A Jeweled Square Box

  • Southeast wall1/9
  • Bedding2/9
  • Mobile detail3/9
  • Southwest wall4/9
  • North wall5/9
  • Metal cabinet detail6/9
  • Russian dolls7/9
  • Gate detail8/9
  • Trio of birds9/9
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Description

First time parents transform a dreary square-shaped office into a kaleidoscope of fantasy for the upcoming arrival of their baby girl.  Nestled in Greenpoint Brooklyn, this railroad apartment room previously used as an office/ storage space gets a makeover complete with antique toys, handmade installations, warehouse furniture, bold color and a mix of patterns.

Design Inspiration

We wanted the nursery to be non-conventional in design...something we hadn't seen before.  We appreciate the art of hand-craftsmanship and wanted that to be a major aspect of the room.  We also took great inspiration from the idea of taking something old and making it new again.

Decorating Style

Modern lines with a hint of comforting nostalgia.

Project Details

The layout faced many challenges---the first being it is an 8'x8' box.  Design wise that can be particularly difficult to work with not only because it is a tight space, but we were also confronted with a square-shaped room.  All the furniture would have to be flush against the walls to allow for moveable flow and the appealing dimension that organically exists in a rectangular room, but does not in a square, would mean we would need to create interest by applying it in other areas.  Another major hitch of this space was that there are no windows.  Sure, it was a bit dreary to have an office with no sunlight but I was able to manage.  I dreaded the idea that my child would feel like they were living in a dungeon.  I am a firm believer in allowing windows to be the prominent light source in any space, but how would we be able to do this with a room that did not offer any?  By using warehouse furniture, vintage finds and handcrafted installations we began to see this nursery come together as a lively space.  The result is a dusty rose kissed room with the addition of old and newly found objects.  And by playing with different textures, colors, patterns and stains we accomplished something inventive and functional for our baby girl.

 

We decided very early on in the design process of this nursery that we wanted to be able to view the crib when we are lying down in our own bed.  The East wall was the only wall that would allow for it so there it stands!  A great warehouse crib (Ikea, $120) can be both an affordable and chic solution.  The trick is to find one that does not look standard---we loved the gray-brown finish of this modern frame.  Hanging just above the crib is part of a signage set my husband picked up in his travels.  The sign is reversible so we originally had it hanging in our bedroom reading the opposite side but realized when we turned it over it read, 'Baby Goods' which we thought was very fitting and a bit kitschy.  Suspended from the ceiling is the piéce de résistance of the entire nursery.  We found these great vintage tops (eBay.com, $16) but did not quite know how to display them.  My husband had the fantastic idea of building a mobile and using the tops as the individual hanging objects.  With a bit of elbow grease and wood stain we had sitting under the kitchen sink, he formed cross braces from a 1x3x8 furring strip ($4) he picked up at the local hardware store.  That, along with a spool of monofilament, or what I have always called 'fishing line' ($3), eye hooks ($8) and black chain ($7) he was able to construct a durable support for the mobile.  Each brace has tops identical in weight so that it is evenly balanced, but by fastening them at different heights we accomplished the look of a traditional mobile.  As the room began developing this story of intense color, we needed something to neutralize it.  We decided to ground the room by using an ash grey rug with a white abstract floral pattern (Ikea, $20).

 

While shopping at Ikea, I found this multicolored, geometric pillow ($10) that plays on 60s retro but keeps it new with blocks of color in pumpkin orange and indigo blue.  By adding a mix of other vintage colors and patterns, we kept it loose and not so theme-oriented.  We had the artichoke and owl pillows in storage so all they needed was a good washing.  The beautiful hand-stitched blanket was my husband's baby blanket that his mother had relined for us.  It is a sentimental piece that will be in our family for years to come.

 

The heavily saturated colors of the mobile are repeated in the Cuban movie posters we found (eBay, $82 for eight posters).  They are replicas of classic children's films but by presenting them in a simple black frame with glass (amazon.com, $112 for eight frames) we achieved something a bit more sophisticated than your average juvenile poster.  The idea to align them in two rows, centered on the wall makes the installation even more refined.  Just underneath the posters is a dresser we also bought at Ikea ($149).  It is a substantial piece and its neutral black-brown finish is one that will grow with our baby well into toddler and teen years.  We used the top of the dresser to display some beautifully crafted vintage toys (eBay.com, all together totaling $35) along with a burst of color from an orange table lamp (Ikea, $15) that when turned on offers a warm glow throughout the room.  On the joining wall is a vibrant 24x36 framed photograph of a Redbud Cercis Canadensis (Adorama, $25 to print, A.I. Friedman, $35 for frame).  Since my husband is a photographer by trade he wanted to contribute something personal to the nursery.  The sprawling tree was one of the first to bloom at the beginning of spring in our neighborhood park.  He shot this still while we were on a walk with our dog and it turned out to be just the right amount of chromatic contrast to the muted wall color.  Just below the photograph is the changing table done in a maple finish (Ikea, $70).  Rather than leaving the Masonite shelves bare, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to add a bit of interest.  We found Henri Matisse inspired wrapping paper (Blick Art Materials, $6 for two sheets) and used transparent adhesive vinyl ($3) to prevent damage or peeling.

 

The North wall posed a problem when we realized the two adjacent walls both have doors that, when opened, would block the majority of it.  Rather than leaving the sliver of negative space bare we decided make the area a feature by hanging an old mirror to reflect some of the natural light streaming in from the master bedroom windows.  For a room that does not have any windows like our nursery, it is a great solution because it tricks the eye into thinking there are.  The irregular octagon mirror was collecting dust behind an elliptical machine when I first began dating my husband.  Now, it is properly displayed in its beautiful worn state and serves dual purpose in this room by providing much needed light and a burst of color with its aged chartreuse painted frame.  Hanging above is a slab of common board we picked up at the local hardware store along with shelf brackets to mount it ($9).  This was a simple way to properly arrange a set of Russian dolls purchased during a work trip in Moscow.  Sitting just below the mirror is a distressed metal cabinet my husband had outgrown in his office.  No longer serving his storage needs, it was the perfect scale for this room and a place we can keep diapers, wipes and all other essentials we wish to not display.  The beauty of living in New York is the most treasured pieces can be found on the sidewalk---the old gate with latch is no exception.  We repurposed the rustic gate by attaching it to the generic, pre-fabricated entrance door, and by overlapping two dream catchers we created a whimsical accessory upon entering.

 

On the far wall is a trio of birds made of hand-pressed tin from Haiti (Fuego 718, $75 for birds, sacred heart and cross [not pictured]).  It not only represents our growing family but also adds character to an odd makeshift alcove that is part of the structural wall.

Favorite Items

The mobile, hand-crafted by my husband. 

Advice

Find one inspiration and curate around that.  In this room, it began with the geometric pillow.  It screamed 60s modern so we decided to pull other colors that were popular during that time.  One object began complementing the next and before we knew it we had a finished space.

3 Comments

  1. 1

    Beautiful job! Love the mix of colors, patterns and styles. And the mobile is so special – way to go dad.

  2. 2
  3. 3

    I love the way you did this nursery. Somehow all the craziness works here. I appreciate your work because I can see you have a very small room to work with. This is one of my favorites on here. Mine is the Native American forest theme on here and it’s still a work in progress, but I had little to spend on it.

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