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Murals make kids' rooms their own

Artist Melissa Digiose paints a mural with an

Artist Melissa Digiose paints a mural with an undersea theme on Feb. 13, 2015, in a nursery for a baby that is to be born in April to Glenn and Julie Kleinhans of Shirley. Credit: Randee Daddona

When Glenn and Julie Kleinhans of Shirley learned she was pregnant with their first child, neither stereotypical paint color -- pink or blue -- enchanted them for the nursery. Instead they created an undersea world. "We're beach people," explains Julie, 39.

The couple commissioned Melissa Digiose of MD Design Studio in Coram to make the bedroom look like stepping into an aquarium, with playful cartoonlike goldfish, a dolphin, a sea turtle, crabs and a friendly shark spread across all four walls. They also asked her to incorporate angelfish, showing her a photograph they took of the colorful tropical fish while snorkeling on their honeymoon in Tahiti.

Other parents across Long Island have also used their kids' bedrooms as canvas for art -- from a New York Mets locker room in Roslyn, to a beach cabana in Long Beach, to an homage to Hello Kitty in Valley Stream.

Professionally painted murals can cost several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

Here are five families and the murals they chose.


FROM. Shirley

BEDROOM. For Baby Kleinhans, due in April

MURALIST. Melissa Digiose of MD Design Studio, Coram

Glenn and Julie Kleinhans have been together 19 years, married for 10. Glenn is an avid surfer and the couple has traveled to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Tahiti. Nobody thought they'd have a child, says Glenn, 38, who works for BOCES teaching at the Yaphank jail. "We were the holdouts. Everybody had given up on us," he says.

The baby is due in April, and Julie, a life coach, moved her home office to make it a nursery. Painting fish on the walls seemed a natural. "I get the sense that this baby is a very natural type of blissed-out baby at one with the environment," Julie says.


FROM. Valley Stream

BEDROOM OF.  Gia, now 4

MURALIST. Tania Corse of Corse Creations, Valley Stream

Muralist Tania Corse couldn't resist painting a Hello Kitty wonderland for her own daughter when she was transitioning Gia from a nursery to another room in the house that would be her big-girl bedroom. She worked at night while Gia was asleep, and on Christmas morning she threw open the door as a gift to Gia.

Corse says a friend counted 52 Hello Kitties -- a few include Hello Kitty at school, Hello Kitty with Mama Kitty reading a book called "Mama loves Gia," Hello Kitty chatting with Nana Kitty via Skype (Gia's grandmother lives in England, and that's how they keep in touch). The room helps get Gia to sleep, because she wants to be in there, Corse says.

Corse has done murals for clients, including rain forests, a Porsche car to match a boy's toddler car bed, a Tiffany box for a girl named Tiffany. "I love working for the kids the best. They're so happy. Kids have never said, 'Make it darker. Make it lighter. Move it.' They wave at the walls and kiss them."

By request, Corse will paint her murals on canvas and then paste them to the walls, which enables homeowners to take them down and save them, even pass them to the next generation.


FROM. Plainview

BEDROOM OF. J.J., now 8

MURALIST. Donna Greenfield of Green Street Custom Designs, Melville

J.J. was obsessed with construction when he was a toddler, so a mural featuring a bulldozer and a dump truck seemed an obvious choice, says mom, Jonna DiMitrio, 39, a physical therapist. But when J.J. turned 7, he said, "I don't want a baby room. I like hockey now."

So Jonna called muralist Donna Greenfield of Green Street Custom Designs in Melville, who painted the original mural, and hired her to return to the house to give J.J.'s room a makeover. Now, his room features jerseys and symbols from hockey teams, including the Islanders, the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins and more. There's also a Stanley Cup.

Younger brother Brady, 7, followed suit and got a hockey room as well -- his mural focuses solely on the New York Islanders. One problem emerged post-painting: Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov left the Islanders and joined the Tampa Bay Lightning. They had discussed the issue of trades, Jonna says. Greenfield may come back to paint a new name and number on that jersey.


FROM. East Hills

BEDROOM OF. Ethan, now 3

MURALIST. Melissa Digiose of MD Design Studio, Coram

As soon as Craig Brooks knew he and his wife, Melissa, were having a boy, Craig started Googling "sports muralists." Muralist Melissa Digiose painted a New York Mets locker room scene for newborn Ethan's bedroom.

Craig Brooks, 35, a financial adviser, considered a ballfield or a giant baseball, but ultimately chose the locker room, where three jerseys hang, each with the name Ethan, James or Brooks, which is Ethan's full name. Each jersey also has a number of the month, date and year of Ethan's birth. Craig Brooks wanted to have a mural that looked mature enough to last throughout Ethan's childhood and teens.

Craig Brooks gave Digiose personal items to paint in, such as the baseball glove he's used since sixth grade and his baseball cleats. Other jerseys on shelves have the names of iconic Mets players such as Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver. "Now we just have to hope he's a Mets fan," jokes Brooks.


FROM. Long Beach


MURALIST. Arlene McLoughlin Murals, Massapequa

When Rosana Casagrande-Sorbara was pregnant with twins in 2010, her mother was terminally ill. Growing up, her single-mother mom had always sacrificed so that the family could afford a cabana in Atlantic Beach. Muralist Arlene McLoughlin of Massapequa recreated their cabana, painting a yellow-and-white striped, tent-like ceiling and view of sand and ocean. Casagrande-Sorbana told her mom, who couldn't make it upstairs to see the nursery and never met her twin grandchildren, about the project. "I said, 'Mom, it looks just like our cabana.' "

But when the twins were toddlers, the Sorbaras needed more space and moved to Rockville Centre. They kept the house in Long Beach and are renting it to Brian and Brenda Kupchik and their three children, Mia, 2, Brian Jr., 1 and Inessa, just weeks old. It's Mia's room now, but soon Inessa will share it with her sister, says Brenda, 28. It's part of the rental agreement that any renters can't paint over the mural, Casagrande-Sorbara says.


Decide on size and location. One wall? All four? Small mural? On the whole wall?

Take the child's interests into account. Ballet? Basketball? Disney? Consider how long you want the mural to be appropriate -- once baby becomes a preschooler, he or she might no longer want Mickey and Minnie Mouse, for example.

Consider where cribs and dressers will be situated so they won't block key components of the design. Also consider where future furniture might be placed, such as regular beds.

Decide on level of detail. Mural prices start in the hundreds of dollars and go to the thousands of dollars, depending not only on size but on details. The amount of research the artist has to do can also affect prices. Murals usually take about two to four days to actually paint.

If you are painting cartoon characters, stick with the classics. Who knows, for instance, how long "Frozen" mania will last?

Make murals personal by painting in sentimental details such as the child's name and birth date or items that have meaning to the family.

Consider whether acrylic paint applied directly to the wall is preferred, or if the desired option is to have the artist paint on canvas that can be removed and saved.

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