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Tails from the Mongolian Desert


We were dealing with a pretty tight space in our second bedroom/office with little floorspace, even less storage space, and soaring ceilings in our prewar Manhattan apartment. We kept the sex a surprise and chose a gender-neutral palette. Soft gray walls and shaggy floors meet bold firey colors, wild animals and vintage handcrafted details.

Design Inspiration

Liam's nursery was inspired by my two years spent working in Mongolia with the Peace Corps. I have a collection of beautiful, rich textiles and chotchkies from my travels, including to the western region of Mongolia which is inhabited mostly by Kazakhs, famous for their embroidered wallhangings. My aunt contributed a number of special touches to the room, including a handmade quilt with the five main Mongolian animals (horse, camel, goat, sheep and yak), a camel marionette puppet and a pair of Asian-inspired felted baby slippers.

Decorating Style

I tend to think of myself as a very Type A, linear, modern designer, but then inevitably I'm most drawn to interesting textures and artwork with a vintage, humorous twist. We blended an antique shabby chic armoir for our barware with a futuristic red pleather chair in one room, and I have a strange painting of a purple dog wearing sneakers in the bathroom. I suppose my style is an ecclectic mix of colorful, vintage pieces against a pretty contemporary, but practical landscape.

Project Details

A vast majority of the room was spun out of DIY projects (quilt, felt sheep mobile, finger puppet hand displays), found objects from travels, and of course, craigslist. I painted the room a light shade of gray from Benjamin Moore's Aura line, which made the white woodwork pop. We did purchase a few new things, including a gray shag rug, a soft toy box and a few white book shelves from IKEA. Knowing I wanted a modern look overall, I also ordered a Vinnie White Cradle Chair from, and brightened it up with a pillow made from a Kazakh embroidered purse I had. The crib and diaper changing table, barely used thanks to a couple moving their brand new baby to Brazil, and a rocking horse all came from A paper lantern in the corner provides soft lighting all day and night, which is incredibly relaxing, especially with waves crashing against the shore thanks to a little whitenoise on the iPod docking station.

Favorite Items

The animal quilt made by my son's great aunt will be a keepsake for decades to come. It's full of vibrant colors, which not only look great but also help develop the baby's eyesight. This treasure will be the beginning of many stories from my adventures in Mongolia.


Start early and use what you already have. It's a struggle to stay minimalist with all the baby gear we seem to accumulate. With that in mind, see if you already have a special item or two that will serve as the inspiration for the whole design. Try not to overload the walls and corners with excess... you can always swap out one thing for another for seasonal variety. We knew how many colors we were dealing with and opted for a very soft, neutral wall color that would balance bright white furnishings and woodwork with every shade of the rainbow. Dim lighting tones down the energy a bit, making this a cozy space for naps, stories and tummy time.

Florence Amber

Saturday 17th of March 2012

I am amazed at how culturally rich this room is, what with those beautiful textiles and embroidered wall hangings. And with your description of the items in the room, I feel like more photos are needed here ;)

Chantel Gorton

Tuesday 6th of March 2012

Awesome! Looks amazing :) Come decorate our room...when the little monsters finally happen!