When founder Lacey Buccellato decided it was time to expand Oh! Canary—her kid-centric art studio that specializes in promoting artistic development through inventive, hands-on classes—into a new 1,500-square-foot storefront in South Orange, New Jersey, she called on local designer Hollie Velten (aka the space doula). The two collaborated to transform Buccellato’s blank slate of a studio (a former bakery) into one she hoped would, as she explains, “be joyful, warm, and welcoming—and spark play and creativity.”

“Hollie is really good at emphasizing the personal connection that we have to our spaces,“ says Buccellato. “Because I’m a solo-preneur, she recognized that this studio is a reflection of my life experience, what I value, and the work that I am so connected to. So she encouraged me to define the values of Oh! Canary and use them to guide our design process.” 

What resulted is a place that’s not only primed for nurturing creativity and packed with personal touches (like a horseshoe found at the Kentucky home of Buccellato’s parents and the hanging yellow wire sculpture she welded in college), but one that’s brimming with DIYs that work wonderfully in a home. Here are five very doable design ideas—from a painterly IKEA hack to Matisse-inspired interactive decor—that are a breeze to re-create.

The Repurposed Drop Cloth

“When I first started running classes in a shared space, I had to cover the whole floor, so I bought a 9-by-12 canvas drop cloth, and over the years of using it, the beautiful mess became a brilliant patina of faded color—hundreds of kids have played and painted on it! We used this drop cloth as fabric for custom pillows, a roller shade, and a curtain,” explains Buccellato. To make your own at home, enlist your kids (and maybe a few of their friends) to paint a big drop cloth with tempera paint—outside! Then wash it. Buccellato recommends repeating this complete process a few times to get the best results. Use the finished canvas to make textile creations of your own—a set of curtains, oversize floor cushions, or decorative throw pillows.

The Matisse-Inspired Pegboard

This installation-style piece hangs in Oh! Canary’s entry area—as both an object of beauty and a creative invitation for the families who are waiting for class to start. The base is a simple pegboard design (this one was made by Buccellato’s husband), and the movable pieces are fashioned from cardboard shapes (cut out with an X-Acto knife and painted with acrylic paints of varying colors) that are then hot-glued to upcycled wine corks. “I think this would be such a fun and unexpected piece for a living room or another family-home space—a work of art that you can play with,” suggests Buccellato.

The Painted Doorframes

“During our process we considered wall murals of different types, but nothing ever felt right,” says Buccellato. “I kept coming back to the idea that none of our design elements should dominate the work of the kids. The painted doorframes added the pops of color and whimsy we were looking for without being visually overbearing.” Velten offers that freehand is best for an accent mural of this type, because it gives the right amount of irregularity (one of her signature tenets). She suggests penciling a design first and then using eggshell interior paint.

The Splatter-Painted Drum Pendant

Buccellato enlisted her two boys (August, 5, and Felix, 7) to create this IKEA hack of the Nymö pendant lampshade. They used a trio of yellow watercolor pigments (watered down until liquid-y) and paintbrushes in three different sizes, then splatter painted away. “The limited palette makes this effect successful for kids, and it was tons of fun for them,” says Buccellato. 

The Art Display

Because roving art displays are paramount to Oh! Canary’s flow, Velten suggested a clean 13-foot-long floating shelf across the back wall of the space as a way to showcase and store the more sculptural student work that’s in progress. The height of the shelf (intentionally positioned just out of reach of tiny hands) keeps special items safe, but it also “makes whatever is up there feel really special,” says Buccellato. For works on paper, the duo came up with another supersimple solution for spotlighting (and refreshing) the latest new paintings and scribbles: They installed a pair of wall-mounted coat hooks several feet apart (which can be flexible, depending on the amount of space you’re working with at home), then tied a piece of heavy-duty cord around each hook and used standard-issue clothespins to hang the artworks. Now you can keep up with your mini’s masterpiece production.

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