Designer Vern Yip is a household name for many Casa readers, thanks to his judging on Design Star as well as his hosting and creativity on his tear-inducing show Deserving Design. Vern is currently contributing his design expertise to two very worthy community organizations, the Tenderloin Family Apartments, which are home to 4,000 low-income San Francisco families, and the West Oakland Boys and Girls Club, which has been serving youth in this neighborhood for over sixty years. I was thrilled to talk to Vern about his design renovations for these two community spaces.
CasaSugar: I’ve been out to both the Tenderloin Family Apartments and the West Oakland Boys and Girls Club, and they’re very excited about their renovations.
Vern Yip: This is such a wonderful and amazing opportunity for me. The renovations are being funded by Bank of America. This is part of their celebration of renovating their 118 Bay Area banking centers, so as part of the celebration they’re renovating two spaces for two Bay Area non-profits. Having been there, I’m sure you can tell that these are two organizations that are really deserving and could really benefit from a facelift.
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CasaSugar: What's happening with the Boys and Girls Club?
Vern Yip: The Boys and Girls Club is providing such a huge service and a lot of these boys and girls would not have a space to go to otherwise. We’re giving them an activity room facelift so they can have a beautiful, and functioning place to hang out. That’s a really great thing. I’ve been talking to some of the people involved with the boys and girls club and gauging what they need . . . Initially I was looking at the floor in pictures and thought it was nice, but apparently it’s really worn, so we’re doing a top to bottom renovation including new flooring, new lights, and of course great new paint colors and a new space plan so this space can work much better with a new layout. We’re also going to do some really functional things like a new check-in desk and a new media corner. We’re going to use really durable materials so this facelift will hopefully last a good long time.
CasaSugar: I was reading up a little bit about your plans for the Tenderloin Apartments. What are you excited about with this project?
Vern Yip: You know, the really great thing about this space is that it’s used by the entire community. Everything happens in that space, from weddings to birthday parties to meetings and movie nights. So you want that space to really pull people together and feel celebratory. Right now it doesn’t feel celebratory. It’s a little dour and office-like, so I was talking to some of the Tenderloin Family Apartments staff trying to gauge who lives there and what are there needs. And it’s really a wide array of people, a mix of Russian, Asian American, Chinese, African-American, and Hispanic people.
I was doing some research to determine what were some key colors that represented all of those communities, and oranges and reds are two colors that are represented in all of those groups. So we’re putting in a new floor that’s going to be beautiful and patterned, but it will be made of VCT [vinyl composition tile], so it will be really durable. We’re going to do a custom mural on the wall that’s a tree with a large canopy done in a white silhouette on top of these wonderful warm orange walls, so it’s really going to stand out. A tree to me is really symbolic of bringing community together, it’s that life force. Another issue was, just like the boys and girls club, the residents didn’t feel safe hanging outside, so I thought, if we can’t bring them to the trees we’ll bring the trees to them. And then we’re hanging these incredible George Nelson lamps in a series, in two shapes, in a saucer shape and a cigar shape. We just want to make a space that the residents can be in and enjoy. That’s the goal and the purpose. I’m really excited that Bank of America made all of this possible because certainly these two non profits definitely deserve it.
CasaSugar: Definitely. And of course without outside funding they could’ve never done such an extensive renovation. Is this renovation going to be on Deserving Design?
Vern Yip: No! I wish it was. I wish we could fly our whole crew out and shoot this. I do hope it will be an inspiration to the show and network to tackle community-oriented spaces. We’ve been focused on individual spaces, and we’re just starting to branch out to community spaces. As you can imagine, it’s pretty cost-prohibitive to renovate such a large space. It really takes someone like Bank of America stepping up to the plate and saying, “We’ll do it as part of our renovation celebration.”
I’m very excited about this. My whole show and my heart and soul is all about giving back to the community through design, and the power of design to affect people’s lives. This is such an amazing opportunity to affect so many people’s lives in just two spaces.
CasaSugar: It’s going to make a huge impact. Thanks in advance for flying out and making such a wonderful contribution on the Bay Area community.
Vern Yip: I’m thrilled for the opportunity and thrilled that Bank of America brought me on board to do it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to change people’s lives.