By Avery Yang
The morning sun glitters off the many model granite countertops — some gray, some black, some an off-beige — on display at Coram Design Center. Founder Michael Chung, a 2010 La Cañada High School graduate, surrounded by the chic furniture that one would expect to be found in the office of an interior renovator, expresses his desire to be, like the glare bouncing off of the large slabs of marble in front of him, a light in this world.
“The end goal of our company,” Chung said, “is to be a beacon of light for the local community.”
Coram Design Center, a full-service, for-profit home renovation company, is Chung’s ambitious endeavor to link the non- and for-profit worlds — to amalgamate sectors of business that most find to be polar opposites.
While Chung manages home renovation projects that vary from $10,000 to $250,000, he has also pledged, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair Program, to finish two home restoration projects a year for the next five years at a total project donation of about $10,000.
“We feel extremely fortunate that Coram Design Center has made a five-year commitment to support our Home Repair program,” said Erin Rank, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO. “Their generous donations of flooring and windows will bring us significant cost savings and also help the families and individuals who will be served through this program to thrive in their homes.”
Prior to signing this memorandum of understanding with Habitat, Chung worked in conjunction with the organization to repair the home of Barbara Stevenson, who was living with hazardously decrepit carpet, Chung said.
Along with fascia repairs to Stevenson’s home, Coram was contracted to install base moulding, transition moulding and underlay for the house’s floors.
“Michael is a breath of fresh air,” Stevenson said. “The results are great — they’re beautiful. He provided a need for me that I truly appreciate.”
This re-flooring project was Chung’s second pro bono job. He was previously contracted for a similar project at the home of April Martinez, a 5-year-old open-heart surgery patient whose family’s financial situation did not allow their home to be adequately maintained.
“After [April’s parents] shared their story I was just like ‘Man, what can I do for you in terms of making your guys’ holiday season just that much warmer?’ ” Chung said. “I just wanted to help them make their home just that much more homey. I wanted them to feel encouraged.”
Chung’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all entrepreneurs, so he gravitated toward that realm of commerce after graduating from USC with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
It is Chung’s grandfather, a cancer survivor who has gone through three rounds of chemotherapy, who has not only laid the foundation for Chung’s business acumen, but has also motivated him the most to help those he can.
He knows well, from the lessons taught to him by his father and grandfather, that Coram Design Center ultimately is a business — so it must make its own monetary interests a priority. But despite the day-to-day difficulties of leading one’s own small enterprise, Chung wishes to provide more help to the community as Coram ages from its 2015 inception.
“If I could do [this type of charitable work] every day or every week, I would,” Chung said. “But my day-to-day work is in my business. I can’t afford to do this every week — as much as I want to.”
Coram Design Center, for Chung, is not merely about an opportunity to make money, the self-gratifying feeling of owning one’s own company or even about the charity work, it’s for the opportunity to make lasting connections with people.
“What excites me the most about my business is building relationships with people,” Chung said. “I really, really believe in that.”