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Every classroom needs a chalkboard, including the play/school zone in Amanda Walker’s Dallas home. Walker’s husband scored the blackboard for $5, thinking it would be a smart addition to the space they created over the summer for their two children (ages 5 and 2). Walker immediately had the idea to reimagine the rectangular surface as a mid-century house (it’s her favorite design era) by adding pieces of wood on top to make the roofline, dowels for the siding, and gray paint streaks on the wall for chimney smoke. “Of course, I had to make it super-extra,” she says, laughing. 

Before the space was a classroom, it was the boys’ shared bedroom. When the pandemic hit, the couple moved their little ones into the guest room upstairs—they needed to take full advantage of every square inch on the first floor. “While my one son is napping, the other can have quiet time down here,” says Walker. In addition to the Frank Lloyd Wright–worthy chalkboard, she turned a narrow closet into a mini library, painted a mural, and mounted a floating desk—all things she learned to do on the fly. “We now own power tools, which is crazy,” she says. Here, Walker gives us the lowdown on the three easy DIYs.

The Little Library

Because the only closet in the room wasn’t actually useful for storing toys or clothes (it’s not very deep), Walker turned it into a book nook instead, using IKEA’s Mosslanda picture ledges ($18 each) and a punchy coat of yellow paint. Precious reads, like ones gifted to the kids by her in-laws from Italy, live up top so they’re out of reach of her toddler. Walker purposefully left the door on its hinges: There’s no insulation in the closet, so it blocks the draft on cool days.

The Mural

The ’70s-inspired wall art that now frames the rocking chair was a surprisingly speedy project. When Walker went to Home Depot to source the paints, it was the first time she’d been around people since the winter. “It was a very jarring experience,” she recalls. As fast as she could, she snapped up four sample cans ($5 each) that looked like they’d go well together.

Walker designed as she went, starting with one large half-circle, then another, before deciding to take part of it up onto the ceiling. “Looking back, I would have drawn it all out and coated the walls with a darker primer,” she says. “We had to go through a lot of samples.”  

The Desk

In addition to the round work table (a Hobby Lobby score Walker paired with Amazon chairs), her kindergartner can work at the floating desk, which is securely mounted into the wall studs. “Our kids are going to climb on it; we had to be prepared for that,” she says. The tabletop is made out of oriented strand board, an affordable construction material that’s stronger than plywood but requires extra layers of water-based polycrylic sealant because the surface is so porous. “It has the warm and funky feel of the cork floors in the room,” she says. Plus it’s marker- and paint-proof: “They can draw on it and it wipes right off.”

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