By: Hal Brown
By: Scott Nishimura1
A quaint house built in the early 1900s sits along May Street on the Near Southside. Unbeknownst to some, it serves not as a home, but as the office of nonprofit Project 4031.
The office stands at two stories and approximately 1,500 square feet with all the elements any typical home would have – living room, kitchen, dining table. That’s why for Project 4031 executive director Leanna Gilles, going to work feels like coming home.
“We just want a place that’s comfortable, something that is peaceful,” she said. “It doesn’t look rigid. It doesn’t look like an office building, but a place of rest and comfort.”
It’s a fitting space for Project 4031’s line of work, Gilles said. The organization helps terminally ill patients receive basic needs or fulfill a dream, whether it be VIP tickets to see the rodeo at the Stockyards or a visit from Sofia the First for a child’s birthday party.
Gilles said Project 4031’s goal is to “create peace,” a feeling they hope is reflected in their office space.
When visitors come to the office, they enter like a regular houseguest would – by knocking or ringing the doorbell (the house usually remains locked during the day, especially when Gilles and co-founder Kristina Robertson are the only ones inside).
Stepping inside, the first element that comes into view is a pop of pink wallpaper, displaying photos and stories of families the organization has helped since it began in 2011. Above the photos is the Bible verse from which Project 4031 got its name, Isaiah 40:31: “But those who hope in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”
The wallpaper, a bright shade of pink found in Project 4031’s logo, is meant to grab the visitor’s attention, Gilles said.
“As soon as someone walks in, we want that to be the focal point – not necessarily the building, not necessarily us, but the families that we’re serving,” she said. “By putting the pop-up wallpaper behind the stories of our families, it begins to draw the eyes to the families and to why we’re here, why we exist.”
To the right of the lobby is the conference room, which more closely resembles a dining room. A chandelier hangs above a custom-built table made from an old door that used to be part of downtown’s Fort Worth’s First United Methodist Church. Placed in the middle of the table is a large Bible with old-style lettering. The room has a fireplace, too, which was an original part of the house.
Just a few steps away is the living room, which serves as a meeting space for employees and potential clients. While deep earth tones were chosen for the furniture, the pink wallpaper from the lobby returns to accent the walls.
The wall art in the living room is a long antique metal, fence-like structure with a collection of tags clothespinned to its wires. The tags feature the names of families Project 4031 has served, written in calligraphy by Gilles’ friend, Andrea Cox.
“We really wanted to highlight all families,” Gilles said. “It’s a memorial as well.”
The house’s kitchen serves as the break room and exhibits a “light and airy” feel, Gilles says, with natural lighting coming through the windows that peek into the backyard. Project 4031 kept the house’s original cabinets, adding not much more than new paint and appliances.
The backyard features a patio with a wooden picnic table, and an approximately 1,500-square-foot garage serves as storage space for medical supplies.
The space may look like a home, but of course, it still serves as a workplace. Employee offices are located upstairs, where Gilles says she has a nice view of the Near Southside, while Robertson has a view of the Hospital District.
For Robertson, having offices in an old home is a dream come true. Before moving to the house in January, Project 4031 used to have a more traditional office at Western Place off Interstate 30 and Bryant Irvin Road.
Robertson began looking for places to relocate last summer, at first eyeing the house next door to the one Project 4031 currently occupies. After touring the first house, the owner of the house that would eventually become Project 4031’s office happened to be standing outside. As it turned out, that house was about to be put on the market as well. Robertson and Gilles looked at the property and were won over by the backyard garage, which could be used as potential storage space.
Donors helped pay for the home, so the organization doesn’t have to pay mortgage, Gilles said. With the home being fairly structurally sound, all Project 4031 had to worry about was cosmetic repairs.
“We just had to make it pretty again,” Robertson said.
The organization hired Weatherford-based builder Hidden Creek Construction to re-do the house, and after about three months, the house was transformed into an office and ready to open.
Gilles says the home environment has been refreshing, not just for clients, but for those that work for the organization as well.
“Working here, not being in a formal office setting, but more so a more free space, you can have some creativity flow and be able to really just enjoy ourselves at work,” she said.
If there’s anything the house is meant to represent, Gilles says, it’s peace.
“There’s just a true peace within the home,” she said. “We love being able to be hospitable and to open it to people who are in need or just need to come in and talk.”
By: Hal Brown
By: Scott Nishimura1