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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Staff Lounge Makeover

The staff lounge in my school was just downright depressing. The furniture was over 25 years old and traveled with us to the "new building" which is over 15 years old if I'm not mistaken.  Staff members stopped eating lunch in there years ago. They go in to make an occasional cup of coffee, purchase something from the vending machines, or utilize the fridge for something. But overall, it was a dark, uninspiring space that we all just walked by several times per day. 

As the person in charge of our Sunshine Committee, I try to inspire and motivate our staff and keep morale high, as our job as teachers is already stressful and all encompassing enough. This is no easy task, and one that I don't take lightly. So I approached my principal, Leslie, about this and she was all on board for this. She asked me to spearhead this project, which I gladly accepted the challenge.

Now, you may be wondering WHERE DOES THE CASH COME FOR THIS TYPE OF PROJECT...right?  After all, we are a school and we never have enough money to do things that might be considered "extras" although I would argue essential. Our district office had initially agreed to fund this project. Unbeknownst to me, the other buildings had started re-doing their lounges and the district had coughed up the cash to fund parts of their projects.  Our building had some major renovations this past summer and over the summer, the district backed out of this project...at which point I was really disappointed. I had already begun looking at furniture with a representative and had really thought this was going to be a reality for our staff.  Luckily, Leslie suspected that this might be the case and put some funds aside so that the major things such as furniture would still be able to happen.

I knew that I just didn't want a room of new, industrial furniture however. I wanted a room that was worthy of spending time in, a room that reminded us of our lives outside of the school, and a place that staff could take a break from the hectic pace of the day. I was going to need more money than just having the furniture expense covered.  I decided to use some of our Sunshine Funds to add some finishing touches.  A little surplus of cash in the account made this possible, but soon I realized that I would need even a little more so I didn't run the account dry.  I hit up our PTO president and she made a pitch for me to the PTO Board, who also decided to chip in $500.  This was agreed upon by our PTO and appreciated by not only myself but the entire staff.

I bet you are asking...what did this room look like to start?  And what were you working with that would dictate the outcome of the room? 

Here are some before pictures...

Icy Gray Blue Walls were a non-color!

A perfect nook for some soft seating.

You can get a glimpse of the light blue cabinetry
that had to stay put without alteration.

Entry to the room and just blah!
The chairs aren't even in there because
nobody came in to sit anymore!

What did I envision for the room?  

Teams of teachers typically include 5 grade level teachers, plus at anytime, there could be an intervention teacher and/or special education teacher joining the team for lunch, plus a few others.  I decided I wanted tables that could accommodate at least 8 people so entire teams could be together or even merge teams who overlap on lunch times.  Also, I was going for a coffee shop/Panera vibe in the room.  Tables of various heights, upholstered furniture that would be durable for the long run, and flexible seating for various staff preferences.

I chose 2 high top rectangular tables that could fit eight adults each, 2 low round tables that could fit four adults, and a couch and club chair, coffee tables and end tables, a conversational area to warm up the room just perfect for a break, not necessarily just for eating. The chairs are either royal blue or navy blue to tie in with the cabinetry.  The upholstered pieces were only available in gray or black from this company so I reluctantly went for the black.  (My car had light leather seats and I did not like when my jeans wore off on them. I was afraid that would happen with the gray upholstery.)  I decided it could all be warmed up with some throw pillows, a rug, and a fresh coat of paint.

Here are the results. Drum roll please.....

This picture does not show the walls freshly painted. This is the old color that at
time of print was not completely painted. Our amazing custodial staff is painting
a little at a time and these steely gray walls are being replaced by IVOIRE, a Sherwin
Williams color that is a buttery tan.

You can see that this room is not merely furniture, it encompasses way more.  I spent a lot of time trying to personalize it and make it feel homey.  I purchased things from IKEA, At Home, The Fabric Shack, Marshalls/TJ Maxx, Walmart, and a local book store.  Online purchases were made from Ruggable and Seventh Avenue.  Ruggable makes a very interesting product. The rug is more like a fabric that gets put upon a pad.  The rug passed our Fire Inspector and is even machine washable. I thought this would be perfect for maintaining the cleanliness of the room and any spills that may happen due to the nature of the space. The coffee tables were very reasonable from Seventh Avenue. I wanted low profile tables that had a lot of glass so they did not visually take up a lot of room in the corner. I purchased adorable salt and pepper shakers for each table with fun sayings on them, along with the bright place-mats for a pop of color.  A new microwave was purchased and the old one was thrown out as it had seen better days....so there are now 2 clean microwaves for staff to access.  There is a coffee station that is absolutely adorable, loaded with coffee pods and teabags, cups, sweeteners, a frequent stop for many staff members. There is a coat rack from IKEA so staff members who have duty after lunch can hang their coats out of the way while eating. There are puzzle books: crosswords, Sudoku, Word Searches, and Jumbles, along with pens for those wanting to zone out for a few and truly take a break. Throw pillows camouflage the black upholstery and add some fun colorful touches. The cornice above the window to the hallway was built by my handy colleague, Darren, out of wood and I upholstered it using batting and a fabulous fabric that ties into the rug and pillow colors.  The only thing you can't see in these pictures is the new paint on the walls, which is called IVOIRE, by Sherwin Williams which is a buttery tan, which also picks up the color in the fabric cornice. The icy gray is now almost gone, with only one wall to paint behind the vending machines. 

Take a closer look here: 

Ruggable.com is where I chose to purchase
the rug. It is machine washable and thought that
would be perfect for cleanliness and a great
pop of color to balance out the black upholstery.

We are stocked up on coffee pods, tea bags at
our coffee station. You can see the cute salt and
pepper shakers too that we have for each table.  The
cabinetry above is stocked with plates, cups, sweeteners,
and utensils. The goal is for those who use them to replace
them as needed. 

The end tables and coffee tables were ordered online
from a company called Seventh Avenue.  The set was less than
$200 for the three tables and they look great. Plus some cute
accessories to make it feel a bit cozier.

These "frames" were from IKEA. I bought three of them
then stalked my colleagues on Facebook to get pictures of
family and friends to clip up here. There are a ton more
clips and I hope they will add to and/or replace
the pictures that are currently hanging. A touch of our homes and
our hearts!  This was a total hit with STAFF and completely

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the transformation that has taken place in this room. While there are other options for places staff members can eat lunch and convene, there has been an increase in the amount of staff actually utilizing this space, and more importantly coming together, socializing, and bringing sunshine into the lives of colleagues and friends. I'd call that a win-win, and an overall success! Has your staff lounge been re-done? Is this a project you are working on?  I hope you got some great ideas from seeing what has been done in our building.