Meet the Women Behind Design for a Difference

By Megan Roessler | Photographed by Hillary Schave

Design For A Difference— Madison (DFAD) brings change to deserving nonprofits by enlisting the help of professional designers to make over their spaces—pro bono. Over the last five years, Madison makeovers have included the Respite Center at RISE, the Rainbow Project, Centro Hispano and the East Madison Community Center. Nine Madison women, with a range of specialties, tastes and backgrounds, are at the heart of these efforts to create unique spaces for deserving Madison communities:

Angela Skalitzky, one of BRAVA’s 2019 Women to Watch, has worked on the Design for a Difference team since the organization first made over the Respite Center at RISE—formerly called the Center for Families—in 2015. As the director of DFAD, she takes a big picture view of the organization, and says that it, “allows a passion for design and creativity to come to the forefront of making a difference in our community.” The spaces “make people feel welcomed with positivity and respect as they walk through the door.”

Tara Buedding is a professional organizer, and after working in the design industry for over 16 years she has owned her own organizing business—The Happy Home Organizer, LLC—for the last three. As one of the original Madison design team members and a National Ambassador for DFAD, she has strong connections to every Madison makeover—“It’s hard for me to pick a favorite,” she says, “…my heart and soul go into each project.” Thinking about the ways DFAD has influenced her approach to design, she says, “It has definitely made me think outside the box.”

Cathy Driftmier is an independent kitchen and bath designer who has been working in the design industry for 15 years, and owned her own business— Driftmier Design—for the last 10. “None of us knew what to expect,” she says excitedly, thinking back to the early meetings of the RISE makeover. After being involved with all of Madison’s DFAD projects she says that RISE, the first, remains her favorite. She says, “The expressions on their face when they see it is a golden moment.”

After working in the design field for over 20 years, mainly in Arizona where she specialized in window décor, Courtney Wollersheim moved back to her native Wisconsin five years ago. That’s when she joined the Floor360 team and became involved with DFAD. “You’re more aware of how spaces make people feel and of small ways to give back,” she says, reflecting on the makeovers. Wollersheim emphasizes that these projects bring people together. “Everyone gets involved in some level,” she explains, talking about the networks of connections between designers, their families, nonprofits, the communities they serve and beyond.

“You can see that it literally changes their lives,” says Patti Stindt, of the program’s rewards. As a decorating solutions manager at Steinhafel’s who specializes in residential and commercial interiors, Stindt is no stranger to helping make spaces comforting and special to the people that use them. Of the DFAD projects she has worked on—The Rainbow Project, Centro Hispano and the East Madison Community Center—she says that the Rainbow Project has been her favorite. “It could be the worst day of their life when they need to go there, and to help make that environment a place that is calming and nurturing was very rewarding.”

Having spent 20 years painting murals across the city of Madison and working in color consultation, Laurie Lundgren has a keen understanding of how color can transform a space. “I approach all color and design projects through the eyes of an artist,” she says. Lundgren has brought her artistry to the DFAD team on the makeovers of Centro Hispano and the East Madison Community Center. “All these years as a self-employed artist and designer, I have worked alone,” she says, “But on DFAD I got to work with a team of over 40 designers. I have gained a deep appreciation for collaboration in the creative process.”

With over a decade of teaching at Madison College under her belt, Jessica Feggestad is currently the program director of the school’s Interior Design Program and joined the DFAD team to work on the East Madison Community Center renovation. There, her students joined in to help make over the space. “It was great as an instructor to be able to work side by side with many of our Madison College Interior Design Program alumni,” she says of the renovation, “Seeing their dedication and talent demonstrated on a project like this makes me very proud.”

Director of Operation at Bella Domicile Abbey Weiss has been involved with Design for a Difference since the beginning. “Each project has been unique and a favorite of mine in different ways,” she says. Thinking about the impact that DFAD has had on her, she says, “I have become more aware of the social issues many face in the Madison area,” adding, “I am astounded by the selfless employees at all of these nonprofits.”

Karen Kavanaugh grew up around design and renovation. Her parents founded Kavanaugh Restaurant Supply, where she started in 2013. Since then, Kavanaugh has worked with DFAD on their two most recent makeovers at Centro Hispano and the East Madison Community Center. While often working on the more technical end of design, she says, “DFAD has helped me look at projects of a bigger picture.” Her connections to Centro Hispano make that picture even broader.

“Centro Hispano is just blocks away from our office,” she says, adding, “it was fun to make over a place that essentially is our neighbor.”

DFAD projects similar to these unfold in 22 cities across the United States each year. The organization is set to reveal its 2019 Madison makeover recipient in April. Stay tuned!

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