Humble Design: Furnishing the Future of Local Families

By: Cara Boyer | May 29, 2014

If you’ve ever seen an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” there’s a 98.9 percent chance that you teared up at some point during the 60 minute episode. The concept of helping less fortunate families through home improvement isn’t just something we’ve seen on television, either—it’s something that’s happening right here in Metro Detroit.

Humble Design, with headquarters at 180 N. Saginaw St., Pontiac, is a non-profit interior design company founded by co-owners Treger Strasberg and Ana Galofre Smith in 2009. The organization takes gently used furniture and home goods donated by Metro Detroiters and then furnishes and designs interiors for mothers and their children coming out of domestic abuse situations or homeless shelters.

Strasberg, who moved to Michigan in 2008, was looking for her calling in the city of Detroit and was searching for something to fuel her creative fire.

“What I found was a world of music, culture, art, food and friends. However, I was always very aware and often reminded by friends of the great divide in this city,” Strasberg said.Treger Strasberg pic

She and Smith met through their husbands, and the two discussed starting a non-profit for needy families. The rest, as they say, was history.

To date, Humble Design has helped furnish the homes of 385 local families.

“We started out by helping one family every six weeks. Now, we are furnishing three to five families a week,” Strasberg said. “We love the one-on-one relationships we have with the clients and the personal touches we are able to design the houses with.”

Since Humble Design is currently experiencing massive growth as a company, Strasberg says she and her crew aim to bump those numbers up to five to ten families a week and still focus their design skills and attention on each.

“Our dream is to furnish every home for families transitioning out of homelessness in Metro Detroit,” Strasberg said. “If we can accomplish this in the neediest city in America, then we can easily transition to other cities that need our help.”

Humble Design partners with local area homeless and abuse shelters, including Grace Center of Hope, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, The Empowerment Plan, Habitat for Humanity, Community Housing Network and many others. Clients are referred for services via a social worker, and families fill out a questionnaire so designers can hit the ground running when it comes to furnishing their home.

“Many of these families are victims of abuse and have left behind all personal items upon escaping and entering an emergency shelter,” Strasberg said. “Most have no beds, books, toys or furniture to call their own.”

Once a family is referred, Humble Design employees meet with the members to assess their needs and to develop a client wish list. Then, employees return to the Humble Design warehouse to tag furniture items for delivery the next morning.

“Our designers and volunteers then move swiftly to assemble the furnishings, toys, accessories and housewares, do any minor cleaning, hang artwork and decorate,” Strasberg said, adding that the end result is something like an extreme makeover on a dime. Each renovation is created on a $500 to $1500 budget per home.

Businesses and families, as well as the local furniture company Gorman’s, all donate furniture to Humble Design. Strasberg said Humble Design is always low on beds, so the organization itself occasionally buys those in bulk. Otherwise, generous community members donate all other furniture items.

Those interested in helping Humble Designs can donate furniture items and money, as well as volunteer their time. The organization holds small events each month to raise funds and collect furniture.

“We also have two large yearly events,” Strasberg said. “One at Neiman Marcus in the winter and a car auction in the summer. This summer, we are having a client reunion picnic (in which) donors can sponsor families who would like to attend at $50 a piece.”

Donations to Humble Design can be made via PayPal and furniture items can be brought to the Pontiac warehouse. If you’ve got an item to donate that is too large to fit in your tiny car, you can get it picked up for a $30 fee. Take a peek at Humble Design’s wish list here and turn someone else’s house into a home.

“Our goal is to service every family who needs our help nationwide, thereby easing the plight of the homeless in this country,” Strasberg said.

For more information on Humble Design, visit the organization’s official website or Facebook page.