Non-designers so often think of design as “decorating”. We designers strive to help them understand otherwise.

A wonderful example of how design can change lives appeared this morning in the L.A. Times. The big story is one about architecture and the challenges of designing for the homeless.

But there’s a smaller article, too.

In Santa Monica, where we used to live and where our son still goes to school, there is a wonderful transitional housing program for homeless and abused families. It’s called Upward Bound House. We’ve donated to them in the past, mostly in lieu of having the Salvation Army pick up our old stuff.

But they have a volunteer program whereby interior designers can help transform people’s lives. These designers are assigned a family about whom they learn as much as they can: interests, color preferences, and so on. They they create — from scratch, and on a tiny budget — an entire furnished apartment that serves that family’s needs and helps make them feel loved and welcomed. The care and the special added touches the designers bring to each project are inspiring. And it’s another great example of how good design can achieve so much more than just making things look pretty.