The centerpiece in a redecoration of Christa McAuliffe Elementary School content literacy specialist Maryann Nochnuk s room, an Irish-themed mural, was
The centerpiece in a redecoration of Christa McAuliffe Elementary School content literacy specialist Maryann Nochnuk s room, an Irish-themed mural, was enhanced with appropriate photographs and display items. (SUN PHOTO/DEBBE DALEY)

By Debbe Daley

One of my favorite decorating projects usually involves an inspiration piece of art or a prop to work and create from. One with a special, meaningful story is ideal. When Lowell's Christa McAuliffe Elementary School content literacy specialist Maryann Nochnuk called, she had visions of transforming her classroom into a warm and cozy teaching space for the children to enjoy.

Upon arrival at the school, I met with Maryann and Carole Sargent, an instructional paraprofessional who shares the classroom space with Maryann. I was excited to meet with Maryann; her enthusiasm to begin her classroom transformation was electrifying and contagious.

Bulletin boards covered with colored and patterned fabric.
Bulletin boards covered with colored and patterned fabric.

Maryann had the perfect inspiration piece of art to work with, an Ireland-inspired mural created through the eyes of the blind and hearing-impaired children of the school.

It was created under the direction of art teacher Christina Dixon for display at Lowell's 2011 Riverfest. Christina, who is of Irish descent, had chosen Ireland as the theme of the mural depicting Irish immigrants' presence in Lowell through the children's eyes. The artwork was created with lots of texture and Braille for the children to understand and enjoy.

Hearing their story and seeing the mural inspired my creativity for the wall of art. Using the mural as the focal point on the large wall, we added photographs depicting Irish immigrants' contributions to the building of canals and their work in brick mills, which helped round out the theme and emphasize their role in Lowell's Industrial Revolution. Black frames with red mats finished off the photographs chosen to surround the mural. Black ledge shelves would showcase accessories found to complement the mural's story.

Wooden bobbins were purchased from the American Textile History Museum with the assistance of Sandra Price, a volunteer at the museum. Sandra also assisted in choosing "fat quarters," a quilting term used for quarter-yard fabrics. The "fat quarters" would also be displayed with the wooden bobbins on the ledge shelves, accompanied by a red brick symbolizing the city's manufacturing mills and millworkers during that time period.

The mural was large and vibrant with color. The bulletin boards in the classroom and library were also in need of a transformation. Using colors taken from the mural, fabrics of gold and red were used as a backdrop to showcase a loom-made placemat, also purchased from the museum, fat quarters and more wooden bobbins, carrying the theme into the library adjacent to Maryann and Carole's classroom. The fabric colors also worked well with a painting from Janet Lambert Moore, "Our Backyard," which was showcased in the library.

The library and classroom were transformed into a warm and cozy space, all inspired by the beautiful children of the McAuliffe Elementary School. Their vision of Irish immigrants' presence and impact during the Industrial Revolution on our beautiful city of Lowell was inspiring.

Debbe Daley, owner of Debbe Daley Designs, is an interior designer with more than 25 years of experience as a professional interior redesigner, stylist, stager, trainer and project manager. Follow her blog at blogs.lowellsun.com/daleydecor.