Sumi Varghese answered the telephone at the third ring. The registered nurse who works at Medeor 24/7 Hospital was having a day off and was relaxing after lunch when Friday magazine called to inform her that she had been selected for a heartwarming gesture, courtesy of Homebox. The UAE-based smart contemporary furniture and home furnishing chain was offering to do a complete makeover of her home’s living room.
Pleasantly surprised, Sumi’s voice, though, was calm and composed. If she was overly excited it did not reflect in her tone. She only wanted to confirm if it was really she who had been chosen. "Thank you very much," she said, after confirming that we were indeed calling from Friday magazine. "It really is an honour."
"The pandemic has been trying for all of us," says Ajay Antal, CEO of Homebox, "and during these times, as always, frontline workers have been going to such great lengths to ensure our safety. To recognise their amazing work and as a small gesture of appreciation to these selfless medical staff, we partnered with Friday magazine to honour a Covid-19 frontliner with a living room makeover."
With more than 15 years of experience in the field of nursing, 13 of them in the Gulf, Sumi and her husband Abraham, who works at Dubal, live with their two children Joshua and Jemimah in a modest one-bedroom apartment on Al Zahra Street in Sharjah.
The family had gone through a rocky period after they tested positive for the coronavirus a couple of months ago. Luckily, within two weeks, they all tested negative and are in the clear now.
"This has been our home for the past six years," says Abraham, welcoming the Friday and Homebox team, when we dropped by their home for a recce to check out the living room and to decide what kind of furniture would suit it. Both the teams were also keen to find out the likes and dislikes of the family, their favourite corners in the room, what they were looking for, their dream living room décor and furniture…
As we enter the room, the first piece of furniture that catches our eye is the three-seater sofa lined up against the wall. "That is our favourite piece of furniture," says Sumi. "Once the children are done with their e-learning and we have finished our dinner together, we scramble to grab a comfy spot on the sofa to watch TV."The couple had been planning to replace the sofa with a larger one or maybe an extra two-seater, but the pandemic put a crimp on their shopping plans. "So we were so happy and thrilled when I received a call and this offer of giving our living room a makeover was made to us," says Sumi.
Apart from the sofa, the living room also housed a dining table with three chairs (the fourth chair was positioned before a synthesiser on which Joshua practices his music lessons). A refrigerator and a water cooler along with a television table and a pedestal fan vied for the rest of the space in the room. One section of the wall close to the entrance was dedicated to the prayer area. A thin ledge on the wall supported a few religious texts and a small vase, which held some plastic flowers.
"One of the first things we wanted to do was to give the room some breathing space and add some colour," says the interior design expert from Homebox.
To that end, three walls were given a fresh coat of paint (ivory white) while one was painted a shade of yellow to accent it – the idea was to heighten the pleasant mood of the room while giving it a sense of space.
Furniture was chosen with care to ensure that it would suit the dimensions of the room, while also making sure it would be practical and serve the family of four well.
The previous sofa was replaced with a plush grey two-seater. A cosy single seater in a dark shade with a footstool completed the seating in the living area.
A white round coffee table on an off-white rug, and a smaller round side table next to the sofa were added to finish the living area and make it a self-contained unit of sorts.
The far side of the room was set aside for the dining area. A smart compact white dining table with four chairs was placed in one corner. Above it, two modern décor art pieces, carefully chosen to coordinate with the sofa cushions, were fixed on adjacent walls. A modern colourful print of a deer added a flourish to the accented wall.
All through the day, the family was unaware of the changes happening in their living room. Keen to give them a pleasant surprise, they were told to remain in the bedroom.
It was early evening when the makeover was complete, and the air was thick with expectation and excitement as the Friday team opened the bedroom door to welcome the family into the room.
Sumi was the first to get a glimpse of the redone living room. "Oh my gosh, I cannot believe it… that this was the living room of the past six years. It’s just amazing. And so beautiful," she said, her eyes wide and appreciative, excitement and joy reverberating in her words. "The designer has truly invested a lot into this. Everything looks just perfect and beautiful."
Joshua raced out and squealed with delight to see the new décor. "The blue chair is mine," he says. Quickly making himself comfortable in it. "I love the colour and it is so comfortable," he adds. "This is definitely my favourite chair."
It took a while for Abraham to absorb the changes. Smiling and clearly pleased with the new-look room, he walked over to settle into the sofa contentedly. "It looks beautiful. The room is such a change – it’s a lot brighter. The dining area looks so cosy and nice. Honestly, I did not expect this," he says.
Jemimah was amazed to see the transformation. "What do I like the best? Just everything," she says. "The wall décor, the table, side table, the chairs… It’s just lovely."
Sumi walks around the room taking in every piece while admiring the décor pieces. "I’m truly overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say," she says. "I had never expected this. I cannot thank Homebox and Friday magazine enough for this lovely gesture."
Abraham is waiting for the Covid pandemic to subside so he can invite his extended family over. "My brother, who lives close by, wanted to come and see this new change but I told him to wait a bit. Once things settle down, I will surely invite them and some friends over," he says.