Chrysalis Preschool: Before & After
This has been a long time coming, but it's totally worth the wait, I swear. Wendy and I were both so honored to have this project featured on Design*Sponge last spring, and I hope you enjoy seeing even more of the process here!
My neighbor and friend Wendy has owned and taught Chrysalis preschool for over 15 years, and I cannot overstate how deserving she is of this incredible new space for her school! She had her eye on this charming old house for years, and saw it undergo several phases of commercial use. Most recently, it was a sweet Sri Lankan restaurant outfitted in dark reds, greens, and black; prior to that, it was a charming flower shop that Wendy had always adored. In its flower shop days, it had a white exterior with blue trim, white painted wood floors, and cheery floral wallpapers. Wendy's goal was to bring the building as close as possible back to its days as the flower shop that she loved, while adding some seriously playful elements to make it fit for the world's cutest preschoolers.
When the restaurant redecorated, sheets of plywood were nailed to the original plaster walls and then gel stained, the ceilings were painted green and the trim black, carpet was installed over the painted wood floors, and a commercial kitchen was installed in an addition off the rear of the building. The restaurant had left everything behind when they moved—tables, chairs, banquettes, utensils, even down to the menus. It took many days in the building just to clear the space out and assess the damage to the walls & floors. When the plywood came down, so did large chunks of plaster—but that meant we got to expose some of the original brick in the music room! We had the walls re-plastered and repainted, walls were reconfigured in the back corner to separate the preschool space entirely from the upstairs, and my husband and I sanded and repainted all the floors. We also discovered enormous original pocket doors in the writing room (still in wonderful working condition!) that had been painted shut inside the wall during the restaurant’s renovations.
Throughout this process, we thought often of the original builders as well as the many families and business that have made their home here over the years, and we hope they’d be proud of what we’ve done here. So many generous local businesses and friends contributed to the revitalization of this building, and it would have been impossible without them! Several of those that donated and contributed are listed in the sources at the end of the post, but there were countless other friends and community members that pitched in.
All photos by Benjamin Allred.
The petite entry space was maximized by removing the reception desk in favor of custom storage for the students' shoes and backpacks. A previously walled-up doorway to the playroom was re-opened and fitted with an antique door customized in a dutch style to allow parents to check in on their kids without disrupting their play.
Use slider to view before/after:
The playroom was designed with imagination in mind—we didn’t want it to feel too busy right off the bat. We knew the space would be busy enough with learning and play, so we opted to keep the palette simple and bright, so that all of the fun toys and instruments that belong in a preschool would belong without it feeling overwhelming.
This space was previously more of a pass-through; with two doorways into what is now the music room, and a large opening into the playroom, we decided to set it aside as a reading nook both for class story time and individual reading. We wanted the children to have a place to explore reading in a way that feels independent and builds their confidence—a teepee, bench, and happy book display did the trick!
Wendy uses music as a primary tool in teaching principles of language and learning, so the music room is the heart and soul of the preschool. A piano Wendy painted herself sits in front of a brick wall that was uncovered during renovation—a tangible nod to the rich history and life of the building. The back hallway was created to separate the preschool downstairs from the upstairs of the building, so we capitalized on the new layout by wallpapering a single wall in a happy floral pattern by Josef Frank.
There were previously two doorways between the music and reading rooms, but since we needed to be able to close off the doors between rooms for noise, we decided to convert one of the doorways into a built-in bookshelf for storing musical instruments.
At this point, the walls had been plastered and painted, the pocket door had been restored to working condition, and the floors were uncovered but not yet refinished.
We couldn't let these floor-to-ceiling windows go to waste—the sunroom is used both as a learning greenhouse of sorts and as a space for art projects. The wood worktop is made from reclaimed local wood and sealed for protection against even the messiest crafts.
Playroom / Handmade Wooden toys donated by Little Sapling Toys / Felt ball garland donated by Hello Maypole / Rug: Dash & Albert / Chairs: Amazon / Stuffed Animal Heads: Target / Faux fur stools: Hobby Lobby
Music Room / Wooden ABCs and handmade wooden toys donated by Little Sapling / Rug: Target (similar in indoor-outdoor material) / Woven Ottomans: IKEA / Desk: IKEA / Pink chair: Houzz / White chairs: Amazon / Yellow chair: Amazon / Citrus Print: Angela Hardison / Wallpaper: Josef Frank