LHE’s office redo: ‘It makes me so happy to be here’

Principal Emily Gruninger in her newly renovated office

Teachers’ lounge makeovers are all the rage these days as dedicated parent volunteers seek to make life comfy and cozy for the men and women who shape their little ones all day. Merriman Park Elementary completed renovations this summer, and other LH-area schools are discussing plans for the coming year.

The PTA at Lake Highlands Elementary, though, have taken redos one – make that two – better. They also renovated the school’s front lobby and refreshed the principal’s office.

The changes made a big impression on new principal Emily Gruninger.

“The Lake Highlands feeder pattern has a unique sense of community,” says Gruninger, who previously worked at schools in the Pearce and Richardson areas. “I have been welcomed by so many people, but the office redo is truly the best welcome gift I have received. I feel like the space represents me, and every time I walk into my office, it makes me so happy to be here.”

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Welcoming is exactly the feel LHE mom and designer Lynsey Purl of Max & Lou Home was going for.

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“We have a passion for vintage, and that is the look we were trying to incorporate,” says Purl, mom to a Kindergartner and third grader at LHE and a seventh-grader at LHJH. “The PTA was very generous to help fund the projects, but we were still on a very limited budget to create all the spaces. For the lounge, we scoured Facebook resale pages, yard sales and the school for old globes, books, microscopes etc. that we could use as décor. The front office got a facelift with a new color to tone down the bold red and a few new pieces of furniture to lighten and brighten the space. We wanted to incorporate an eclectic mix with a vintage vibe. [Executive Assistant] Angel Cochran was instrumental in helping us pull off all the surprises and collect the decorative items, not to mention her own sweat equity.”

“After being gone for only 12 hours,” Gruninger says, “I was shocked to see a brand new, open space that resembled more of a professional space and less of an elementary school.  I was in awe of how she was able to rearrange the furniture, repurpose some of my own personal decorations, and create such an open space.  It looked so clean, crisp, and welcoming.”

Gruninger says she loves her new accent wall and the way her office seems bigger somehow.

“I wanted to utilize my table for meetings, which wasn’t easily accessible before, and I also wanted it to be a welcome space where parents and staff members would feel comfortable.  One staff member noted that it resembled a ‘living room’ with how open it now is, and I believe the accent wall plays a big part in that.”

Renovation of the lounge had been on the wish list of former principal Becky Stevens and the rest of the staff for a while, and Purl says the LHE staff seem quite happy with the finished product, but there was some nail-biting along the way by Purl, PTA president Jennifer Wildcox, past president Kristin Roan and others involved.

“While they gave us a lot of creative freedom, decorating a personal space as a surprise can always be a bit nerve racking. Our ultimate goal is to interpret the individual’s style as well as function to meet their needs.”

“Let’s face it,” says Purl, “professionals spend a good portion of time in their offices, so creating a relaxing, comfortable and stylish space is important to their happiness in the workplace.”

Happiness in the workplace? Mission accomplished, Gruninger says.

“The community of Lake Highlands is something that is known throughout RISD. It is truly one based on tradition and support. Being an Aggie, I respect and appreciate everything that makes up the Lake Highlands community. I am already looking forward to our first school event, the annual softball game vs. Wallace. Go Cats!”

You can catch the Sixth Annual LHE vs. Wallace Staff Softball Game Thursday, Sept. 20 at LHE. Concession sales begin at 5:30 p.m. and first pitch will be thrown out at 6.

The teachers’ lounge at LHE
LHE teachers’ lounge
Teachers’ lounge at LHE
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