Alma Project: Playroom Transformed

By Kate Riley May 1, 2012

Hi all, it’s time to share what we accomplished during our weekend at the Alma Project, and I’m so excited about this space!  We started with this room which is dedicated to the kids but was acting more like a storage space than a playroom, and in need of practical kid friendly solutions.  Over the course of three days, the team took this room from totally drab to completely fab!   We had to work with the existing navy carpet and ceiling, but every thing else was fair game so we started with a fresh coat of paint on the walls on Friday (painted baseboards too) and then installed all the elements from the design plan on Saturday and Sunday.

A month ago, Cristin and I got on the phone together to brainstorm ideas to reinvent this space.  It had to be a gender neutral playroom to serve kids ages 2 to 10, and we wanted to make it as inspiring as we could within our budget of $1,000.  We started with the giant wall map in shades of blue and green, then found a modern wavy stripe for the curtains, and I sourced everything else after that, with various online purchases and trips to IKEA, Target, etc.

All of the families who reside share a bedroom (mom plus kids in one room, up to four families in this home) so there was a real need for a community space for kids to be inspired to create and play.  The kids playroom sits right off the kitchen and is also a place for parents to relax and interact with their little ones.

Here’s a look at the room before we began:

alma kids room

And how it now looks after our three day makeover:

alma project kids playroom

Wow, right?   So fresh, so fun, so filled with color! Here’s the grand tour of the new kids playroom at our Alma Project. 


It measures approximately 16’ x 12’ and is packed with plenty of practical storage, a bench for sitting or playing, a leather sofa, and a feature wall with an inspiring map of the world!

playroom view cg


On the left side of the room we installed a giant map to encourage the children that the world is full of possibilities!   The blues and greens established the color palette for the entire space.  We donated our gently used leather sofa to the space. 

map wall playroom cg


On the other side of the sofa are extra floor cushions in a medallion print for lounging, dreaming, or playing.

floor cushions and map cg


A giant (as big as the world) thank you to FLOR for donating the carpet tiles under the sofa, they’re the perfect match!  I also have one more row that we can use to widen or replace the existing mini area rug.

map wall and flor tiles cg


One of my sponsors, Shades of Light, donated the new Moravian Star fixture which is reminiscent of a compass star.

shades of light fixture


On the bare wall next to the door to the laundry room and garage, I saw the need for a library and toy storage so we added three built-in Billy bookcases (similar to this project) to maximize the use of vertical space and painted the backs to provide a fun grassy green color to brighten the room.  The bookcases are anchored to the wall studs to prevent any instability or tipping.

billy bookcases and play table


The color along the back is Glidden’s ‘Green Lane’ which is more like “Kermit the Frog” green to me!  Our local church group donated dozens of books which doubled the size of the kids library.  Thank you Nina and Chris for the collection!   The play table was a Craigslist find that I repainted.

play table and hooks cg

The hook rails were another generous donation by Liberty Hardware, who not only donated these hook rails for storage (for dress up and purses and backpacks!) but also many more hooks for the entry too.

On the window wall, we added an IKEA Expedit shelf to act as both a bench and a great place for toy storage.  I imagine its flat surface will accommodate a train or car race too.

ikat pillow expedit bench cg


I sewed the rod pocket panels with 12 yards of this outdoor fabric and they bring whimsy, plus sun protection when necessary.  The window opens to a fenced side yard, so privacy is not an issue.

playroom window treatments cg


The ‘You Are My Sunshine’ art is from The Ink Society, and is framed in a grid to inspire – the Melissa & Doug easel was another donation.  It can be moved to make space for a future TV stand and television for the kids to watch movies.

easel art window panels cg


That’s the grand tour of the new playroom space, hope you like it as much as the kids!  I’ll do a follow up post answering any questions you might have, and showing you the ‘behind the scenes’ projects that went into the transformation from the wall map to the Billys to sewing the window treatments!

