When we moved into our two-bedroom New York City apartment two years ago from Baltimore, we had it all figured out… Or so we thought. Arthur, our then 8-months-old son, would inherit the smallest room in our new apartment, and his Baltimore nursery would remain virtually intact. It would have the same decor, the same furniture, the same mood. After all, it looked great in our Baltimore house, so why would we want to change things up?
Although Arthur’s new Brooklyn room felt sort of “off” from the get-go, we were so attached to the universe we had created for him that we never considered switching things around. That is, until I got pregnant with baby number 2.
Having to make space for a whole new person was unnerving, especially in an apartment where space was at a premium. Could we possibly make it all fit? More importantly, we needed to put together a nursery that would cater to both a toddler and a baby, a room that would be playful, comfortable and stylish all at once.
That’s when we realized we had a great opportunity at our fingertips: to practice the intricate art of living a well-designed life… with kids. We dove headfirst into a serious nursery revamp and, with the help of our friend and design guru Sarah Bean, created an environment where everyone could truly feel at home.
1. Making Space
The first step to this new venture was to make room for all of baby’s essentials. So in good small-space dweller fashion, we Marie Kondo-ed the hell out of our apartment. Sadly, it wasn’t enough — Arthur’s small bedroom simply couldn’t fit an extra crib, let alone baby’s gazillion onesies, swaddles and diapers. We had to think outside the box… ahem, the room — that is, to concede the master bedroom (and the awesome luxury of having a master bathroom) to our kids. Eager to get to the actual redesign, we quickly made the switch, and low and behold, it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. The once-upon-a-time parental room was big enough not only to fit all nursery necessities (including a wide chaise where the whole family can sink into for story time), but also to serve its newest, tiniest tenants’ needs and let them sleep, play, dance and (hopefully) build long-lasting, bonding memories.
2. Choosing a Theme
Then came the daunting task of choosing a theme and selecting the decor accordingly. We knew we wanted our sons’ shared bedroom to feel personal and familiar, to convey a little more about us and, in doing so, to lend us joy. Southern California is where my grandmother once lived; where I met my now husband, Teddy; and where he and I lived for the bigger part of our relationship. And though we love the life that we have forged here, in New York City, both Teddy and I still consider Los Angeles to be our second home. So a California desert theme came to us quite naturally. With it, we thought, comes a laidback, sunny vibe full of happy memories and fun opportunities to let our little ones’ imaginations run wild.
3. The Focal Points
Anewall’s cacti wallpaper was the first piece we agreed on. It’s now the focal point of the room and really brings the theme to life. The West Elm dresser, which also serves as our changing table and clothing storage, showcases six eclectic wood finishes and makes for an artful statement that complements the wallpaper perfectly. The bellabloomkids mobile, which we customized with walnut, natural, black and white tones, hangs pretty in front of the cacti and is sure to bring wonders to baby brother’s slumber.
The white Babyletto crib and Oeuf toddler bed both convey a minimalism that is bright and airy and that gives the illusion of a bigger space. All the white furniture is also a great canvas to highlight all the vibrant and colorful accessories in the room; and the striped fitted sheets add texture without upstaging the geometrical rug, the bohemian and tribal pillows and Arthur’s favorite plush toys.
4. The Details
More than being playful and true to the theme, the art around the room tells Arthur’s story. The Fennec fox watercolor print, which my friend and founder of My Cute Ones drew, illustrates his transition out of his old fox-filled nursery and into the new desert room he will soon share with his brother. The Palm Spring dino art is both an ode to California and a hint at his obsession with T-Rexes. The family pictures were all taken in California, where Arthur has already vacationed a bunch of times. The three square prints that we taped by his bed are some of his favorites and, we hope, will provide him with comfort and joy while he falls asleep.
Because we have limited space, the nursery also houses all of the toys and Arthur’s most prized treasures. But we wanted the decor to encourage our children’s interests without feeling like the whole room has devolved into a tacky mess. With that in mind, you can find Arthur’s dearest playthings (like part of his dinosaur collection and is Tegu blocks) in the spotlight, making independent play as organic as possible and cleanup as easy as can be. His favorite books are also within his reach, and most of the musical instruments — from the egg shakers to the djembe to the wooden frog percussion that Teddy got from the Claremont music store where we met — are at floor level and accessible, even to an adventurous crawler.
This nursery revamp was a monster of a project. It took me months to find all the creative bits that not only spoke to us, but also that I needed to build a kid zone where play and style collide.
I know that life is unpredictable and that our needs will likely change sooner than I think, making the design of this room (and of my entire apartment) a work perpetually in progress. But for now, the system that we have in place works; and I hope it can foster a happy backdrop to help our boys figure each other out as they start their lives as big brother and baby brother.
Here’s where to get all of Charlene’s nursery finds:
Cactus wallpaper: Anewall
Dresser: West Elm
Toddler bed: Oeuf
Toy storage: Oeuf
Acrylic bookcase: Land of Nod
Mid-century rack: Home of The Brave
Camp nightlight: Land of Nod
Bison print: The Animal Shop
Palm Spring dino photo: Urban Outfitters
Fennec Fox watercolor print: My Cute Ones
Cactus drawing: Minted
Canvas art: Urban Outfitters
Framed family pictures: Framebridge
Square photos: Artifact Uprising
Cactus tape: Paper Source
Crib sheets: Land of Nod
Changing pad cover: Land of Nod
Changing station pint: Petit Pehr
Swaddle blankets: Little Unicorn
Musical instruments (djembe, egg shakers): Norman & Jules
Wooden Frog: Folk Music Center
Indigo pillows: Boho Pillows
African mudcloth pillows: Maewoven
Cactus pillow: Norman & Jules
Chaise mid-century feet: Etsy, Forge Hardware Studio
Linen throw: Caroline Z Hurley
Plush Animals: Jelly Cat
Styling by Sarah Bean.
Photography by Stylish & Hip Kids.
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