Look what happened when we recruited a creative mom
to make over a room for the third-graders at this
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
“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
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
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:
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:
To add a little whimsy and personal touch, Kami made face magnets
from 35millimeter clear glass gems (from Wal-Mart’s floral
“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
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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.