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Firm lends talent to Habitat homes

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By Adam Schrader

Designers furnish two houses for new owners

An interior design business in Highland Village has created a way to give back to Denton, where its owner and another staffer have their roots.

Decor to Your Door, an interior design firm and store at the Shops at Highland Village, launched an in-kind gift donation partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Denton County.

To give back to the community that owner Christine Blythe and sales and marketing coordinator Lori Krouskos grew up and lived in for years, Decor to Your Door pledges to furnish at least two Habitat homes a year. They furnished their first two homes in June.

“Habitat was just a natural partner — they provide the house and we provide the furnishings,” Blythe said.

Decor to Your Door obtains the furniture from its clients, from the community and through collection efforts. When a client works with the business, they normally get new furniture through the company. If the client doesn’t move the furniture that’s being replaced into another room, it still has to go somewhere.

“There were clients approaching me and asking what to do with their furniture,” Blythe said. “So I thought why not give it to people that need it?”

Blythe said they are still in the early stages of partnering with Habitat because they just figured out how to get their clients tax write-offs for donated furniture.

“Everyone wins, since donors get their tax write-offs and families get their furniture,” Blythe said.

One Denton home the firm furnished belongs to Jorge Vargas and his siblings, Hector, Juan, Miguel, Anibal and Sonia.

Vargas’ father fled the country and left the family without support. After his father’s abandonment, Jorge began helping his mother financially and his siblings with their schoolwork.

Vargas graduated from high school in 2009 and was granted legal guardianship over his minor siblings in January 2013. Since then, he has worked at Flowers Baking Co. and runs his own lawn care service, Ranger Lawn Care.

Vargas and his family had lived in substandard apartments for more than 15 years, he said, and they boast about never missing a deadline for rent payments. He’s the youngest person Habitat for Humanity of Denton County has ever partnered with.

Krouskos and Blythe prepared for months to furnish the Vargas home. As the dedication day approached, gaps appeared — for instance, the house was still missing beds. Blythe scrounged Facebook and other websites, buying stuff and sourcing items so the four-bedroom home would have all the furniture it needed.

“And that’s kind of how the store works,” Krouskos said. “It’s organized chaos.”

The day of the dedication, Krouskos called Vargas to coordinate when they would be in his home to arrange the furniture.

“He said, ‘Tell me exactly what to expect,’ and asked if Decor to Your Door was just going to hang pictures and move everything round,” Krouskos said.

She told Vargas they were bringing furniture for every room in his new home.

She thought Vargas already knew he would be receiving furniture, so she was moved when he broke down crying on the phone. The 22-year-old had never owned a bed.

“It was really exciting and a completely different feeling from going into a family home in Richardson as Decor to Your Door and putting together this beautiful master plan,” Krouskos said.

Roxayne Strong, family services coordinator for the local Habitat for Humanity, said the organization has 89 houses in Denton County and needs to be careful with furnishing some homes and not others, to avoid showing favoritism.

Strong said the Habitat community is a close one, and many of the families are friends. Families who receive homes are not just involved in the process of building their home; they continue the organization’s mission by volunteering to help build for the next family in need, Strong said.

Since the organization cannot afford to pay to furnish each home, they rely on in-kind donations like those from Decor to Your Door. However, that means that not every Habitat home comes fully furnished.

“We totally rely on donations, sponsorships and partnerships from the local community in Denton County to fulfill our mission to build low-cost, energy-efficient homes for qualified low-income families,” Carolina Vera Poyekar, marketing coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Denton County, said in an email, “and for this we are truly grateful for Northstar Bank and Denton Bible for their continued support. There were 480 volunteers that contributed over 3,800 hours.”

Strong said they don’t want to get in the way of efforts like Decor to Your Door and are looking forward to a long-term relationship.

“They had trucks full of stuff — we were just tickled about it,” Strong said. “We’re really excited to partner with them.”

The partnership was a natural next step for the business, Blythe said, which has grown since she founded the company in November 2012.

After graduating from Texas Tech University with a degree in interior design, Blythe opened a store in Addison, where she said she learned what people in affluent areas want. She wants to give that cosmopolitan look to the area but says she has to be careful with presentation.

Clients in Highland Village and Flower Mound are more rural and family-oriented, she said. They want big looks — but don’t want to pay downtown Dallas prices. For a project, budgets range from $10,000 to well over $100,000 depending on what the client wants, she said.

“When clients find out what we can do, they don’t want to limit themselves, so they say it’s a blank canvas,” she said. “They may say it’s a blank canvas — but we have to keep Grandmother’s antique chest. It’s a blank canvas — but I did just buy this sofa before I knew about you guys, so can we use it?”

The interior designers look at what pieces clients already have that need to be incorporated and what they still need to give a complete look. Having been in the industry for more than 20 years, Blythe said, she can walk into a home and in five minutes know what the owners need, but stays closer to an hour to build rapport with the customer and listen to their needs.

Later, the clients come back to the store, where they can test custom furniture that’s made in Ohio and shipped to a warehouse in Lewisville. Designers place fabric swatches against the all-white furniture so clients can imagine a piece in a certain color. After the presentation, clients buy the master plan that lists all the items they need.

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @Schrader_Adam.