Written and Photographed by Kristin Dvorak
It’s clear that the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center has invested its time and money in the people, not the space. While the local nonprofit located in the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood of near east Madison has got good bones, the obvious wear and tear has taken a toll on the over 100-year-old building, which is used for dance classes, weddings, a food pantry, meetings, summer camps—the list goes on.
“Ten thousand visits annually will do that,” says Gary Kallas, Wil-Mar’s executive director. Lucky for Wil-Mar, its staff and community members, this is the year that it gets a makeover.
Design for a Difference (DFAD) is a design-driven movement sponsored locally by FLOOR360 that gifts and interior makeover to one deserving nonprofit organization each year. Angela Skalitzky, project manager for DFAD-Madison noted, “Wil-Mar was a clear choice to receive this year’s makeover because they do so much to serve their community…They deserve a space where they can not just survive, but thrive.”
This particular project is unique compared to other DFAD makeovers for a number of reasons— not only is Wil-Mar getting new cabinetry and paint, but (to the excitement of some of the designers) they’re getting some new walls, too. And unlike other DFAD makeovers, this project has 50 design professionals volunteering their time and talent on the renovation, compared to an average of two to four. While the planning and acquisition of goods and labor takes months, with 50 designers and over 200 volunteers, it’s no wonder the execution of the final transformation will be complete in just two weeks’ time
In order to create a cohesive design, designers relied on color consultant Laurie Lundgren to create the master color palette that will be used throughout the entire building. Lundgren has been a fundamental part of the team from the very start. During the initial branding meeting for Wil-Mar, the team described the “soul” of the nonprofit in three words: funky, hip and welcoming. It’s in these three words and some of the existing artwork at Wil-Mar that Lundgren found the inspiration for her 18-color palette.
Designers split into small groups to tackle a designated room, where they get to play with any number of colors from the master palette., “It’s a great way to keep the spaces unified, yet unique,” Skalitzky says. While the color selection is being kept a secret, one sure thing is that Wil-Mar’s iconic mural is here to stay.
In addition to fresh paint, Wil-Mar had a lengthy list of needs, including an updated space to better accommodate the large community meals they host each week, updated cabinetry for storage needs, new appliances that actually work, new hardwood floors to host the dancing feet of thousands of performers and many more.
According to Gary Kallas, “What the building needs now is love—sweet, total makeover love,” and that’s exactly what it’s getting. When asked who is going to be most excited to use the new space, Kallas answered, “I can confidently say that the excitement will be widely and deeply felt by all,” noting that there won’t be a dry eye in the place upon seeing the reveal.
The private reveal takes place on Saturday, Oct. 12. After that, the Wil-Mar staff get their keys back and it’s business as usual, with doors open to the community once again.