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The Welcome Home Project

I am proud to announce a partnership between Gina Sims Designs and New American Pathways, a wonderful agency that resettles refugees in and around Atlanta, Georgia.  We have been talking about our partnership for months but the timeliness of today’s meeting to finalize our plans seems more than coincidental.

You may not know this, but I worked in refugee resettlement for over 10 years in Nashville and Atlanta. Being a part of welcoming families fleeing unspeakable trauma to a new country and a new hope was one of the great joys of my life. After experiencing tremendous suffering, imagine being told where in the world you will now live (and usually not having a say), not speaking the language, not being able to work in your former career because your language and credentials do not translate, sending your kids off in a bus to a place you know nothing about with kids they don’t know, not knowing how to navigate a city or grocery store, for that matter. These are just the tip of the iceberg for someone starting over. Refugees would love to go home if their lives were not in danger. But they can’t. Now, on top of the tremendous fear of the unknown in a new country and the incredible trauma of what they were fleeing, imagine your new country not wanting you. Well, that’s not us. That cannot be who we are.

I am an action girl. I am a “so, what now?” girl. Well, here’s what. I do not know what the politicians will do but I do know what I will do and what we can do together.  We are going to welcome refugees from several corners of the world with a welcoming place to call home. We will have the opportunity to donate good quality furniture to refugee families when they step off the plane and into their apartment in their new country. You can volunteer to furnish an apartment with your neighborhood or church or book club or you can simply donate a kitchen table and chairs or sofa or any basic need. New American Pathways resettles families year round and they generally have a 1-3 week period from when they are notified a family is arriving, to locate and set up an entire apartment. They have very little money to do this and depend heavily on donations. Getting a family set up for their new life on the right foot is critical to the refugee family’s success. Did you know that more than 90% of refugee families are entirely self-sufficient (and, yes, paying taxes) within 6 months of being here? We were once the stranger and it is our joy to welcome the new stranger.

The refugee population has been very close to my heart for many years and I have been looking for a way to connect my interior design business to my heart’s pulls to help. This is a no brainer for me and I am thrilled for the support of my clients, friends and especially New American Pathways. Going forward, I will be announcing specific needs on Facebook and Instagram, calling on clients and friends to donate furniture they do not need anymore, giving money (I wrote my first check today), and more. If you are a designer, please encourage your clients to donate their unwanted, good quality furniture. If you have furniture, please donate. If you care or if you are conflicted, please pray. There are many ways to get involved. This is one. Please do something.

To arrange a donation pick up, call Jayme Hogan-Yarbro, Resource Coordinator at New American Pathways, at 404.299.6099 ext. 265 or email at j.hogan-yarbro@newamericanpathways.org

If you have questions about refugee resettlement or your donation, please feel free to ask me. Let’s talk.

Please share this or ask your networks to join you in saying, “Welcome Home” to a refugee family. It’s who we are.

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Family Valentines Dinner at Home

I love love. I love spending time with my main man. I love our kids. I love making ordinary moments special. I love making holidays special. What I do not love are overly gooey Valentine’s Day themed price-hiked meals surrounded by couples I don’t know who likely feel the same but feel obligated to participate. The last couple of years, and since the kids are old enough to appreciate it, we have made a new family tradition. We have a “fancy” Valentines Day Brinner (breakfast for dinner). We dress up. We set the table with our best dishes. We light candles. And we make heart shaped breakfast. I mean, what’s not to love here?

Today I am sharing our tradition with you, photographed beautifully by the amazing Cati Teague Photography. First, the table.

We love flowers at our house. We always have fresh flowers in the middle of our kitchen table. When it comes to setting mood, candles are a must. We dim the overhead pendant, light votives around the table and giggle at each other through candlelight. It’s pretty awesome.

The dinner plate is from Anthropologie, charger and napkins (tea towels, actually) were found at HomeGoods and the rest (silver, dishes and vase) are vintage, found at antique stores and flea markets.

Valentines Table Setting

You may remember that arrows are among my favorite things. Since that post, I have received an arrow tote, bracelet and t-shirt from readers. You people are my favorite. I made these arrows and will post a DIY about them in the next few days! Stay tuned…are. they. not. the. cutest?!

Valentines Day Dinner And now for our Valentine’s Day Brinner Menu. It is a crowd pleaser and could not be easier.

