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HOME SCHOOLING
BRINGING THE STYLES OF THE CLASSROOM TO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE

There's a lesson to be learned here: Sometimes the simplest schoolhouse furnishings make the smartest additions to your home.

A big, easy-to-read clock hung in the kitchen? No reason to be tardy anymore.

Lockers installed in the kids' bedrooms? A study in organizing toys and sports equipment.

A chalkboard positioned by the telephone? The perfect place to keep track of extracurricular activities and phone messages from classmates.

From metal-based tables with Formica tops to glass-bowled lighting fixtures, the things you remember from homeroom are finding a place in every room of the home.

At Horsefeathers Architectural Antiques and Hollywood Hank's on Connecticut Street, Hank Sontag said that shoppers are interested in vintage desks, chalkboards, coat hooks, hardware, classroom cupboards, library ladders, drinking fountains and other relics from local schools that have been either torn down or remodeled.

At Coo Coo U on Hertel Avenue, they've scooped up everything from metal lockers to laboratory beakers.

This stuff is hot right now, said owner Michael Merisola.

So what's the appeal?

"I think it's the sleek design, the starkness, the utilitarian aspect of something. For the baby boomers, they remember it from the '50s, and they feel comfortable with it," Merisola said.

It's also functional, said Elizabeth How, owner of Homeward Bound, on Hertel Avenue. Children can use one, two or an entire wall of lockers in their bedrooms, for example.

"I've also seen a breakfast nook with benches and an oversized chalkboard," she said.

In magazines, schoolhouse furnishings photographed in residential settings often are clustered to achieve that classroom feeling -- a grouping of Eames chairs, for example, or a grouping of identical clocks.

"It's more of a spare look, often shown with high ceilings and super-white walls, black and white or aluminum. Usually, it's oversized pieces used in oversized rooms -- a huge clock or a giant globe -- but they are dwarfed by the size of the room and only a few pieces are used," Ms. How said.

Not that the decor is sterile. "It doesn't lose that warmth. It's still warm in its nostalgia," she added.

New versions of school-inspired items exist as well.

The Pottery Barn catalog shows classroom clocks with thick wooden frames and parchment-colored faces in addition to hardwood swivel desk chairs modeled after those first created in 1929 for schoolhouses. In fact, a similar chair was spotted in a scene from the season premiere of ABC's "Once and Again," which aired earlier this week.

Pier 1 Imports offers floor-standing globes this fall, while Target sells easy-to-read wall clocks and chalkboard hat racks that are handy for kids' rooms. The pegs are shaped like basketballs, footballs, soccer balls and baseballs.

Not surprisingly, classroom themes show up in wall coverings as well.

Folk artist Warren Kimble's "At Home in Vermont" collection for Imperial includes a border featuring schoolhouses flanked by flags, according to Barbara Rykse, of Philip Setel and Sons Inc. on Hertel Avenue.

Even Metropolitan Home magazine acknowledges the trend, devoting several pages in its current issue to the schoolhouse look.

"Classic classroom fittings are finding new uses in some seriously stylish homes," said Metropolitan Home's editor in chief, Donna Warner.

"Schoolhouse furnishings, which are designed to take years of wear and tear, look delightful and serve well in every room in the house. We're showing schoolhouse clocks on the wall, big stand-up globes in the corner, big metal garbage cans as wastebaskets and school charts and maps as art on the wall," she said.

The magazine even shows a kindergarten cot used as a coffee table and rubber bases from the baseball field as place mats.

Of course, the ultimate in experiencing schoolhouse decor is actually living in a converted schoolhouse.

The Delaware School in Tonawanda is just one example of how a public school can be transformed into apartments. And Springville artist Mimo Fried has a one-room schoolhouse on her property that she rents; the turn-of-the century building has an attached kitchen.

Even so, you don't have to live in a former kindergarten classroom to paint your walls, say, School Bus Yellow -- one of the colors from Benjamin Moore & Co.'s Crayola Collection.

Better still, why not choose a paint designed to turn a wall into a chalkboard? The Crayola Collection offers this specialty finish paint, too.

When it comes to schoolhouse decor, this one will surely make the grade.

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