The Designer Who Gives BackAuthor:Erin Feher
Sophie Azouaou, the Founder and President of SophiSticate Interiors , has been an interior designer for 16 years and has earned a list of credentials including a law degree with a minor in art.
She is also a certified color specialist and an accredited staging professional. The firm has used its design talents to improve the lives of San Francisco’s less fortunate residents. Sophisticate Interiors has been awarded a city proclamation by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Azouaou has been featured on ABC7, NBC, CBS 5, Extra TV, Current TV, 7×7 magazine, SF Chronicle, SF Luxe, SF Sentinel and more.
What was the first organization you got involved in?
“My passion is children and homelessness, so the most meaningful cause for me was Raphael House. It’s San Francisco’s oldest and first shelter for homeless families, housing close to 17,000 children. I have been involved in many non-profits but I’d say this was closest to my heart. In 2006, with the help of the design community, I completely redesigned the shelter. We painted everything and created a new teenage room for homework and an afterschool care building, where we turned an extra hallway into a basketball court. The participating showrooms came with truckloads of furniture—beds, nightstands, dinettes. Babcock & Brown generously gave us a check to help finish the renovation, so we had new windows, new lighting—everything. The highlight was that the Mayor gave us a proclamation for our service to the community.
We hear you are also on the board for Edgewood Center for Children and Families?
I joined Edgewood Center in September. They are the largest nonprofit for abused children in the Western U.S., and they are serving severe cases of abused kids with two Bay Area campuses. Though they are funded more than 75% by the government, there have been cuts so they have greater need for more donations. They offered me a seat on the board to see if I can help reach out to the media. My goal for Edgewood is to do what I did for Raphael House—to bring attention to this cause. They treat traumatized children and the success stories are amazing—kids who come their who can’t speak who are then able to socialize with other children and neglected kids who come through to go to excellent colleges.
How did you get the nickname “The Designer that Gives Back”?
A few weeks before Christmas in 2006, Benefit Magazine approached me with CitiApartments to ask if I could quickly renovate two units that they were hoping to give to homeless families. Raphael House selected two single fathers with young children. We had two weeks to get these units in shape in time for Christmas Eve, so I reached out to my friends. We painted, furnished, filled the fridge and bought clothes for these families, and it really changed their lives. One of the fathers found work and the children, a six-year-old boy gained weight—we helped put them back on their feet. I just want to cry when I think about that Christmas—I wish I could do it every year. I will never forget it. A camera crew followed me around for the 10 days leading up to it and there was primetime special and lots of media coverage.
What advice would you give to other designers who want to help?
We are artists and artists have hearts. We need to stop thinking only about making money and give our art to others. We all need to help each other. When you have a passion about design and you can give a little time, you can make a family happy. And when there are more of us, we can give more. Set aside a day a month to look around and see who needs your help. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money; get your friends rather than a crew to help you out. If you can find one day a month, that’s all.
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