Decorex's charity for 2012: Maggie's

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I'm Katie Treggiden, and I'm a freelance design writer. As well as writing my own blog, confessions of a design geek and recently publishing a design book called Interviews, I have written for Livingetc, and regularly contribute to Design Milk, We Heart, and Heart Home magazine.

I am also a project writer at Maggie’s.

I believe passionately that good design can make people’s lives better. That can be something as simple as well-designed coat hangers that don’t get tangled up in each other and drive you crazy when you’re running late in the morning.

It can also be a lot more profound than that.

Maggie’s is the best example of design making people’s lives better that I can think of.

That’s why I work with Maggie’s.

And that’s why I think Maggie’s are the perfect charity partner for Decorex. Maggie’s Centres are beautiful buildings designed by top architects in the grounds of cancer specialist hospitals. They offer support for people with cancer and their families and friends; everything they need besides medical care. It’s emotional, practical and social support, but we call it 'calmness, clarity and a cup of tea.' It could be anything from counseling to support groups, from benefits advice to yoga, from meeting people just like them, to a cup of tea on a bad day.

Architects who have designed Maggie’s Centres include Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers and Frank Gehry. We have always known instinctively that architecture is crucial to the delivery of our programme of support, but we recently commissioned some research to make sure. 80.5% said a more conventional building would not have the same impact, and 94.5% said the building helps them feel better.

Each of our centres is very different, but they definitely have something in common – you always know you’ve walked into a Maggie’s. So it was interesting to see that words used to describe two very different centres - London and Edinburgh - were largely the same: welcoming, relaxing, bright, friendly, warm…

One of the most recently opened centres is Maggie’s Nottingham. It has been described as a ‘tree house’ and is raised off the ground and enveloped in trees to provide a ‘safe place’ and some privacy. Architect Piers Gough CBE said: 'The skill of the architect is to make it feel open but on the other hand have this privacy.'

It’s a playful space designed to make people curious enough to come in, to lift their spirits and to spark conversation between people who are going through the same things. As interior designer Sir Paul Smith put it: 'The idea is that you walk is and say “Oh isn’t that a lovely fabric” or “Isn’t that hideous?” – whatever it provokes, at least it’s a kick off of a conversation.'

But more important than any of that is what the people who use it think. Anne Read who regularly uses the Nottingham centre said: 'The colours in the Maggie’s centre are calming, light and positive. The blues create a relaxed atmosphere for quiet contemplation. The greens evoke an energy that is positive and enriching…It means a great deal to me to be able to spend time at Maggie’s. It’s a really valuable space.'

I feel very honoured and privileged to be able to work with Maggie’s – and I hope you’ll support them in whatever way you can when you come to Decorex. There will be an opportunity to make a donation hen you buy your ticket and pin badges on sale on some of the stands.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this quote from Rani Shukla, a visitor to the Maggie’s west London centre.

'When I first entered Maggie’s I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and was in a chasm of fear and uncertainty. Cancer hijacks your life and drops you into a situation where you have to learn a new language. Maggie’s teaches you that language, helping you find sense in all the confusion. Having a centre within easy reach has been vital to helping me cope.'