There is a room at the end of the hallway, adjacent to our bedroom, that we have affectionately called "Cletus House" for months now. It started as an extra bedroom when we moved in last year, but we always knew it would someday be our baby's nursery. We just didn't know when. So after the nerve-racking "viability scan" and a few subsequent appointments that showed a healthy, growing babe, I finally allowed myself to get fully immersed in nursery planning.
Slowly, with great attention to every tiny detail, our simple guest room has become a beautiful, happy, whimsical space for our son to flourish and learn and grow into a little man. And while Vance will give me full credit for its design, the room is definitely the melding of our two unique styles: a little bit vintage, a little bit modern, with soft fibers under your feet and plenty of room to move, create, and dream.
There are a few tools I use for cataloging ideas during a big project like this: Pinterest, Etsy Lists, and Houzz. They are, in a sense, modern day pin boards, where photos of finished designs abut products, art, and innumerable half-finished thoughts. Here, the artifacts:
- A shared Pinterest board that both Vance and I could add ideas to (I also maintained a different, private board, which I used until we went public with the news that we were expecting. Love those private boards!)
- An Etsy list
- A Houzz Ideabook (This didn't end up being very useful to me for nursery planning, but I thought I'd include it here for thoroughness.)
I also had a very low-tech stack of samples in the middle of the floor... Carpet squares, paint chips, fabric, and anything else that I wanted to maintain a consistent color palette. I'll be the first to admit this is a little overboard for a nursery, but it helped me to think and feel good about investing in something like, say, a Monte glider, knowing that it wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb.
From there we had to choose colors, which proved more difficult than I'd like to admit. Neither of us are drawn to the usual palette of pastels, outgrown by the second birthday. And since this would be our rainbow baby, it seemed only natural to fill the room with bursts of happy color. So rather than limit ourselves to a simple two-color palette, we ended up with five or so slightly off-tone primary and secondary colors. (We didn't end up using the green much.)
To avoid a total rainbow overload, we chose a neutral light grey for the walls, with white and black fixtures and frames, and a coloring book style wallpaper from Anthropologie. We'd introduce color in the form of accents — a sunny yellow pillow, brightly colored toys, crib bedding with Spoonflower fabric. We'd paint the bland, modern laminate dresser and rolling wall unit that have been a part of my bedroom suite since college. (Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.)
Budget & Timeline
To help guide us through five months of nursery purchases and planning without spending five months worth of salary, I put together a spreadsheet with these elements:
- Budget, Actual, and "The Difference" for various categories (rug, rocker, bedding, crib mattress, wallpaper, decor, etc.)
- A timeline for big purchases (spread out over the 5 month period)
- A timeline for projects, roughly correlated to the purchase timeline (e.g. we'd buy paint before painting the walls)
- Financial inputs. We set aside our Airbnb earnings for the year, and stuck pretty closely to that as our budget. More bookings meant a little extra purchasing power, which was fun. It was a pretty good season for Airbnb. :)
Projects, all the time.
So, we learned to hang wallpaper! Or, more specifically, we learned to hang pre-pasted wallpaper, which I'm told is a whole different beast from "real" wallpaper. And as much as I agonized over how hard it would be, even getting quotes from local installers to do it for us, it turned out not to be so bad.
Pre-pasted wallpaper is just that: wallpaper with (dried) paste that you activate with water before you hang it. You still "book" the paper and hang it in much the same way as regular wallpaper, but it requires a lot less hassle before you slap it on the wall. It turned out beautifully, and seeing as that wall has a tendency to crack if you look at it the wrong way, it should cover a multitude of sins for years to come.
It wasn't all rainbows.
I was sure the wallpaper would be the hardest project to tackle. It wasn't. We were gifted a solid wood, like-new crib from my parents, and I knew that would serve as the centerpiece of the room. But we also had some more modern, particle board pieces to deal with — a dresser and large rolling bookshelf in light faux-wood laminate. I resisted the urge to
chuck them store them and buy replacements to match the crib, since the budget wouldn't allow for it. After some searching on Pinterest for "how to paint laminate furniture" I felt confident that we could do the job.
And we did, for the most part. Though I think both Vance and I would tell you that was the hardest, most time-consuming, and error-prone part of the nursery prep. It took over a month of taping, painting, and re-painting tiny sections of the furniture before the job was done. At one point, while I sat on a low stool peeling large strips of acrylic paint off the side of the dresser we'd need to do over, I thought Vance might cry. That was at least three days of work, ruined by a bad taping job. Let's never do that again.
Now that the shelves are filled with books and natural toys and apothecary jars full of pacifiers, and the grey ombre-painted dresser is filled with Misha's clothes and diapers and cloth wipes, the effort feels worth it.
Putting the Pieces Together
One of the first things we decided on was a favorite fabric: Holli Zollinger's "Elephant Summer" design from Spoonflower. The fabric was a bit of an investment, but we took a chance and had Lavender Linens create a custom crib skirt for us with it and some Theory wool suiting fabric from Mood. There are dozens of craftswomen on Etsy who will create custom crib bedding, but I couldn't have been happier with the job she did.
Vance's very crafty family also came to the rescue, with his Aunt Tammy sewing three of the softest, loveliest organic jersey sheets for us. Why three? Well, babies are messy and I couldn't pick just one fabric. Two problems with a single solution. :)
We may be first-time parents, but one thing we were sure about was that the nursery needed to be as functional as it was nice to look at. Which meant copious amounts of storage, and easily accessible at that. On top of the dresser, we added a three-tier vintage wire basket from one of our favorite Durham-area shops that had to close down this year. An IKEA kitchen cart proved to be the perfect size for bath and bottle storage.
I found a great deal on a large industrial metal and rope mirror from One King's Lane, which replaced the modern one from the guest room. We hung it, nervously, from an elephant hook, and so far it's survived...
The final bit of backdrop we had to choose was the floor. Or in our case, Flor. We knew we wanted modular tiles, so that they could be changed out with little hassle if there was ever a spill we couldn't clean. After toying with a number of different ideas, we decided to keep it neutral and piece together two shades of Sweater Weather tiles. They're by far the simplest way to put down kid-friendly carpet, and they have a wonderful feel underfoot.
After the canvas was laid, the rest of the nursery naturally came together with relative ease. In case you stumbled on this post from the internet and are itching to know where some of these pretties came from, here's the rundown:
#1: Too pretty for a drawer.
#2: A place for everything and everything in its place.
- Frame from Papyrus (gift)
- Handmade elephant from a little shop in Brevard, NC (gift)
- Stacking tree wooden puzzle
- Tegu blocks (not pictured) in their case
- RH wool felt elephant bookend
- RH nursery canvas storage
- Olives and Pickles Organic Plush Wooden Waldorf Doll
#3: Schoolhouse hooks under a banner of color.
- Apothecary Jar filled with pacifiers (the smaller one in front is filled with cubes of cloth wipe solution)
- Maileg Knitted Garland
- RH Vintage Schoolhouse wall hooks
- BlaBla Oh So Sleepy Play Pad
- Sakura Bloom Pure Maple Sling
#4: It's never too early to read to your child.
- West Elm deep picture ledge in white
- So many books! They're all on Amazon, or at your local independent bookseller. :)
#5: A place for sleep.
- 3-in-1 Crib from Natart Juvenile (discontinued)
- Custom crib bedding (Spoonflower fabric)
- Pottery Barn gallery in a box
- Kalahari Vignettes Wallpaper
#6: An industrial touch.
#7: Chester's favorite place.
- Soft, just-plush-enough Flor tiles in Sweater Weather
- One unamused dachshund