House of Hope Taking Shape

May 10, 2005
by Stephanie Varry

After the unfortunate teal and salmon paper had been stripped from the walls in one room and the mustard paint eradicated from the library, the extreme makeover at 946 Plumtree Road had begun.  Live plants and a coat of "filtered sunlight" paint gave the library a feng shui vibe.  Leather club chairs and silk draperies in the sitting room offered a Ralph Lauren feel, and hip Asian Faux painting replaced garish children's graffiti on the walls of the basement, transforming it into a soothing yoga room.

Local interior designers and volunteers from the Junior League of Greater Springfield yesterday stretched tight budgets into a metamorphosis.  The house will soon open its doors to cancer patients looking for relaxation groups to help beat anxiety, programs to overcome needle phobias and yoga classes among other services.  The facility will be the second one for the Cancer House of Hope, a Westfield-based non-profit agency.  The new house will open after a ribbon cutting on May 4.

"I just sent someone out to get a live lavender plant.  I read somewhere it can help you forget pain," said interior designer and local Junior League president Tracey Fox of Longmeadow.  She and design partner Felicia Buendo were putting the finishing touches on the library, where patients will research cancer-related topics.

"We didn't want people to be barraged by the computer and the books when they walked in," Fox said.  "We wanted them to feel like they were home."  Commercial designers accustomed to clients with deep pockets, Fox and Buendo worked with the $3,500.00 budget each of the five designers was allocated.  With the help of Conklin Office Furniture, which donated all the furniture for the room, they finished with $2000.00 to spare.

Designers from high-end Botaro-Skolnich Interiors squeezed every last drop from their budget to complete the largest of three counseling rooms on the first floor.  "The wallpaper was definately the biggest challenge.  It's very busy," said designer Clarice Cutler, gesturing to the traditional Williamsburg print on the walls.  Overstuffed denim covered furniture and tasteful artwork filled that room.  Other decorators who were assigned a room were Lynn Doudreau of Westfield, who pulled off the elegant Ralph Lauren room, Donnellan-Strout Interiors and Patricia Niti Martin.

Cancer House of Hope Executive Director Keitheley Wilkinson surveyed each room yesterday.  "I told them warm soothing colors.  Nothing stark, no sharp edges," Wilkinson said yesterday.  The first House  of Hope was founded in 1995 by cancer survivor Gaetana Alliotta, who was searching for alternatives to cancer support services available in hospitals.  The group decided to open a second facility due to demand and to have a structure close to the area's two major cancer treatment centers, which are located at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and Mercy Medical Center in Chicopee.

The agency offers a range of serivices, including those tailored for breast cancer patients and the recently diagnosed.  Junior Leaguers said the undertaking seemed a perfect choice for the group's annual signature project.  "The reason we chose this project was that we all felt that we had been touched by cancer in some way, whether it be a friend or family member," said project chairwoman Sherry Lux of Springfield.  Members have worked hard to shed their ladies-who-lunch image since the group was founded in 1901 and do volunteer work in shelters, schools and other charitable agencies across the region.

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