Local nonprofit Arise Africa hardly thought about design when it was searching for a new office space. The organization, which sponsors children in Zambia, at the very least needed a storage area and garage door to easily store and move supplies — and it needed more space than it had in its first office on Bailey Avenue, just a few blocks from the “intersection of death” between Camp Bowie Boulevard and West Seventh Street.
Then, Arise Africa’s Realtor happened upon an early 1900s building smack in the middle of the Fairmount neighborhood. While listed as a house on Zillow, the building actually had many past lives — a photography studio, recording studio and a grocery store among others — but with the help of private donors, Arise Africa transformed the space into one that met its needs. Later in the game, interior designer Anna Harris of Annah Interiors stepped in to turn the space into one that she describes as “comfortable, energetic and, most importantly, reflects Arise Africa.”
“Each section of the space reflects the kids and their mission,” she says.
With a mix of African décor and funky finishes that pay homage to the organization’s work and the Near Southside neighborhood it calls home, it’s an office that’s one-part Africa, one-part Fort Worth.
“We didn’t care what it looked like; we just needed functionality for the ministry,” executive director Alissa Rosebrough says. “I don’t think we ever even thought we’d get a building in Fairmount, such a great place. That really was a God thing.”
Arise Africa bought the building in 2017 and renovated and moved in that same year — according to Rosebrough, the building is paid off, thanks to donors. The space is 3,500 square feet, defined by wood, exposed brick, bright colors and African décor, as well as vintage elements like the building’s original ceiling and, notably, the old Boswell’s Milk sign, which once hung on a pole outside during its heyday. The office itself has an open floor layout with a living room and kitchen on the bottom floor. A former walk-in cooler from the building’s days as a grocery store is now a phone room, furnished with midcentury modern seating and vintage maps of Africa on the wall.
Among the most eye-catching pieces in the room is the chandelier in the center, made from colorful, handmade baskets purchased in Africa. Rosebrough says it was Harris’ idea to turn the baskets into a chandelier; a good friend, Bill Smith, assembled the bulbs and wiring.
Other touches of Africa are found throughout the space, from stools upholstered with African fabric (a design known as “chitenge”) to a shelf in the living room displaying cars that African children made from scrap wire, flip-flops and bottlecaps. The side tables in the living room come from Africa as well.
“Anna did a great job of mixing both and working with what we had,” Rosebrough says. “It’s kind of funny to be like, ‘We have all this random stuff from Africa. Make it work.’ And she really did.”
The office has two unfinished areas: the upstairs loft, which offers a nice view of the bottom floor and has opportunity to become more office space in the future, and the 1,000-square-foot storage area, which stores boxes of supplies going to Africa.
But the heart of the organization is on the living room wall, on which photos of Zambia’s landscape, Arise Africa staff and the children with whom they work are on display. Another wall nearby is overlaid with patterned wallpaper, a spot that acts as a pinboard with thank-you notes and letters from both volunteers and those the organization has helped.
“We know how blessed we are to be in the space that we are [in],” Rosebrough says. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t pull up to this building and think, ‘Wow, this is where I get to work.’”