Sophisticated Safari Nursery

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The sophisticated safari nursery was designed for my daughter, Quinn, who is now 6 months old. I planned it while I was pregnant, and had fun with various options for furniture, fabrics and special items—all plotted on design boards and Pinterest and brought to life with the help of my husband, mother and sister.

We live in the city of Chicago, so space is at a premium—so we wanted the room to be playful and fun, yet make the most of the room with key pieces and elements we'd be happy to look at for a few years.

The color palette was intentionally gender neutral featuring orange, brown and white as the bold color combination. A blend of new and refinished furniture, bought and custom/DIY pieces, fun patterns and unexpected details add to the overall effect. With a touch of glitz in the sparkly chandelier, a tad of whimsy with the hanging paper lanterns, and a bit of personalization, the room feels just right for our playful and fun little girl.

Design Inspiration

The inspiration for the room came from a small print purchased in Paris a few years ago while traveling with my husband—it features a giraffe walking and morphing into the Eiffel Tower. We loved the idea of using giraffes, as we are both very tall people (and knew our daughter was likely to follow in those footsteps!). Then I spotted a burlap giraffe at Home Goods, and the idea was born. The giraffe floor rug and bold color palette finished off the idea, and the details came next.

Decorating Style

I prefer to decorate in a transitional style—warm and traditional in some aspects, with dark wood and soft upholstery and bedding, but with additions that make it more feminine, playful, modern and unexpected.

Project Details

The beautiful Young America dark wood crib is a convertible, and will stay with Quinn for years to come. The orange Sam Moore upholstered glider is perfect for tall parents and for late night nursing/rocking sessions. The Serena & Lily side table was a nice place to rest the sound machine, and the elephant and giraffe Anthropologie wall hooks allow us to hang Quinn's tiny special clothing in a sweet way. The unique mirror with rope detail added a rustic touch, and the

The artwork was fun, too: for over the crib we found old dictionary page prints with various animals stamped on the front from an Etsy shop, and for entering the room, a safari world map from an Etsy seller. The IKEA faux sheepskin rug is an easy background for adorable baby pictures, orange storage bins from Land of Nod keep the stuffed animals corralled, mini shelf-sitting safari animals, a giraffe table lamp and a brown wicker Home Decorators Collection elephant hamper are clever surprises.

We added a lot of DIY projects to the small (10' x 10' room), including a refinished wooden dresser in brown/white with crystal knobs (copying the look of this one seen online) just adding a white changing tray, a refinished white bookcase, safari animal bookends made from painting plastic toys and wood blocks, and an IKEA spice rack-turned bookshelf. For even more winter projects, we crafted a decorative wooden letter Q, and a refurbished window frame for over the closet paired with painted canvases with oversized palm leaves. As if that wasn't enough, a Silhouette vinyl-personalized name pillow, all custom bedding, and a replica of this cute wall clock were made courtesy of my talented mother and sister.

With the safari theme growing in popularity, it is great to see how many accessories and gifts we were able to find/receive that showcased lions, monkeys, giraffes and other elements of the look. It's perfect for our little girl, but could be adapted easily (adding in navy, khaki or another more masculine color) for a baby boy (maybe minus the feminine chandelier!).

Favorite Items

The custom bedding that was handmade by my mother is one of the most special touches—using fabrics we picked out together, she hand-made the curtains with a fun elephant fabric, and the coordinating crib bumpers and bed skirts with various orange and white fabric patterns, to make a soft, cozy and elegant nursery for her first granddaughter.

But the item that made a hormonal soon-to-be first-time mama cry was the painting my husband made of the cartoon giraffe. It was a long winter in Chicago, and while it snowed outside, he concocted the idea, drew the outline, and painstakingly painted it in a few shut-in evenings. When I saw it, and realized it was signed "Love, Dad, 2014," I cried tears of joy. Our baby girl stares at the bright colors every day while we change her diapers—she loves it, too.


I think that the best ideas/rooms come from an inspiration in your real life—and then using blogs like Project Nursery and Pinterest can be a great way to plot out the pieces you'll need. Adding in personalized touches and DIY projects not only make the room more "yours," but they also bond the family together as you prepare for the arrival of the precious little one. Bold color palettes, vibrant patterns, and a mix of woods/tones and materials is the best way to achieve the sophisticated safari look—and it's so rewarding and fun to see it all come together!

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