At the Charles Cobb, interior design supports supportive housing


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The Charles Cobb, designed by the Pasadena architecture firm Kivotos Montenegro Partners Inc., opened in early April to provide apartments for chronically homeless and disabled people. It was built by the Skid Row Housing Trust for $13.1 million and includes first-floor offices for healthcare, case management and other services -- a combination known as supportive housing. Residents pay 30% of their income in rent.

Over two decades, the trust has built or renovated 21 buildings providing permanent homes for about 1,300 homeless people. But frequently the money runs out before much attention can be paid to the interiors, said Robert Nieto, a spokesman for the trust.


This time was different. The trust hired designer Suzanne Furst, who stretched the budget by hunting for bargains and finding suppliers willing to donate.

It had become clear that decorating on the cheap often turned out pennywise and pound foolish, said Cristian Ahumada, the housing development director at Skid Row Housing Trust. It would take just months for furniture to start breaking or wearing out.

So the trust, for the first time, turned to an interior designer, someone with ‘the Rolodex and the connections,’ he said.

‘It’s been an evolution for us and for the industry as a whole,’ said Molly Rysman, director of special projects for the trust. ‘We always knew the people we served deserved well-designed housing, but we didn’t always know how critical a role it plays in healing.’

Keep reading about the importance of interior design at the Charles Cobb apartments.

-- Mary MacVean

Photos, from top: The Charles Cobb was designed by the Pasadena architecture firm Kivotos Montenegro Partners Inc. At right, a view of the common room. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times