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The room was thoughtfully designed to seat up to 12 people.
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A dated kitchen was replaced with a niche where counselors can work comfortably.
The YWCA’s beaux arts building at 6 N. 5th St. has a splendid presence as it glides up the rise of its downtown street. Its purpose has evolved over mulitple decades, varying with the city’s diverse needs. But since the late 1970s, it has served as a safe haven for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Behind its stately façade, today’s YWCA also provides a head start for children's education (much evidenced by the pitter-patter pouncing of the children indoors). The building is now 100 years old and, as ever, is changing with the times.
The YWCA and its chielf executive officer Linda Tissiere recently announced a new and much anticipated renovation, one that will serve their clients better: An uplifting and revitalized group counseling room that opened just last month.
What was once a drab gray-green room riddled with institutional lighting and an impractical kitchen on the second floor, has been redesigned and remodled by Kat Liebschwager of Kat Liebschwager Interiors (KLI) and Mike Liebschwager of Ruth & Ollie.
Furniture and More
Walk into this transformed — and transformative — counseling room and your heart rate will drop. You’ll exhale with serenity. With a well-designed furniture plan, soothing yellow-beige and celadon color scheme, and flexible, moveable small and large furniture groupings, the room is now a place ripe with versality, quietude and function.
Mike and I counted custom seating for twelve. He and Kat cleverly achieved this with two large sofas; three oversized armchairs; two tête-à-tête chairs that can create a small room “divide;” movable end tables and a divinely conspicious, four-piece center pull-apart coffee table by Gabby. There are also decorative down-filled pillows, gentle water landscapes and thoughtfully placed tissue boxes. Oh, and an antelope-patterned rug by Helios Carpet that the staff can’t get enough of.
The room feels soft, beach-like and calm, something much appreciated by the counselors, women, children and families who use the space to work though difficult life experiences.
Design Makes a Difference
“If you have an appointment here with us the first step is often ridden with anxiety," says Carol Anne Lajoie, senior director of development and marketing at the YWCA. "Rooms like this go a long way to promote comfort, caring and sharing. Then the work can begin.”
One of the YWCA’s lead counselors, Shawntee Wynne, explained how the room has made a difference already. “The furniture is easy to move round," she says. “We can change it for on-on-one to group meetings.”
She also points out how the dated kitchen area has been replaced with a fetching white desk nestled into a narrow niche.
“Counselors typically have case loads of 18 to 25," Shawntee says. “Before the room was renovated, our offices were in shoebox-size closets. Now, when the room is not being used we can also take turns using the desk and bring in our computers. It makes a difference. We also have staff meetings there. It’s a treat.”
THe Greater Richmond YWCA provides thousands of hours of free counseling to survivors of domestic and sexual violence every year and that can take a toll. Creating a comfortable space that can be used by the YWCA’s clients, friends, staff and families goes a long way.
Nearly all of the items in the Group Counseling Room were donated, offered at discounts or funded by a special donor to spport the project.
The room is a gift of love and gesture of comfort to others.