 Here’s the Source List and total cost of the makeover:

World Wall Map:  $99

Trim for map: donated by COTS

3 Billy bookcases, IKEA: $151 with tax

Teal lamp base and shade, Target, $43

Wall and trim paint: donated by Glidden (thank you Sarah!)

Anchors, framing, and crown for bookcases; $45

Storage Drawers & Baskets for bookshelves, Target: $45

Carpet tiles: donated by FLOR (thank you Patrick!)

Stripe pillows, Target, $29

End table: our donation

Monrovian Star fixture, donation by Shades of Light (thank you Walter!)

Storage Ottomans, Target $50

Leather Sofa, Jennifer Convertibles: our donation

Medallion floor cushions, Costco: $40

Framed wall art, The Ink Society, $42

Wall Frames, Target, $43

Expedit shelf under window, IKEA, $64 with tax

Fiber storage baskets, IKEA, $49 with tax

repainted Pottery Barn Play table, Craigslist: $45

Richloom Indoor/Outdoor Poolside fabric (window treatments), 12 yards, $108

Ikat pillow, Target, $22 with tax

Lime green pillows, IKEA, $10 with tax

Hook rails, donated by Liberty Hardware (thank you Amy!)

Easel: our donation

Total cost for playroom makeover = $885


Before: alma kids room


blue and green playroom cg


Many thanks to FLOR, Liberty Hardware, Shades of Light, and Glidden Paint for their generous product donations!!

We would also like to personally thank these wonderful and generous PayPal and mail donors:  Stephanie Norris, Susan Luken, Heather Lynch, Lynn Nazareth, Michelle Hayward, Patti Hubbard, Laurel Friedman, Jodi Santimauro, Brandi Adoff, Shiori Constance-Fiedler, Sarah Springer, Rachel Wimpee, Christina Webb, Jean Mieloch, Laura Bettis  Christina Isetta, Jacqueline Blomberg, Kristin Schmidt, Cathleen Barstow, Caitlyn Cameron, Tracie Stoll, Claudine Kruck, Mary Robertson, Mary Ann Bassett, Dayna Dubay, Patti Zipper, Rachel Seavey, Deborah Milner, Karen Duffy, Emily Essig, Terah Shelton, Melinda Wyckoff, Cindy Braniff, Linda Hyams, Helen Tuggle, Sherry Hutchens, Gregory Bender, Cassidy Beyer, Jonathan Dunford, Keri Andrews, Laura Groff, Elizabeth Hunt, Lakeitha Duncan, and Sharon Johnson.   THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

We could not have done this without you!

But you know what?  We have less than $500 left in our PayPal account, and we need to raise more!  There’s a sad living room which needs some real solutions and a backyard that’s mostly weeds and in desperate need of help!  The kitchen remodel is underway thanks to a generous donation by Home Depot to replace the cabinetry (wow, amazing!) but we need to buy a new oven/cooktop, a range hood, and countertops.  We welcome your donations!   For more details on what the Alma Project is all about, read this post.

Click on this button in the sidebar to help!

alma project

Thanks so much to all the volunteers who gave their time and helped pull this space together, we’re so proud of this playroom.  Read all the details on the DIY projects in this space right here!




  1. What an amazing transformation! I’m sure their imaginations will soar in this room. The map is so super fabulous and works so well with the window treatments. What a wonderful contribution to a good cause:)

  2. The room is beyond amazing! What a fantastic job! the
    Expedit seems to be floating in the photos……did you add a row of legs in the middle of it or can we just not see the legs in the photo? Ding the same in a daughter’s room and I’m a little scared of the particle board….

  3. I CANNOT get over how amazing that is! What a wonderful space for kids to play and explore. I can imagine them pouring over that map and picking out places to have imaginary adventures in. What a beautiful transformation! Bravo!

  4. it is a wonderful room! I love the fresh colors and the giant map is just awesome! Love love love!

  5. AMAZING! That before/after is just awesome. I was looking at the before thinking, “what in the world is she going to do with that carpet?!” You pulled it off perfectly. Justly lovely.


