projects, which led to the creation of her business.
While many interior designers like to hand off the construction and painting to others, Saxon said she likes to be hands on. “It’s a more meaningful experience for me,” she said, “and I can apply that to working with those in need like with Women of Gilgal.”