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Firehouse Makeover

The Lighthouse Point fire station will be featured on an episode of Lifetime network's "Designing Spaces"

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Early one morning last month, a group of about 20 people – including a designer, a construction manager, professional installers and a three-camera production crew – descended upon the Lighthouse Point fire station and got to work.

So why was the firehouse such a beehive of activity?

Because when “Designing Spaces,” the home improvement show that airs on the Lifetime network, scouted the area for a location to feature in its upcoming special program celebrating hometown heroes, they chose the Lighthouse Point fire station.

Being selected meant that the fire station, which was built in 1974, would receive the gift of a much-needed makeover, a project that took place over four consecutive days.

Downstairs, the crew focused on the kitchen and break room. Upstairs, they targeted the bunk room and a common area that is used partly as a classroom, partly as a lounge area.

“These areas are just very aged and not conducive to a modern work force,” said Lighthouse Point Fire Chief David Donzella.

“Designing Spaces” partnered with local businesses who provided materials for the project. Chief Donzella was asked to provide a wish list, and then they did their best to find partners to fulfill that wish list.

“It’s a story about the men and women who serve in the firehouse, but it’s also a story about the community coming together and helping to make it over,” said “Designing Spaces” Producer/Director Arash Farsi. “I think what drives these businesses to do it is that they’re giving back to the ones who are looking out for us.”

The Home Depot in Deerfield Beach donated a long list of items, including hardware, a new microwave oven, a “brick” wall treatment, new handles for the firefighters’ lockers, cleaning products and a number of volunteers. Home Depot also arranged for paint to be donated by Behr, one of its vendors.

“Designing Spaces” worked with Fort Lauderdale-based interior designer and decorator Heidi Pettee to put together a vision for the makeover that would best benefit the firefighters.

“It centered around upgrading the space to be more contemporary, but to still provide a homey environment for them while they’re away from their loved ones supporting the community,” said Pettee.

For the color palette, Pettee chose to use lots of white to brighten the environment, contrasted with some grey tones, and warmed with the feel of natural wood.

The work in the kitchen and adjacent dining area, or break room, involved covering the existing grey tile floor, which was the original flooring from when the firehouse was built, with a new vinyl flooring that looks like natural wooden planks. Philadelphia Commercial, a division of Shaw Flooring, donated all the flooring for both the downstairs and upstairs, and brought in their crew to do the installation.

The old kitchen cabinets, which were pale grey with red handles, were replaced with brand new white cabinets with classic moulding, a donation from Innovation Cabinetry. Polished nickel handles and a new counter top were provided by Home Depot, and a backsplash made of white “subway” tile was donated by Philadelphia Commercial. A set of shiny new pots and pans were a gift from Range Kleen.

The focal wall in the break room was covered with a new “faux” brick panel reminiscent of old firehouses found in Chicago or New York, only painted white.

A special feature was placed in the middle of the brick wall: a vinyl application of the Lighthouse Point Fire Department logo that is four feet in diameter.

“I wanted impact on the wall,” said Pettee. “I like the fact that it represents the firefighters and celebrates who they are in a graphic way.”

The three other walls of the break room, which were a cream color, were painted white. To “cozy up” the space, a large grey horizontal band was added. The band serves as a space to organize a collection of old framed firehouse photos and memorabilia.

“Walking into the kitchen area, everything just seems brighter,” said firefighter paramedic Nick Palmisano, who has been with the Lighthouse Point Fire Department for seven years. “We’re here one out of three days, so this is our secondary home. It definitely has a warm, welcoming feel, more so than the old décor.”

Upstairs, the “Designing Spaces” team gave particular attention to the bunk room, which is where the firefighters sleep at night. The firefighters work in three rotating 24-hour shifts (24 hours on, 48 hours off) with a minimum of six firefighters on duty each shift. The sleeping quarters, used by both male and female firefighters, consisted of one big open space filled with six twin beds.

In order to give the firefighters more privacy, “Designing Spaces” partnered with the Pompano Beach branch of California-based Contractors Wardrobe, who provided high-quality plexiglass partitions to place between the beds. The partitions are not only stylish, they are movable, which allows for flexibility in the room configuration. Home Depot donated silver industrial clip-on lamps that attach to the partitions so that each bed has an individual light.

In terms of color, the sleep area is the reverse of the kitchen and break room. Instead of being mostly white with accents of grey, it is mostly grey tones with pops of white. Dark grey was used on the walls and for the new vinyl plank flooring to make the room more serene for sleeping. White accents include the partitions (which have an alpine oak middle section) and the new end tables. A narrow band of white was painted on the upper portion of the walls, and the existing headboards were painted dark grey. The city contributed new mattresses and box springs, which were topped with grey and white bedding.

The color scheme carries over into the upstairs common area, where the walls were painted with bands of grey and white. The carpeting, which was showing signs of wear and tear in high traffic areas, was replaced with carpet tiles that are grey with hints of brown, and have a subtle linear pattern. The tiles were placed in a way that alternates the direction of the linear pattern and gives movement. They were chosen for their durability and practicality; if the carpet is stained or damaged, only the affected tiles need to be replaced.

As part of their improvement efforts, the “Designing Spaces” team had a fire sprinkler system installed throughout the firehouse. It was lacking because when the firehouse was built, there was no requirement to have one. The National Fire Sprinkler Association donated the system and subcontracted workers to install it.

Thanks to the “Designing Spaces” team, the fire department received some state-of-the-art equipment from Scott Safety, a leading manufacturer of innovative protective equipment and safety devices. The company donated three thermal imaging cameras that fit into firefighters’ masks and keep the thermal image in view at all times.

Scott Safety also donated one RIT-Pak Fast Attack. Launched in January, this compact device designed for rapid intervention teams (RIT) allows firefighters to administer air to a victim while getting them out of a hazardous situation.

To top it all off, each of the fire department’s 26 firefighters received the gift of a fresh new uniform from Workrite Uniforms.

During the remodeling project, it was hectic as the “Designing Spaces” team and the firefighters worked around each other, but there was a mutual respect.

“It was definitely a positive atmosphere,” said firefighter Palmisano. “They did everything in their power to make sure that they weren’t in our way.”

For “Designing Spaces,” which is based in Deerfield Beach, this was their very first firehouse makeover. It was for a special series that the show produces called “Spaces of Hope.” For this series, they have carried out makeovers, both nationally and locally, at places like the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Love Jen Center in Hollywood, Kids in Distress in Fort Lauderdale, the Boys and Girls Club of Pompano Beach, veterans’ homes, animal shelters and schools.

The objective of the firehouse makeover was not only to update the space and give the firefighters some of the comforts of home, but to give viewers a window into their world, to show them firehouse life and the dedication the firefighters have for the job. As a way to show the firefighters’ involvement in the community, the “Designing Spaces” crew filmed them as they participated in this year’s Lighthouse Point Keeper Days.

The Chief Content Officer of “Designing Spaces,” Jason Gagnon, had a special passion for telling this story because his father, a retired lieutenant, served in the Miami-Dade County Fire Department for 30 years, and his uncles and cousins are active in other fire departments in South Florida. Gagnon was excited about giving back to the firefighters, who are “so selfless and put their lives in harm’s way on a daily basis.”

The total value of the firehouse remodel is approximately $100,000.

“The makeover gives a nice fresh appearance to a very old building, and
makes it more pleasant to work in,” said Chief Donzella.

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