  6. Looks great but I’d definitely add that extra row of carpet tiles. The FLOR rug as it is now looks too small (but maybe that’s the camera playing tricks on my eyes).

  7. This is such a beautiful and inspiring room. I love this cause and look forward to learning more about the Alma project and how to get involved. Thanks for sharing!

  8. What a beautiful transformation, Kate and team! :) the colors are terrific and I love the Kermit the Frog bookcases… And how wonderful to be teaching them that they can go anywhere they want! What an empowering lesson! Love love love it all.

  9. OMgoodness!!!! What a beautiful transformation!! That is the perfect play room for any kiddo! I love the giant map! Where did you get it? Great great job!!!!!

  10. I am blown away by this transformation….simply amazing! You are so talented! What a great gift to the families at Alma House.

  11. What a beautiful transformation. I know those kids will love it. The bright colors make me instantly smile. Great job!!! ; )


  12. That is so great! I used to work at a women’s shelter, and I know how much it means to them to have a beautiful space to live in. Great work!

  13. Wow! What a gorgeous room! Love the curtains and the wall map! It’s so bright and cheerful and inviting. As always, you, and the rest of your crew on this project, are an inspiration!

  14. Very nicely done. I love that you embraced the carpet color instead of trying to downplay or hide it. And I love the combination of education and imagination in the room. What a great place for kids. Heck, I’d like a room like that for me.

  15. GOOSEBUMPS!!! What a gift you’ve given to these famillies! The playroom looks AH-MAZING!!

  16. Wow!!! I’m so amazed!! I wish I had that kind of talent and could create beautiful rooms like that in my home. You should be incredibly proud of the work you did. Wow.

  17. Spectacular! Bright and cheerful, what kid wouldn’t love to spend some time in there! Great job.

  18. I had to come over from my google reader to comment. WOW!!!! You all did a fantastic job! This space is so cheerful, inspiring and yet calming too. I love the colors. The curtains are awesome. The use of space is perfect. The leather couch is a great choice. Seriously this is fabulous. Bravo!

  19. OMG!!!! What a transformation, Kate! Love the color scheme and the map is perfect for the space! I really need to try those billy bookcases! Can’t wait to see the next space.

    PS, Antonio Duncan is me:)

    You’re totally welcome. I’ll try t to donate more soon!

  20. Wow is an understatement! Amazing space, you are truly inspirational.

  21. Absolutely ADORE that new room. Gave me a lot of ideas to change up the playroom we have for the grandkids. Thank you so much for sharing.

  22. um yes! wow indeed!! love the giant map and how all the colors coordinate without being matchy matchy. each piece makes such a statement, yet none are overpowering at all!

  23. This is AWESOME!!! And so budget friendly! I’m transforming our dining room into a playroom and you’ve given me some inspiration!!! Love it!

  24. Oh my Kate, you did an awesome job on this transformation. I bet the families just love it. I know things must be hard for them, and being in this room HAS to brighten their day and lift their spirits. I am so glad I was a tad part of this, you can count on me for another donation, it is money well spent. The way you pulled the colors from the map are so fun and fresh, great, great job.

  25. WOWZA! What a transformation! The new play room looks incredible, so functional and inspiring, I love it! You’re so fabulous, Kate! Your designs are so cohesive, I love everything about this new space!

  26. Oh Kate! What a beautiful job you all did tranforming that room, especially having to work with the Navy carpet! I love that you chose to do the play area first. The map is the perfect bold statement (with some education to boot)! What a special place they’ll enjoy! Wonderful job!!

  27. Love the map…love the colors! Great job!!!! Do you have a button for the Alma Project? I would be happy to place a donation button on my side bar ;)

  28. Such an amazing transformation!

    So inspired that you and your family have taken on this project for another year.

