Nordia Black – Habitat for Humanity

Her Haven partnered with the design program at Fairfield University to provide a haven for Ms. Black and her family in their new Habitat for Humanity home in Bridgeport.

CBS_0280Nordia Black is a quiet, soft-spoken woman, whose gentle nature belies the strength and fortitude of her spirit.  Working as a nurse’s aid and caring for her 5 children — one of whom suffers from a severe disability that requires full time care — Nordia has also somehow found the time and energy go back to school to get her degree in nursing.

Nordia had been sharing a cramped, three bedroom apartment in Bridgeport, where regular burglaries in the area and no yard forced the children inside to play. Through her cousin, she learned of Habitat for Humanity’s programs offering 30 year, 0% mortgages.  In 2006, she was accepted into the program, and immediately began working on the 500 hours of sweat equity required of every partner family. She had to wait, however, to find a lot large enough to build a handicap accessible home, which didn’t happen until 2010.  Finally, after 6 years of patience, hard work and determination, Nordia received the keys to her new home in the spring of 2012.

Her Haven was thrilled to help turn Nordia’s family’s new house into a warm and functional haven. We asked Nordia’s oldest son, Savion, what he hoped to see in the space. He replied,

Just somewhere comfortable to sit and eat, with pretty colors, our family pictures all around…. I just want to feel love in the room.

Partnering with the Student Chapter of ASID at Fairfield University’s Interior Design Program, Project Manager Bethany Armstrong (with Stephanie Dinella, Jim Metzger, Tori McBrien, Jennifer Orr and Karen Stier) began planning right away to select colors, furnishings, art and accessories.  Keeping ADA accessibility guidelines top of mind was central to the thoughtful design concept presented by Bethany and her teammates.


The first dilemma was where to place the tv, since the obvious choice of putting it against a wall would have hindered the ability for Nordia’s daughter’s wheelchair to move freely.  The only option was to place it in the center of the room, and Bethany and her team came up with the clever solution to hang sheer screen panels behind the tv, hiding the back of the tv from the dining area while still allowing light to pass between the two spaces.

The next challenge was pulling all the design elements together within the budget.  They selected some budget-friendly but stylish pieces from local retailers, and were very fortunate to have the strong support of many area professionals who contributed to this beautiful design:  Painting by A.G. Williams Painting Company, custom frames by Rockwell Art & Framing, stunning art from local artist Kerry Brock, a beautiful new rug from Bella Interiors, and a lovely silk floral arrangement from Bea Schriver Florals. Even Nordia’s two youngest daughters, her “princesses”, received the gift of a beautiful piece of art for their own haven upstairs:  a pick and green (their favorite colors!) giclee by Darien artist Andrea Bonfils.

Assembling the furniture, hanging the screens, working with the children on art for the gallery wall, arranging and accessorizing (and yes, placing “family pictures all around”) took place during one long, 12 hour day.  Nordia was there to witness the gradual transformation of the space, and finally, just before 10PM, the rooms were complete.


Nordia sat curled up in her new sofa.  With her children all around her — the younger ones dancing and playing, her oldest daughter in her lap, her oldest son next to her with a look of wonder and pride at his new surroundings — Nordia turned to Bethany and her teammates, and said two words that said it all:

Thank you.

What a wonderful community effort by students and professionals, coming together to share their talents and skills to help design a space that is not just  functional, but which — most importantly — gives the “feeling of love” as well.