No one knew Megan Moore would be the one to wind up in the warm, latte-colored bedroom, with its dreamy cream shag rug and mocha accents.
She could have had the "gift wrap" room a couple of doors down, gilded in gold wallpaper with fuchsia flowers. Or she might have slept under a lime ceiling in the Palm Beach-inspired room. Or across the hall in the relaxing cottage-y nook, surrounded by moss-colored wainscoting.
But her assigned room, with "All You Need is Love" printed over the bed, made her smile as soon as she saw it.
"Each room has its own personality," says Moore, 26. "This is very me."
Moore was seven months pregnant, homeless and feeling low when she arrived at Alpha House. She couldn't keep living with her grandparents in their 55-and-up community, so a friend recommended the South Tampa facility for homeless pregnant women and teens.
Then Moore opened the door to her own little oasis. It was the perfect place for her to escape her stress, work on finding housing, and carve out a better life for her and her son, due this month.
That's the kind of reaction Alpha House leaders and scores of volunteers hoped for when they started the "Room of Her Own" project earlier this year.
Local designers, contractors, donors and others teamed up last month to transform 20 rooms at the Alpha House. The moms-to-be it serves have been as young as 12 and as old as 45. They stay until about six weeks postpartum, some moving on to transitional housing Alpha House also provides.
Residents do chores, volunteer or attend school. They may enroll in job training or parenting classes. Counseling is provided, because the women usually have a history of trauma or abuse. It's a program, not a shelter, says Executive Director Patricia Langford: "This is where your new life begins."
But the bedrooms at the facility, though functional, were anything but inspiring. About the size of a single dorm room, 8 by 13 feet, they had built-in desks and dressers — and stained carpets Langford could only describe as "ucky" after years of use. The walls were an institutional white, some with ripped stickers from past decorating attempts. Sheets served as curtains in a few of the rooms.
Kellyann Dander, 21, didn't care about that when she moved in. Four months pregnant, she had been living at the Salvation Army and was just grateful to have her own room.
But Langford thought Alpha House could do better for its residents.
The center was celebrating its 30th anniversary, and Langford wanted to encourage more community involvement. She also was thinking about making the rooms more welcoming with maybe some new bed linens and curtains.
The plan exploded into something much bigger.
"These women deserve more," says designer Cynthia Keenan, an Alpha House volunteer. "These are mothers — young women trying to do right for their children."
She and fellow designer Scott Scherschel became committee co-chairs and split up the rooms to redecorate with their peers. Design teams worked with "adopters," who helped pick out accessories and linens.
Although the rooms all have the same layout and basic furniture, the designers gave each its own look. Some rooms are serene and spa-like; Dander's is a watery blue, with a ruffled pillow tossed on the bed and a slip-covered chair pulled up to her desk.
Color saturates other rooms. Turquoise and hot pink. Black toile and red. Purple and chartreuse.
Existing storage was tight, so the designers brought in baskets and cloth and canvas bins in all sizes. Some added curtains to mask a small nook for hanging clothes.
They included task lighting for nighttime reading and desk lamps in colorful shades. Many of the rooms have decorated bulletin boards or unfilled frames for residents' mementos.
Scherschel put up wainscoting around his room and a chocolate Roman shade in the lone, narrow window. An oversized sunflower painting ties in the green of the walls with a lemony bedspread.
"It was about warmth and comfort and safety," Scherschel says. "A sense of safety and security."
Keenan chose white crown molding and apple green walls with a white silhouette of a tree with butterflies. Alpha House uses the butterfly as a symbol, and Keenan found a related quote for the wall: "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly."
The transformation spread from the rooms and into the hallway, which lost its vinyl tile and is now covered in a laminate that looks like wood. The hall's orange walls got a brighter cream paint job, so it no longer felt like walking into a cave, Scherschel says.
Outside, landscapers and members of the Rose Circle Garden Club tackled the shabby courtyard, replacing uneven brick and cracked concrete with nonslip tiles designed to look like travertine and patches of artificial grass to give kids soft spots to play. Splat Paint provided a hibiscus mural in earth tones, and red Adirondack chairs replaced beat-up plastic patio furniture.
Langford estimates the total project cost about $175,000 in donated time and materials, including $25,000 for the courtyard.
She is already thinking of other areas that need a visual lift and ways to keep the community involved.
"It's just given new life to Alpha House," she says.
The fresh designs carry the feel of a hug, she says.
"They're warm and loving," Moore says. "You could tell people put a lot of love and care in what they did."