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Basement Gets Classroom Theme

Shari Hiller explains how she and partner, Matt Fox, put together a classroom-theme for a little girl.

A young girl's parents wanted to encourage their daughter's interests in becoming a teacher, so they decided to transform a portion of their basement into a classroom.

Remember the anticipation of the beginning of a new school year? New notebooks, sharpened pencils and, if you were really lucky, a box of 64 crayons were packed and ready to go weeks in advance. And don't forget that new lunchbox. What could be more exciting?

My decorating partner, Matt Fox, and I recently met a young lady who not only was thrilled at the thought of a new school year, but enjoyed school so much that she wanted to become a teacher.

Although she was only 8 years old, her parents wanted to encourage their daughter's interests, so they decided to transform a portion of their basement into a schoolroom.

Fortunately, the basement was finished with drywall and carpeting. So our first step in creating a "classroom" was choosing a wall color. Despite the fact that the room was lit with overhead fluorescent lighting, it, like most basements, tended to be a bit dreary.

To brighten the space, we chose an unusual color: chartreuse. This yellow-green color is most often associated with excitement, happiness and comfort — a perfect color for our schoolroom. Bright white on the ceiling and trim helped to brighten the room even further.

As we looked around, we realized it was going to take more than paint to create the feeling of a schoolroom. We were still missing the most important part — the blackboard.

After some research, we discovered that there were several ways to create this essential element. Black or green blackboard paint was available in both regular paint and spray paint. Self-adhesive chalkboard paper also was a possibility.

We also discussed using several coats of magnetic paint under the blackboard paint to create a multipurpose blackboard. This would allow our budding educator to use the board for both writing and hanging artwork.

Although we felt that using paint for the blackboard was a great option, our homeowners wanted the addition to the room to be a bit less "schoolish" in the event their would-be teacher had an abrupt change of mind about her career choice somewhere down the line. Keeping this in mind, we decided a Homasote tack board would be our most versatile choice.

Homasote comes in 4 by 8-foot boards. We used a single board mounted horizontally. We chose a dark gray flannel to cover the board. To upholster the piece, we placed the front of the board face down onto the wrong side of the fabric. Our fabric was 54 inches wide, leaving the perfect amount of selvage to fold up and over.

We wrapped the fabric tightly, stapling as we went. To make sure we had a tight fit, we started in the middle of opposite sides of the board and zigzagged back and forth, first stapling one edge of the fabric and then the other.

Homasote boards can be mounted in one of two ways. You can mount the boards using finishing nails around the edges. Hide the nails, if possible, by pulling the fabric up and over them.

If you want to avoid a multitude of nail holes in the walls, you might try mounting furring strips across the area to be covered. Screw the furring strips into the studs using drywall screws. Note the location of the furring strips, and mount the Homasote board to them.

Once the board was in place, we mounted a small chalkboard, a small white board and a tablet of art paper. Student artwork filled the rest of the board.

Our homeowners had an old desk that we painted white. It made a perfect desk for our future teacher. We added storage bins for supplies and our room was almost complete. It was time to accessorize.

Matt and I have shopped in a variety of stores for accessories. But I must confess this was the first time we went to a "teacher store." There were an enormous number of items to choose from, but we finally settled on an alphabet strip, a desk calendar and a pencil holder. A wooden apple completed our accessorizing.

The finished schoolroom looked very authentic, and our future teacher was ecstatic. It looked so real, in fact, that we won't be a bit surprised if her school bus starts doing a drop-off rather than a pickup as it passes by.

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