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Designing Woman: Nashville Resident Turns DIY Dreams Into Reality With Goodwill

Dana Ball learned at a very young age that if she wanted something, she would have to get it — or make it — for herself.

The Illinois native and her siblings grew up in public housing with a parent suffering from drug addiction. Dana became a single mom at age 16, and for decades she had little money for necessities, much less frills. 

She had a passion for arts and style that needed an outlet, however. She recalls cutting and sewing her own lacy, fingerless gloves from a second-hand pair so she could sport the Cyndi Lauper-inspired trend of the 1980s. 

Today, Dana has four children and five grandchildren. She is a licensed practical nurse living in the Belle Meade area of Nashville, earning a good living and studying for her bachelor’s degree in nursing. Stylish decor fills the rooms of her apartment, where family and friends gather often.

“Everybody calls me ‘bougie’ because I like lavish things,” she says. “I redecorate my home three or four times a year. But I’m still frugal. If I can’t afford to buy it, I’ll make it.” 

Her secret? Shopping at Goodwill. She visits her favorite Goodwill store in Bellevue at least twice a week.

“Goodwill has treasures,” she explains. “When you go into Goodwill, if you use your imagination you can picture how items will look in your house or what you could make out of them.”

Dozens of colorful throw pillows festoon Dana’s couches, beds and patio furniture. To buy a new pillow of that type from a retail store would cost $30 or more, she says. But Dana assembles her own from secondhand pillows purchased at Goodwill for $2.99 and covers she buys for as little as $5. 

Several walls in her home are covered with brightly colored picture frames, filled with photos of loved ones or art. She repaints frames bought at Goodwill for as little as 99 cents apiece. 

Her apartment also features fashionable glass lamps, shelving for candles and other wall hangings — all purchased from Goodwill. Then there is the centerpiece of her living room, an object she calls “my baby.” 

A wide, low-profile cabinet, painted bright teal, houses two electric fireplaces. They cast a cheery light and warm the room. 

As soon as she saw the solid-oak piece at Goodwill — priced at $50 — she envisioned what it could be. Attendants helped her load it into a truck she rented for the purpose, and she brought it home. There she sanded it, repainted its exterior and drawer pulls and removed two glass doors. Where the latter had been, she fitted the two fireplaces she purchased online. 

Dana also buys clothing — especially shoes — from Goodwill and frequently donates there.

Besides beautifying her home, saving her money and allowing her to exercise her creativity, Dana says supporting the local nonprofit feeds her desire to help others. 

“Goodwill helps find jobs and gives people training they need to start careers,” she says. “So the money we spend goes back to a good cause.”

Dana frequently shares posts about her decor, DIY projects and thrift shopping finds to her social media accounts.

“I try to be a role model for young people, especially girls,” she said. “I want them to know that just because you come from the projects doesn’t mean you have to stay there.”
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