Communities

Looking for the Next Big Social Movement? Check the House Next Door.

by Amie Tullius

August 11, 2015

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Nest and interior designer Casey Keasler to reimagine a 100-year old craftsman home in south Los Angeles: The Big House. Home to nonprofit Nuevo South, The Big House is one modern example of a powerful phenomenon: the use of a private home as a community space. We sanded, painted, brought in new design elements, and installed Nest products to help keep the space comfortable and secure, all with the goal of inspiring the youth in this neighborhood to dream big.

The Big House, home to nonprofit Nuevo South. Image by Sarah Shreves.

There’s something powerful about inviting people with big ideas into our most intimate spaces. When we do, it’s about much more than getting people together. It’s about incubating a movement. Below, take a tour through a few notable homes that have served as community gathering spots over the last century.

The Saturday Club

The Parker House. Photo taken by John P. Soule. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Charles Sumner and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, two members of the Saturday Club. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson established The Saturday Club in 1885 as a “welcome resting place” from the hustle and bustle of Boston for “lonely scholars, poets, and naturalists” to meet fellow thinkers. Eventually settling in a second-floor room at the Parker House overlooking Boston Square, dinners tended to stretch six hours or more, encouraging a cross-pollination of literary and scientific ideas. Such conversations made waves throughout the city, influencing the goings-on at Harvard University, the U.S. Senate (which was motivated by the Club’s anti-slavery stance), and the newly-founded Atlantic Monthly magazine, whose early contributors were pretty much without exception drawn from Emerson’s Boston crew.

Los Gallos

Mabel Dodge Luhan with Frieda Lawrence (middle) and Dorothy Brett (right; a British painter). Image courtesy marydodgeluhan.com.
Los Gallos. Image courtesy marydodgeluhan.com

Unlike the Saturday Club, Mabel Dodge Luhan's home Los Gallos was powerful not because it was in the heart of a cultural center, but because it was so far away. Built in 1918 in Taos, New Mexico, the home was situated on 12 acres of meadowland and packed with art-filled rooms and as many creative luminaries as Luhan could talk into making the trek to outer New Mexico. The combination of stunning landscape, great company, and comfort turned a stay at Los Gallos into an extended retreat and salon: There, Georgia O'Keeffe created her first New Mexico paintings, and Ansel Adams took up photography.

Dolores Huerta’s Home

Polaroid snapshot of the staff at Delano, including Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez. Image courtesy the Walter P. Reuther library.
Dolores Huerta signs up new members in Delano, California. Image courtesy the Walter P. Reuther library.

In 1962, Dolores Huerta—with Cesar Chavez—opened up her family home in Delano, California as a center for the community and the United Farm Workers Association (UFWA). While working her first year, unsalaried, as vice president of the union, Huerta turned her home into day care, grocery center, and makeshift administrative center. Huerta was famous for mixing home and advocacy, bringing her children with her to strikes, then inviting union volunteers to stay whenever they needed. Once the UFW relocated to an office, the house behind it (otherwise known as The Pink House) served as a refuge for homeless Delano Grape strikers.

The redesign of The Big House in progress. Image by Sarah Shreves.

Over the coming weeks, find out more about The Big House—and the process of its transformation—right here on GOOD. Plus, see the full before and after on Nest’s Pinterest board, or see more from the team via #ThisNestHome on Instagram.

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Looking for the Next Big Social Movement? Check the House Next Door.