"Ben's room needs some cabinets" was the message I received from Room to Dream. "Great!" I thought, "I am a cabinetmaker. Let's take a look." I headed to Ben's house where I met Ben and his wonderful family. I spent the afternoon talking to Ben, his family and the designer; hearing what they needed and looking at the space. We exchanged ideas, we discussed, we brainstormed, we dreamed and then I measured, measured some more, took notes and headed home with the promise of a design for new cabinets.
On my drive home, I thought about the design, I thought about Ben, I thought about cabinets....what size, what shape, what materials? What kind of cabinets would I build? Then it came to me, I didn't need to build Ben cabinets. Ben didn't need cabinets. I needed to build Ben a solution. Ben needed a solution that would help him overcome obstacles, physical and emotional. Ben needed a solution that would meet his needs today, tomorrow, next week, next year and for the years after that.
How does a cabinetmaker build solutions? A cabinetmaker builds solutions by taking materials, design requirements and problems and putting them all together to find a solution. In Ben's case, we needed to find materials and finish that could withstand day to day use, be durable and easily cleaned. We needed to take into consideration all of the medical equipment that Ben has now, measure it, accommodate it and incorporate it into the design. We needed to have a design that fit seamlessly into his room and blended in with his environment. And then, we had to make sure that the solution would grow with Ben. We tried to anticipate what he would need tomorrow, next week, next year.
The solution was a bedroom surround that was made from quality plywoods and hardwoods. The high quality finish was applied by hand, blending the colors and brightening his environment. The casework was designed with each piece of equipment in mind, each electrical problem answered. The angled shelving was made to embrace Ben's bed, each shelf adjustable adding function to each piece. Lighting under the shelves ensured it's usefulness even on the darkest of nights. And the best part, should Ben's family ever have to move to another home, Ben's surround can be moved with him.
The solution concept did not end here. It extended to every facet of the project. Stefan Nathanson made Room to Dream part of the solution by reaching out to Ben's family. Karen Corinha, Interior Designer, executed each room to reflect personal interest and taste, meeting individual needs. The hand painted closet door by Dream Team Leader and Architect, Mike Collins was placed on runners making the closet accessible to Ben. Amazing work was done by the Shawmut Build Team and Bill Hughes who widened and pocketed doors, lowered light switches and removed and replaced thresholds to solve many challenges for Ben and his family. Droves of volunteers came to prime, paint, fix, install, make beds and offer support and encouragement. Each part adding up to a great solution and successful project.
Ben's mother, Rani, exclaimed when seeing Ben's room "It looks like it was always there." This is the greatest complement you can give to a cabinetmaker. Design problem - solved.
In my experience with Ben and his family, we not only built cabinets and solutions, we built friendships. To Room to Dream - Thank you. To Ben Elwy - Dream BIG! - Gail O'Rourke, Hometown Woodworking
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Room to Dream
I began 2007 working with an incredible foundation; Room to Dream - whose mission is to create healing environments in hospitals, communities, and home for children and adolescents who are facing chronic illness.
See more about about their mission at
Room to Dream