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While Kids Were Out

Look what happened when we recruited a creative mom to make over a room for the third-graders at this church!

When Children's Ministry Magazine asked Kami Gilmour, a mom with a flair for decorating, to make over a Sunday school classroom, we specifically chose a third-grade room. Why? Because we've found in almost every church we've seen over the years that it's easier to design a room to be child-friendly for kids 5 and under. The real challenge comes with designing rooms that are age-appropriate, gender-neutral, colorful, and current for older kids. We're convinced that Kami achieved all this with our makeover room. Read on to learn how you can apply the same principles in your classroom makeovers.

Wall to Wall
The room is in a basement and was recently painted white. With a western exposure window, there was lots of glare. The room had a bulletin board, a wall cabinet, a white board, and posters tacked on the walls. The lighting was fluorescent and seemed harsh with the white walls and bright window.

In choosing a design and color palette, Kami kept in mind the use of the room. The teacher was very visual and the room was small, so the design needed to support his teaching setup, rather than be visually distracting.

"I chose bright colors that were gender-neutral," Kami says, "and a crisp, geometrically inspired design with white lines and squares that was 'hip' and age-appropriate."

To make the white lines, Kami used 1.5-inch blue painter's tape, measured straight lines with a chalk line, and painted two coats of white primer along the tape edges to seal them and ensure crisp lines. For rooms with highly textured walls, use painter's caulk along the edges to make sure colored paint doesn't seep under the tape. Kami let the white primer on the tape dry (about one hour) and painted the walls in each area with colored primer that matched the final topcoat color. She gave the bottom areas extra coats of primer, since this area is highly prone to scrapes and dings. Total cost: $100

Wall Displays
In evaluating the wall hangings, Kami says, "The bulletin board seemed 'old school' and a hassle for the teacher to design over and over. So we opted for the sleek, functional magnetic board instead."

Kami had a metal shop cut 26 millimeter galvanized steel to the desired size. She then glued it to plywood with PL400 (strong caulk/adhesive). A carpenter built a frame with recycled 2¥4s and screwed the new board into the wall studs over the bulletin board. The added benefit is that the new board is removable (but heavy) if the teacher really wants the bulletin board back. Total cost: $58

For design with teacher-friendly function, Kami designed a magnetic strip of 6-inch metal squares around the room so the teacher can hang displays at the children's eye level. "It also highlights the cool geometric design," Kami says. "The squares were cut from scrap metal by our new friends at the sheet metal shop!" Total cost: $10

To diffuse the light, Kami simply hung a sheer white curtain on a tension rod. She also created a metal valance to tie the window in to the rest of the room design. Total cost: $10

Kami took down the awkward cabinet in the corner and removed the two small bookcases that were crowded and overflowing. A carpenter built a 7¥3-foot bookcase out of scrap shelving wood. The top is deeper to provide a countertop-style area for the teacher. After priming and painting it, the bookcase was bolted to the wall for stability and safety. To hide the clutter, Kami installed a closet shelving rod and added a festive fabric curtain. Total cost: $35

Ah...the Details
To add a little whimsy and personal touch, Kami made face magnets from 35millimeter clear glass gems (from Wal-Mart's floral department).

"We took pictures of the kids," Kami explains, "cut them out, and with clear glue put the faces on the back side of the gem (face showing forward) and hot-glued a strong magnet to the back once the face glue was dry. We also used multicolored pompoms and hot glued strong, round magnets to them for use around the magnetic strip and board. With the remaining pompoms, we covered the plain, ugly clock in colorful furry fun!" Total cost: About $25

Room Decorating Phases
Because we understand that not everyone has the time, energy, or financial resources to make over every square inch of a room, we decorated the room in three phases.

• Phase 1: Little Money or Time-If you do nothing else to a room, paint it a bright, child-friendly color and add a nice curtain. We also added the magnet board in this phase. Total cost: $165

• Phase 2: Getting Into It-Add special touches that kids will love. We added the magnet square strip, the bookcase, and magnets. Total cost: $70

• Phase 3: Why Stop Now?-If we were to do more to this room, here's what Kami suggests. Cut a 3-foot opening in the drywall next to the class door and add a minidoor so kids have their own entrance into the class. Also, take out the fluorescent lights-buy the fun, flexible steel wire spotlights and arrange them in patterns on the ceiling.

Decorating on a Budget
Decorating on a budget requires as much creativity as the design. Here are a few things we learned along the way.

• Use Recycled Materials. Ask store owners if they have a scrap area or discounted resources for church use. Browse your local home store for supplies, then look in your yellow pages for suppliers of materials you want. We found galvanized metal at The Home Depot, but then we called a sheet metal fabricator and found them to be 50 percent less expensive.

• Save Money on Paint. Visit a landfill recycling center. Most cities have a household hazardous waste drop-off site for paint, stain, and primer. At our center, everything was free! We got two gallons of paint and a quart of primer.

Keep in mind, though, that many of these products have been stored in people's garages or at the site's warehouse in uninsulated areas and have been frozen many times over. So before you fill up your car with free stuff, check the date on the mix label, and open the can to look for bubbles or clumps. Bad paint isn't worth it even if it's free, because it won't stay on the wall well. Also, in many areas churches are considered businesses and can't return any paint to the recycling center without a drop-off charge.

Check out the "oops" rack at your local home store. Look for colors close to what you're interested in using, and the paint staff will doctor the color with more pigment. We even had The Home Depot add more pigment to our recycled paint from the landfill. Be creative, and don't be afraid to ask the paint area staff for help or suggestions on color mixing and matching.

Ask your church members if they have paint or primer to donate. Specify semi-gloss, and give samples of the color you're looking for. If the paint is close to what you want, you may be able to tint it to your desired color.

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