Saturday, January 18, 2014

Color in the School Room

For the last few months, one of my biggest house projects has been the school room. Our house is a cross-gable with a very straightforward layout: living room in the front, dining room and school room in the middle, and kitchen in the back. So the school room (or back parlor, downstairs bedroom, and playroom as I'm sure it's been over the course of its long life) is very central in the house. But when we moved in, it was a dumping ground for unpacked boxes and unfinished projects. I had a vision for what I wanted it to become, but it was going to take a lot of work and a lot of paint before we got there.

Before I show you the school room, a quick note about color. I love color. Really, really love color. Working with and looking at color is one of the main reasons I knit, spin, weave, and sew, even more than the final product or the process of creating. And color is one of the three main ways (along with reading seed catalogs and looking at green plants) that I intentionally fight off the winter blues. Since the school room was going to be one of the most colorful rooms in the house, I picked it for my big project this winter.

This is a snapshot of my schoolroom pinboard. I knew I wanted a lot of color, antique school desks and a real antique slate chalkboard. But what I started with was a lot of brown.

I don't have any good before pictures to show you of the school room, except this one that we took on our first showing of the house last March. The previous owners weren't doing very much with the room besides keeping some of their kids toys out of the general path of the house. The window in this picture is the only one in the room, so it's the darkest room in the house.

The first thing we did was paint (and when I say we, I really mean my very kind mother-in-law who came up for a few days  before we moved and painted two rooms for us) the room a very light salmon. The previous color was more of a light yellow/tan, and was not a bad color except it added to the overall brown of the room. Brown floor, brown trim, yellow curtains, yellow walls, tan ceiling. My vision was bright, warm, and colorful, so I picked out a color called "pink sangria." I had lots of second and third thoughts about the color, but now that I'm starting to get the furniture and accessories the way I envisioned, I love it. It's light enough to be almost a neutral, but warmer and more interesting than the rental white we'd been living in for five years.

This picture shows (a) the room color most accurately of all the photos in this post, (b) the beautiful (and heavy!) antique slate chalkboard I bought from a lovely woman on Craigslist, and (c) our main project this week: potty training Laurel. Who has recently started asking us to call her Laurie. She's my hilariously funny girl, and a delight to have in the house.

Here is my desk and work corner of the school room. There are so many things I love about this area! I love the enamel topped farm table that has a new life as my desk. It works so well for all the sewing, cutting, designing, laying out, and painting that I do.

I also love the girls' table top chalkboard/whiteboard/drawing paper easel finally has a home hanging up from the crate shelves. It's a great toy for them to play with, but it takes up a lot of space and looks messy when it's just floating around the room. Now it's easy to get down and put back up again, and adds rather than detracts to the beauty of the room.

We just hung the crate shelving up this week, and I really like too. Which is a good thing, since it took forever to paint them all. The rough cut wood just ate up paint. It took nearly half a gallon of white paint just to prime them, and three to four 2-ounce bottles of acrylic paint to color each of them. Spray paint might have been a better option, but it's too cold to spray paint in the winter and I wanted the large color selection I had with Americana paint. But I am glad to have it done!

This blue pegboard holds my sewing thread an miscellaneous tools and supplies. It's another thing I love, both for the rainbow of color it brings to the room, and because it belonged to Collin's great-grandmother Jennie. Even some of the thread up there was hers. I love being able to carry on the tradition of creating beauty from her.

My gumball machine filled with wool felted bouncy balls doesn't have any purpose other than to bring more color and cheer into the room. It's still looking for a final home, but I do like it next to my desk.

Last, but not least, is this nice big bulletin board. It used to be in my mom's school room, but she recently downsized to a smaller cork board, so my sister Kristen gave it a makeover and gave it to me for Christmas. Before it was a medium brown frame with 70s goldenrod burlap, so she painted it green and covered it in cream burlap. It looks great! Right now we have it covered with our leaf identification cards, but there are so many other things I look forward to doing with it.

That's almost it for finished projects, except a small-ish one that I'm especially happy about and will post in a couple days. I'd say the room is about half finished right now. We still have a long list of projects, including

  • Paint the school supply hutch (blue and white)
  • Paint the file cabinets (light blue or turquoise)
  • Make a yellow ruler growth chart
  • Make vintage handkerchief curtains
  • Refinish the wood on some of, and paint the rusty metal on all of the antique school desks
  • Mount large maps to canvas and hang them on the wall

So there's plenty to keep us busy for a long time. But now that we're starting to get somewhere, I'm extremely happy. It's becoming a really nice place to hang out, to sing songs, to color, and to create. In fact, as I write this right now Annie is yelling to me from the school room saying, "Mama, I want to sing songs!" So I think I'd better head that way, and set up a cd for her. See you next time, when I'll show you our cute perpetual calendar makeover!

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