Sunday, February 6, 2011

A cool solution to an ugly problem

Several months ago I was addressed with an eye sore up at IBC.  The space transitioning from Town Square into our Sanctuary did nothing but withdraw from the mood we make an effort to create here. The room felt cold, boring, and uninteresting. It was an entry adorned with ugly carpet, bare walls, terrible lighting, and folding tables.  Much to address however, (again) the budget didn't give space for fixing these immediate problems, and I wasn't too sure that replacing them was the solution.  I mulled over several options until I came up with what I think was a pretty sweet idea. Wood panels laser cut with a cool pattern.  Great idea in theory until I started shopping the price on these things!  Not cheap, not cheap... until... A fantastic volunteer came to me with the desire to be donating his carpentry skills.  Um Bingo! 

I worked with our graphic design team to come up with a cool design, and landed on a simple cross/t-shape. Now problem #2, how do we space and size a repetitive design on 8'x4' etched panels so the average american doesn't get dizzy.  After several rough drafts we landed on what we have today!  Our carpenter friend networked and found a fellow carpenter with legit lazor cutting machinery.  (We did, however, hit a slight bump in the road when his machine crashed due to such a detailed repetitive pattern. oops!)

The day they arrived we were super pumped!  Working with our facility shop guys, we tested several different shades of paints to see what the final coat should be.  In an effort to save cost the pieces were manufactured out of MDF, and thus not 'stainable'.  We finally landed on coating them with a thin layer of varnish and keeping them the original maple-ish color.  A clean look, I believe.

I knew that back lighting would be the key on this project.  I could visualize the soft glow of a colored light behind them and worked hard with our facilities team to design the perfect way to incase these lights.  A great friend of mine, who just so happens to be a lighting genius, steered us in the right direction with what we needed.  They did an awesome job busting out a clean panel that framed the top and bottom of the walls.  We simply cover the bulbs with colored gels, coordinating them with the season on the church calendar.  Quite beautiful and Quite simple! 

Green Gel's, signifying Ordinary Time

Yellow/Amber gel's another color for ordinary time
Purple gel's signifying Advent and Lent

Selecting the right hardware for suspending them to the ceiling was key.  I decided to have the guys antique the metal so that it appeared more muted and again, simple!  From the pictures you can sort of see, but the pieces are suspended about 8'' from the ceiling as well as 8'' from the floor, and close to 1' from the wall.

With each light switch you can dramatically change the look of the panels.  Front lighting them accents the wood and changes where the eye rests on the design.  You an see in the picture above the difference from the top and bottom of the middle panel, based on how it's lit.

These were also hung in the entrance into the sanctuary, and instead of back lighting you are able to see through the cutout's into the sanctuary.  It's really beautiful and I will definitely have to capture a picture of those to add to the blog.  

I've changed computers twice since starting this project, so again 'before' pictures are yet to be found... bummer.  I think seeing the emptiness of the room and wall before would give you a perspective of the change these created!

If there was a contest for using the word "picture" as many times as you can in 2 paragraphs, I would have just won!


  1. I love hearing about how you came up with these ideas. I have loved those panels since I started going to IBC and the wood sculptures in the MO. So getting to hear the back design process is awesome!

  2. awe, thanks girl! It's cool to hear that you enjoy reading about it, wasn't sure if anyone did, ha. More to come :)