  29. This room looks amazing now! So fun and beautiful. And such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing!

  30. This is such a great upgrade who wouldn’t want to play in here? I love how calm and soothing it is. I had to look twice to see if you changed the floor color. Just perfect. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  31. Sis, This is just plain precious. You guys did such a great job, and I’m very proud of you :)

  32. It looks fantastic, Kate! I just love huge wall maps like that… they add so much whimsy to a room.

  33. Kate, this is beautiful! What a wonderful way to use your talents to the glory of God. I love that the world map is educational as well. A little more learning never hurt anyone. :)

  34. Everyone deserves a lovely, colorful, clean and inspiring home. Your efforts are helping to provide that Kate. You should be really proud of yourself, there is NO better way for you to be using your talents then this. I cannot wait to see what you come up with next.

    You inspire me.

  35. Terrific job! The room is bright, colorful, and inspiring. The minute I looked at it I couldn’t help but smile. :)

  36. AMAZING inspired work…everything about it radiates happiness and light..and the generosity of spirit with which it was all created. You should all be very proud!

  37. That is an amazing transformation! It looks bright, colorful and like it will house ‘a lot of fun’! Job well done and a huge thank you to all the volunteers involved with such a beautiful project.

  38. Wow wow wow, what a transformation!! You guys have done a beautiful job!

    PS I tried the pay pal link a couple of times but it seems to be broken :(.

    • Hey Morgan, thank you (and thanks everyone!) If you look on the sidebar on the site, that takes you directly to PayPal, thank you in advance for your donation, it is such a worthy cause!

  39. This room looks FABULOUS! I LOVE your Alma Project and the whole feeling behind it. My favorite part of the room is the huge map. I’d LOVE to do that in our dining room turned playroom. i looked at the description of it on the store page and am wondering how high the ceilings were in this room? It says that the map is over 8 feet tall. I’ve got 8 foot ceilings, so with my crown moulding and baseboards I’d have trim off a decent chunk of the map. I’m wondering if that would cut into the image too much? Did you have to trip it at the top or bottom to fit in your room?

    • Hi Rachel, the ceilings in this space are 8’8″ but we trimmed 10 inches off the bottom and 6 inches off the top so that there would be wall space showing – we also cut out two time zones on each side!

  40. I want to go play in that room! It looks so cheery and fun. What an inspiring transformation for an inspiring cause.

  41. Kate, this is wonderful. Stupendous. What an amazing transformation on a budget. It doesn’t look like a budget transformation, though–it looks like you had all the time and money you could have wanted to make this a special place. Way to go!

  42. WOW! Just WOW! Not only did you refresh and brighten that room, but I bet you’ve brightened a lot of lives and touched a lot of hearts with your makeover. Congratulations, on a job WELL DONE!

  43. Phenomenol! Like so many others I love the color and the giant map…will keep bookmarked for future inspiration!

  44. Wow!! You (and your volunteer cohorts) have worked magic again! Truly a HUGE difference; may it be a welcoming and happy place for all of those living in the home.

  45. What a fabulous room and a wonderful gift to these families. You all did a beautiful job. The colors are fun – a very cheerful and uplifting room.

  46. How could you not feel ridiculously happy in that room?! Really love it!

  47. i know you listed the floor cushions are from costco–but did they come in that fabulous print or did you re-cover them? $40 each or for the pair? I’m really hoping the local costco has them because I am in LOVE with their functionality/color !
    Beautiful job on the room! Those parents are going to be tickled pink to see their kids playing in such a bright, fun, space! Brava!

  48. It looks amazing! Love the map and the curtains and the bright colors. You’re very talented!

  49. What a great room! Love the colors & patterns…SO CHEERFUL! You all created a wonderful space for this family! WELL DONE ANGELS!

  50. What an incredible way to gift your gifts!! The room looks amazing and I will be so looking forward to seeing your other projects!! amazing!!

  51. What a beautiful and heart warming transformation!! The map (AND IT”S MESSAGE of possibilities) is my favorite design item within the room!!! Hooooraaay to you and the team for the long hours invested in making it happen … long hours and days that will turn to many years of happiness for the occupants!

