Our neighborhood preschool is a goldmine of childhood magic. It's a special place that brings families together; an emblem of our community's commitment to children.
This year, for National Painting Week, our friends at Sherwin-Williams encouraged us to seek out a community-based project. We were thrilled, because doing more of this sort of work has long been one of our goals. We instantly knew our beloved preschool would be the perfect candidate. The power of paint would be transformative, helping improve a space that does so much for children and families. Read on to hear all about it.
The St. Anthony Park UMC Community Nursery School is a treasured place for our family. It's a school built on visions of play and exploration, housed in the lower-level of a turn-of-the-century church; modest on the outside, but all kinds of wonderful on the inside.
Both of our children have attended the school, and we've watched its director, Molly Breen, tirelessly transform it over the years. She inherited sun-filled, open spaces the children delightfully make their own. But those wide open spaces harbor decades of character ... good and bad.
Over the years, Molly has turned the dated spaces into beautiful learning environments that support her child-led curriculum. The school's gym was one of the last projects on her to-do list, and the one we most wanted to get our hands on. We were intrigued by all the design possibilities, and verily, a little frightened of the room's size (more than 1,000 square feet).
The gym needed to remain multi-functional; lots of long runs for large-motor play, with some cozy nooks built in for quieter times. We needed to account for gym mats and scooters, but also consider storytime and naps for all those little artists, builders, and daydreamers.
My brain immediately started making a dozen vignettes, but they had to be cohesive and fluent.
So, with miracles in mind, have a look at the 'before' space to get a sense of what we were working on:
Children are miracles ... we must make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude,
a space that is worthy
of a miracle.
And here's what the space looks like now:
Paint is Magic in a Can
We knew paint was going to have an unbelievable impact on this room. The worn beige color was not doing those walls any favors, and they deserved much better. For the foundation, we chose a bright white - our standby, most faithful friend, Pure White (SW 7005).
We worked in some joyful color and texture by building overlapping triangles out of one corner. The colors were inspired by my beloved Birchbox subscription. March’s box was good:
The triangles were painted with the following (from left to right): Breaktime (SW 6463), Comfort Gray (SW 6205), Champagne (SW 6644), and Lime Granita (SW 6715). Do they remind you of this little boy’s room? That was unintentional, but kind of a happy throwback!
Getting perfectly crisp lines when masking paint is hard, especially when painting old plastered walls with lots of imperfections. The paint just loves to bleed under your tape lines.
Here's how to avoid paint bleed...
1. Rough in your shape without taping; make it a little bigger than you want the final shape to be.
2. Let that color dry, and then lay your tape line down over it (that's why you made it a little big in step one). Your tape should be inside the colored area. Now, paint over the outside edge of your tape with that color. This seals the tape down.
3. Let it dry, then paint the outside of the shape (i.e. if the wall is white, re-paint the white area outside the tape). Peel the paint up while this coat (the base wall color) is still wet. You'll have perfect, crisp paint lines!)
Still not making sense? Here's an explanation with pictures.
We added some dimension to the triangles with metallic silver circles (cut thrice due to the inability of the first two vinyls to properly adhere... the winningest vinyl was the Cricut Adhesive Foil).
All the trim and posts were painted a dark gray (Peppercorn SW 7674). My first inclination was to paint the wood trim white, but Molly (smartly) suggested a darker color that could hide imperfections (those baseboards and doors are at the constant mercy of tiny hands and vehicle wheels). We used a paint sprayer for the baseboards and trim; highly recommended. We used a paint sprayer for the baseboards and trim; highly recommended.
Corraling the Light
The thing we love most about the gym is the abundance of natural light it gets throughout the day. Although it's a basement, it has large, south-facing windows, so it practically overflows with light in the afternoon.
This is great! Except when it's not ... like when 25 preschoolers are trying to rest during quiet time.
That's where window treatments come in. Say heeeeeeey to the Signature Roman Shade from Blinds.com! These shades had a profound effect on the room, adding texture and an organic softness. They complemented the paint in a most excellent way and instantly elevated the entire room.
An Organized Space is a Happy Space
Once the canvas was set, we got down with organization. As I mentioned before, we needed to create many small spaces inside one large space, which required a small bit of wizardry. We wanted the overall space to feel unified while playing a variety of distinct roles.
When I was teaching (3rd and 4th grade, ten years, holla!), organization was my biggest mountain to climb. Every year.
But, in truth, it was also one of my favorite parts of the job. Here's why: an organized classroom makes everything else possible. It helps you do your job better and allows you to use your space well. When children can find the materials they need, a sense of independence and ownership are fostered.
We used dozens of clear bins to store all the small stuff (art supplies, blocks, dinosaurs, etc.). This was a top priority for Molly, in line with her teaching philosophy; the children should be able to see everything that's available to them.
While we worked on organizing all the toys, our friend Andy installed beautiful maple cabinetry and a 'garage' system to house all the trikes and scooters. He also turned a defunct doorway into a shelving system. The cabinetry is not only stunning, but it provides much-needed storage in the space.
Making One Space into Many
We left the room's floorplan alone because it was working for the kids, and if it ain’t broke …
We used furniture and art to help create visual dividers throughout the room. As part of the project, we partnered with Wayfair, who donated $1000 in furniture to the space - including two new sets of tables and chairs. The furniture defines the art and craft area, and it's easy to move when the space needs to be more open.
We moved all the flexible piping to the wall to free up floor space.
When you're trying to define spaces within a room, rugs are pretty much your BFF. We used several basic IKEA rugs to define different areas. These rugs work well because they're aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and easy to replace after a school year of hard use.
I made a new cover for to the reading nook with my most beloved Nate Berkus's line of fabric, and we cozied it up with rugs and toss pillows.
We hung those magnificent animal busts above the lockers, and swapped out the orange storage baskets for a fresh set of white ones.
Of course, the most important question is, what do the kids think? Have a look:
This year's project was a ton of work, but we enjoyed every minute of it. I'd love to know what you think! Leave a comment below telling us what you liked, or what you would've done differently.
And don't forget to check out these other National Painting Week projects from our friends.
- Wall Color: Sherwin-Williams' Pure White (SW 7005)
- Trim and Posts: Sherwin-Williams' Peppercorn (SW 7674)
- Triangular Accent Colors (from left to right): Sherwin-Williams' Comfort Gray (SW 6205), Breaktime (SW 6463), Champagne (SW 6644), and Lime Granita (SW 6715)
- Roman Shades: Signature Roman Shades (cordless) by Blinds.com
- Round Tables from Wayfair
- Green Classroom Chairs from Wayfair
- Paper Organizer
- Beanbag Chairs from Wayfair
- Stackable Benches from Wayfair (not pictured)
- Teepees: Black & White; Gray & White
- Train Table
- Wire Basket Wall Storage
- Rug (in Train Area)
- Storage Shelf
- Book Ledges
- Picture Frames with Clips
- Rug in Reading Nook
- Coat Rack
- Origami Wall Planters
- Metal First Aid Kit
- Throw Rugs: TANUM and Nate Berkus
- Clear Storage Bins: Small and Large
- Metal Book Baskets
- Gray Plastic Storage Bins
- Animal Busts
- Rug in Room's Center
- Runners in front of Lockers
This post was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams. All opinions, images, and words are mine alone. Thank you for supporting the brands that make the Curbly world go 'round.