Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to: Van Gogh inspired cut-away rooms

A reader of my recent post My Dream Room wrote a comment requesting a tutorial on how to make the rooms. So here it is!

I experimented a bit to get what I thought was the perfect size, and these are my results. We used 12"x18" piece of tagboard, measured and folded in half horizontally for a 6" deep floor and a 6" high wall, and measured to create walls 4" deep (the floor sticks out a little past the walls) and a 10" long back wall. I tried other measurements first, but found if the walls were too deep, it was hard to glue stuff in, and this just seems to be optimal.

SO - I used the white board to show the kids how to measure, and we all did it together. With our papers horizontally in front of us, we measured up 6" from each side and connected across horizontally. We then measured in 4" from each end of the top, and each end of the bottom, and connected across vertically.

The kids then wrote their name and teacher initial along the top center of the paper, on the side we were marking. (This will become the back of the back wall.)

I then had the kids score all the lines, using a ball-point pen and a ruler. We creased the paper back and forth on each fold line, and cut on the two fold lines indicated in the diagram above.

Finally we folded and glued the two flaps under the floor, using glue sticks. I had the kids fold them so that their pen lines (and their names) were on the back, not inside the rooms. Voila! The rooms were complete and ready to add flooring, wallpaper, windows, doors, wall decorations, furniture, and fabric.
I wish I had photos of all the rooms, but for now, here's one more. I love the poster on the wall over the bed. Note: this child made a mistake, and it looks to me from this photo that he used the back wall as the floor, and therefore (obviously) the floor as the back wall. It just shows you that there's a lot of room for error without anything being irretrievably doomed. Yeah!

Anyhow - I introduced the project with a brief discussion of the painting of van Gogh's bedroom at Arles. It was brief, because we had already discussed van Gogh at length, and a print of the painting was one of many van Gogh's hanging on my bulletin boards. Including this brief discussion, the entire project took 4 art classes (40 minutes) for some kids, 5 for some others, and a few are straggling. Some kids also worked on them briefly during a couple of lunch times.

In the 2nd art class, I gave brief instructions on cutting out windows and how to fold tabs on furniture to glue it down. I did not put out the fabric until the 3rd art class; until then, it was construction paper, wallpaper, patterned papers, and magazine photos, as well as some mirror contact paper.

I am very lucky to have my students twice in a 6-day cycle. I realize that this project could drag on if you only saw the kids for 30 minutes once a week, but I think with some prep, you could simplify things to keep the project flowing quickly.

Hope this has helped!


  1. Thanks for taking the time to provide such specific directions! I loved seeing the kids' personalities shine through in their rooms:)

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! Glad to hear that you didn't put out the fabric till the last day I think I could manage that! I was wondering how many supplies I'd need prepped! This is so what that age group is interested in. I think I would be silly not to try this with my 5th grades during the long winter months. Thanks Phyl another great one.

  3. Thanks for the tutorial! Can't wait to try this out.

  4. I used your three sided box directions to have kids make environments for their Model Magic frogs! It was a ton of fun. Some had their frogs in ponds, or aquariums, and some were more unconventional... outer space, living rooms, ect. Thanks for the idea.