Before & After: An Abandoned Restaurant Is Transformed into A Vibrant Preschool


It’s fascinating how resilient homes can be. People move in, change, improve, damage and then move out and move on. A century-old building will see many eras of design, personal or cultural taste, and refinishing by each person to own it. The buyers that can see past the cosmetics of a property and into the bones and original potential can reimagine it to be anything. For Wendy Alhman, a home turned commercial building had been on her mind for over a decade. Her love of the character and potential in the building stayed even after watching it transform from an airy floral and gift shop into a richly decorated Sri Lankan restaurant. After it sat empty for a year, Wendy knew it was time to act.

Wendy has been running an in-home preschool for more than 10 years in Provo, UT. Her specialized curriculum and emphasis on small class sizes has made her school, Chrysalis Preschool, incredibly sought after. Wendy uses music education to reinforce foundational principles of language and learning. Her love for teaching and her love for the empty building she’s admired coincided when she decided to move her preschool from her home to a designated space.

The restaurant design that had been there previously was still intact. Tables, chairs, artwork and even menus remained untouched after the business itself had moved on. Wendy enlisted the help of Katie Holman, a neighbor, friend, and interior designer. Businesspeople from the community offered their support and assistance to do some of the labor in the project. “In all, the process took seven months. I began with renderings of what we imagined the space would look like following renovations,” Katie shares. “Since they would be moving to the new space in the middle of a school year, we wanted parents of current students to feel excited and reassured about the new location. During renovation, the walls were re-plastered, the whole place was repainted top-to-bottom, my husband and I sanded and repainted the floors, and walls were reconfigured in the back corner to separate the preschool entirely from the upstairs apartment. We had a goal of creating a space that felt cheerful and carefree and which preserved the historical integrity of the building — but was supremely kid-friendly and had plenty of room to spread out and play.” Chrysalis Preschool is now up and running in its new location with inspiration for Wendy and her students everywhere. –Lauren

Photography by Ben Allred

Image above: Wendy and Katie wanted the space to breed imagination and creativity. They used white as a base with colorful artwork, murals, furniture and accents throughout.

from Design*Sponge


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