We have milk and orange juice in champagne and wine glasses because that’s fancy. Bacon is baked on a sheet pan in the form of a heart and sprinkled with maple syrup and cracked pepper. Toast is cut into heart shapes and spread with fruit preserves. Eggs are usually scrambled but I stepped it up here by simply placing a cookie cutter sprayed with cooking spray on a skillet and cracking an egg into it. Beautiful heart-shaped egg! To top it off we have a side dish of Red Hot applesauce. It is exactly what it sounds like and it is amazing. Pour applesauce from a jar (or make your own, but really now) in a sauce pan, sprinkle a handful of Red Hots to taste, chill or bring to room temperature, and you get a red applesauce with a bit of spice and cinnamon that you will love. My grandma taught me this trick in Idaho decades ago. She was genius.

Valentines Day Dinner BrinnerAnd because you should always have dessert, even with breakfast, French Macarons. French macarons are like edible little trinket boxes. They are beautiful with their candy colors and smooth tops, crunchy outer shell and creamy delicate centers. Oh dear lord, they are my top 5 foods of all time. Buy them fresh from the bakery or frozen from Trader Joe’s or equivalent, but please do end your Valentines Day Brinner with French Macarons.

Arrows and French Macarons

Avoid crowds and cost this year and celebrate love with the little and big ones you love best. Steal our family tradition and please take the time to tell me all about it!

Love,  Gina <3

PHOTO CRED:  Cati Teague Photography

 

 

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Widespread Panic’s VIP Lounge

I had the awesome privilege of designing a VIP lounge for the Widespread Panic concert at the Saint Augustine Amphitheatre in Florida last weekend. Mellow Mushroom sponsored the space and hired me to create a bohemian lounge in line with the restaurant and band’s cool, chill, hippy vibe. Like I shared in my design plan post, bohemian and moroccan design is all about layers and those layers start with rugs. I was super excited to work with the good people at Pacific Rugs to use these amazing antique rugs from Uzbekistan and Russia. They are high on color, texture and pattern and undoubtably made the whole space. You should definitely pick up a few.

We layered pillows, throws, and poofs, hung lanterns from the rafters and created three distinct lounge areas for our VIPs to hang. In the back of the room we draped 60 foot lengths of red fabric through the ceiling of the pavilion and under the canopy, our guests could hang out around sari-covered high top tables near a 10 foot tall mushroom. Naturally. Mellow Mushroom’s CEO generously opened one of their amazing warehouses to me for this project. We borrowed several things including the massive mushrooms and the centerpiece of the room, a lovely white mosaic face of Buddha that we lit from behind, adding a bit of zen mystery as the sun began to set.

Let me give you a tour, friends!

 

Boho view from the back

Boho living

VIP lounge

View to the back of the room

Pouf and Pillow Detail

Lounge area

Click on individual pictures to see the full gallery and more details here:

Thank you to Matt and Tara Strickland (unofficial mayors of St. Augustine), Buddy Finethy (pretty much the official mayor of Mellow Mushroom grooviness) and the rest of the amazing gang at Mellow Mushroom for this great experience. You guys are a blast!

Until next time, jam on, friends!

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I’m with the Band

You guys, I am pretty excited to share with you what is going on this week. Let’s start with pizza, where all good things should start. Mellow Mushroom (as most of the country knows) is an amazing pizza joint born out of the free-wheelin’ hippy culture of the 70’s. They have delicious pies and the creativity of the decor in each of their stores is, well, weird and bizarre in all the right ways.

So here is where I come in. Mellow Mushroom asked me to create a VIP lounge for rock band, Widespread Panic, at their show in Florida this weekend! Widespread Panic, who were born out of the free-wheelin’ hippy culture of the 80’s, is a southern rock jam band with a cult following of mega-fans. Mellow Mushroom wanted the lounge to be consistent with Mellow Mushroom and Widespread Panic’s psychedelic hippy-cool vibe. Clearly a bohemian, moroccan lounge is in order. I mean, duh.

Moroccan design is all about pattern, saturated colors, layers and patina. Colors can be bright or neutral or jewel tones but there are almost always lots of them. Tapestries and rugs and pillows are aplenty and layered one upon the other. You cannot sit all “proper-like” here. You have to lay back and be. What’s not to love? My inspiration photos:

Bohemian Moroccan Inspiration

 

My design plan includes layers of rugs, pillows, wood carvings, tons of hanging lanterns and maybe a nod to the sponsor with a massive mushroom or two. It’s going to be fun!

Moroccan Lounge

 

We are going to have a blast at the beach this weekend, decorating our bohemian lounge and getting our jam on with Widespread Panic!

Follow along with our adventures on Facebook and Instagram by clicking the icons under my mugshot!

 

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