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Posted by on May 6, 2014 | 12 comments

A Surprise Teachers’ Lounge Makeover

A Surprise Teachers’ Lounge Makeover

For teacher appreciation week at our local elementary school, Mount Vernon Community School (MVCS), we wanted to do something BIG to thank our teachers for all their hard work during the year. The plan: Completely overhaul the teachers’ lounge.

The MVCS lounge is typical of many other school lounges with a hodge podge of furniture and a lack of personality. A group of us decided that had to change. Our teachers deserve a warm and welcoming space to take a break during a hectic day, a place to gather for informal meetings other than in a classroom, a room that is truly a teachers’ lounge and not just a place to store and reheat your lunch.

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To start, we visited the lounge one morning before school to take the before photos that would help us brainstorm design ideas. Then, a group of us met one evening and based on our budget, figured out what needed to go, what we could keep as-is or repurpose, what new pieces we needed to bring in, and how we could tie everything together with a coordinated design.

[Funding for the project would come from a part of our PTA budget dedicated to teacher appreciation. We would also seek community donations and do a lot of the work ourselves to save money.]

For one, we knew we needed to keep the cabinets and countertops. They were in good condition and replacing them would blow our budget. We decided the round dining tables worked well but there was no rescuing the chairs and their dingy and dated upholstery.

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Also on the chopping block, yellow curtains, paper window decorations, floral bulletin boards, mismatched lamps, two striped sofas and about 20 boxes which held science kits. Surely we could find somewhere other than the lounge to store the kits!

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We wanted to keep the computer and printer in the room (teachers were printing to it as we were there), but the standard issue desk could use a spruce-up and the overpowering trash can was a serious eye sore.

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The lounge area includes a work room and two bathrooms that were also on the to-do list. Drab and dull is all that comes to mind. What you can’t see in this photo is the fact that there is no work table for sorting papers and one of the paper cutters was actually sitting on the floor.

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After much discussion and many emails with a group of about 10-15 parents, we honed in on a new look for the room. We created a mood board that would serve as a guide for making design decisions.


Since blue and grey were the colors of the features in the room we couldn’t change (cabinets, counters and floors), they would serve as our neutral color base. We would paint the minty green walls a light grey to continue the neutral backdrop. We found out the sofas were IKEA’s Ektorp, a style IKEA continues to make, so all we needed to do was get new slipcovers for a fresh look. Again, we continued the grey scheme.

We debated several ideas for dining chairs, but when we stumbled upon the metal tangerine-colored chairs on, we all agreed they were the ones. Orange is a great match for blue and grey and would be the perfect accent color. We would also add color and texture with curtains (using a fabulous geometric fabric), pillows and soft throws, baskets, plants and earthy wood tones.

After the initial planning phase, we only had about a week to get the actual work done. In the yellow shirt below, Jen, our fearless and patient leader throughout the process, enlisted a team of parents to paint the walls in the main lounge area in the evening hours during the week leading up to teacher appreciation week.

MVCS teachers lounge

The teachers knew about the painting, but they had no idea about the extent of the renovation.

Jen sent daily emails to the team to provide updates and seek volunteers for the next day’s tasks. Our school PTA listserv includes some teachers, so we originally solicited volunteers for a “secret teacher appreciation project,” and included only those people on future emails about the project.

All day Saturday and all day Sunday, we had parents coming in and out performing all sorts of jobs — painting, cleaning, organizing, shopping for last minute decor, running errands for tools and spare parts, and everything and anything in between.

Below, ACPS school board chair Karen Graf and MVCS friend and community partner Jen Walker showed up bright and early to help clean, organize, and move furniture. “Put me to work,” Jen exclaimed.

We had students helping out as well. Here, Caroline (right) helped Christi plan out our giant chalkboard wall in the work room. Caroline also painted, vacuumed and swept.

And how did the reveal go on Monday morning? The team arrived at 7 a.m. to make last minute adjustments. Principal Peter Balas, who was in on the surprise, invited all the teachers to the lounge for breakfast. Little did they know, they would get more than a cup of coffee and a breakfast pastry.


They were also getting a brand new lounge!



And a fun new workroom with a table for cutting paper.


Bright and sunny computer desk.


Cool modern chairs.


Fresh flowers, terrariums, herbs, and house plants!




To say they were thrilled is an understatement.


Stay tuned tomorrow for more photos, details of the DIY aspects of the room transformation, and a source list for everything used for the project.


  1. It really was an amazing surprise! We had no idea that space could be so inviting. It was packed with teachers today…spending a few free minutes, grading, meeting and lunching. Thank you so much on behalf of all the teachers at Mount Vernon. Now our home away from home feels homier. -Anna Harvin, Mount Vernon teacher

  2. Outstanding!!!

  3. awesome! Very cool makeover, and what a great idea!

  4. This is such a great idea! Hope to take it to GM in the years ahead. Hope other schools will follow-suit!

  5. Walking into that room now brings a smile to everyone’s face. Thank you so much for all of the hard work. It is truly beautiful!

  6. Thank you so much for honoring our wonderful teachers in such a delightful way. They work very hard for our kids, and deserve every bit of the pampering they have received this week. The lounge is amazing, and I can already see more folks coming in just to relax and hang out. Kudos to the MVCS PTA for doing this!

  7. We truly have the best parents and kids in Alexandria! Thank you for all of your hard work and making us feel so special–we are a lucky bunch!

  8. Thanks so much Mount Vernon PTA! It’s absolutely beautiful!

  9. We absolutely LOVE our new space! It is amazing! We certainly feel appreciated MV PTA! Thank you!

  10. I would love to talk to you. Our school budget is being destroyed by a teachers lounge Reno…and we are losing teachers. Would love to know the numbers.

  11. This looks amazing!! What a gift to the teachers now and for many years to come! Great job!!!

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