University of Illinois - Classroom


Transform a typical drab, cold classroom into an inspired space for learning on a limited budget while reusing the existing desks and not removing any of the blackboards.


  • Grey cinder block walls

  • Beige vinyl tiles

  • Narrow windows

  • Harsh florescent lighting

  • Old metal teacher's desk

  • Old radiator with metal covers

  • Two blackboards (one of which was along the back of the classroom and no longer in use but was deemed too expensive to remove)

  • Student desks which could not be replaced


Using the international makeup of the student body as our inspiration, we created a design that would be welcoming and honor the various cultures of the individuals within its walls. We used Chinese paper cut art as the core of the design of the teacher's desk, translating it into a painted pattern onto the surface. Various ethnic patterns were incorporated into the painted transformation of the metal radiator covers into an exotic trunk. Other patterns were painted as a border around the front chalkboard and handpainted by an artist. 

The walls were painted into cheery colors and the beige vinyl flooring was replaced with a deep purple hued commercial grade tile. The windows were also painted and embellished. A glass artist created custom glass tiles which were inserted onto the tops of each window pane to reflect color into the room.

Since we couldn't remove the back blackboard we decided to turn it into an art piece with whimsical folk art birds suspended over its re-painted surface. An art nouveau tree was painted onto the inside of the classroom door. The outside of the door was painted a warm color with a branch of a tree waving welcome and encouraging students to see what revelations awaited inside.


© 2018 by Catalyst Ranch Design

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