  52. Wow, that is simply fantastic. Amazing job! I shows what you can do on a small budget, with some hard work and creativity. How wonderful of you to do this for those families.

  53. Could you explain how you attached the map to the wall? It looks wonderful.

  54. God bless you–what a wonderful way to use your talents. I’m sure the families will enjoy using the revamped space. It’s gorgeous!

  55. Beautiful!! I have a question, though… How does one go about anchoring bookcases to a wall? Thanks!

  56. Wow! This must be the HAPPIEST room in the house! You did so good with the $$. Definitely a good karma room.

  57. So fun and fresh! Your description of the lighting fixture made me think that centering it on a painted compass on the ceiling would be a great addition!

  58. The playroom is fabulous! What an amazing transformation! A reminder to all of us that we can make a difference….and you have!

  59. Such a beautiful, bright space for the children. I would love it if you would do a tutorial on how you put the 3 bookcases together to look like one big bookcase and added the crown molding.

  60. WOW! The playroom looks amazing! Love the bright green & blue colour palette, and the huge map is awesome. Congratulations to you and everyone involved for giving the kids a beautiful and inspiring space to just be kids :-)

  61. Wow, those kids are going to love that room. You all did such a great job. I love the huge map. Well, actually I love everything about the room. It’s so great that you are a part of something so special.

  62. would love to know technique for putting map on wall and also source for the kids chairs?


  63. Kate, you’ve created a happy, cheerful place to have fun, be creative and to relax. It’s gorgeous! The hard work you and the volunteers put reflects your generosity and giving nature. Beautiful room, beautiful people. :)

  64. I love that map. Do you remember if it had cities on it? The website that sells it doesn’t give that detail. Sorry – I know this is a pretty random question!

  65. Kate, you did an amazing job for an amazing cause. You’re awesome!

  66. Kate, you did an amazing job for an amazing cause. You’re awesome!

  67. Kate,
    I have loved your blog for some time now and am always inspired by what you do. This room looks incredible, but I do have one question. What did you do with the bigger toys that you see in the before picture? Like the little stroller, shopping cart, etc that won’t fit on shelves. This is what I really struggle with in our kids spaces – they tend to remain on the floor, which drives me nutty!

  68. Awww, man I can’t even comment on what I like best. You did an awesome job! Kate, I’m just beside myself! I know the family and the kids are just ecstatic! Who wouldn’t be! We have last years version of the storage cubes and they are great for storage and seating! Great color and furniture choices! WOW< WOW<WOW<WOW! Lesley

  69. Wow. You really stretched those dollars. I know the kids and their moms are going to love this room. What a blessing you and your team are.

  70. The room was beautiful. Love the colours, its fun and fresh. The best part for me is the total cost of the project, you guys did an amazing job in stretching the budget without sacrificing the design and function of the room… Awesome.

  71. I seriously had to scroll back and forth multiple times because I was so in awe of the difference. You are amazing Kate, and I love so very much what you are facilitating. I only wish I could be there to help out.


  72. Wow!! Simply stunning work!
    I am completely in love with this room, and the map is just incredible!!!
    What a great room for a great cause!
    Mad props to everyone who helped in this room!

  73. Wow, wow, wow! You amaze me all the time – truly talented and generous. I want to be like you when I grow up ;)

  74. Oh my wow – I lOVE the colors in this room! It’s perfectly gender neutral and so bright and happy. I love a kids space that has big design elements. The wall map and curtains are fabulous! So great to see companies donating things to help out too!

  75. I too would like to know what you did with the larger toys (stroller, grocery cart, etc) as these take up so much space in our play room too! Awesome transformation!

    • Hi Jodi (and others) some of those toys that were there before were broken or damaged, but others did actually make it back into the room.

  76. Thanks so much for linking up for our Before and After series!!! I love the color green you used – its one of my favs!

  77. Every child deserves to play and learn in a beautiful and inspiring space like this. This is amazing.

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