As rooms of a house go, nurseries are unique; unlike most bedrooms, they are, for several months at least, one of the most visited areas of the home. While some of the furnishings may be temporary rather than long-term investments, a nursery room’s decor is often the focus of much discussion and planning.
Color schemes are foundational for nurseries, but since many parents choose not to find out the baby’s gender before the birth, color choices and themes can be limited. But not always.
Sarah Monteith Rama, a designer who also owns the Columbia children’s shop Duck, Duck, Goose, had just started thinking about her nursery when she came across a distinct fabric: a cheerful Schumacher print in French blue on a barely off-white background that she just could not resist. “I think that shade of blue works equally well for a boy or a girl,” she says. “The fabric was also a great jumping off point for the rest of the room. I knew that it wouldn’t be a nursery forever, but while it was, I would be spending a lot of time there. I wanted to love it!”
When Sarah was pregnant with Walter, now 3 years old, she set out to create a room that was not only welcoming and attractive but also furnished with pieces that, once her family was complete and the children a bit older, could transition to other parts of the house. “Buying furnishings with a future meant I could spend a bit more on them,” she explains. “I made up for it by spending less on things that couldn’t be repurposed.”
For example, a daybed that is piled with an array of whimsical pillows serves as a focal point for the room. Although the daybed was inexpensive, Sarah transformed it into a custom piece by having it covered in the French blue fabric she adored. Even better, since the headboard and footboard are the same size, they can eventually be used as headboards for a pair of twin beds. “Since they were slipcovered instead of upholstered, it will be easy to change their look,” says Sarah.
She used the money she saved to build a custom pillow tableau for the daybed that consists of several large throw pillows covered in a stylized Schumacher fabric of polka-dotted, French blue giraffes and birds. A Euro sham is monogrammed with Walter’s initials, and a pair of white, round matelassé bolsters are positioned at each end. “It’s all about figuring out where to spend and where to save,” she explains. “We held back on the daybed so we could splurge on custom pillows.”
To pull the rest of the room into the fold, Sarah chose a soft blue ticking stripe for the crib’s dust ruffle, then used the same fabric to trim baby Walter’s crib bumpers and coverlet. She also invested in a quality upholstered chair for the room. Trimmed with fabric tape to match the bolster pillows, the chair is a comfortable place for reading to and feeding babies. Even better, since the tape trim is so easy to remove, the chair, which is covered in a “go-anywhere” white, will fit in any room in the house. Like a number of pieces in the Rama house, the chair is slipcovered. “People think I’m crazy to use so much white, but I think white is a great choice because I can bleach out anything that spills onto it,” she says. “A little Clorox, and it looks like new!”
Sarah would have been happy keeping the room just as it was for a while, but a few months after she had Walter, she and Mike, her husband, happily discovered that they were expecting a second baby. Since Walter’s nursery would welcome either a boy or a girl, Sarah and Mike elected to put the new baby there and move Walter into what would become his big-boy room.
One piece that Sarah did not get to reuse was Walter’s crib. “Salley was born just 15 months after Walter, and I didn’t want to rock the boat,” she says with a laugh. “He was sleeping really well in his crib, so I borrowed one from a friend for Salley.”
Not surprisingly, the nursery, with just a few dabs of girly pink here and there, works just as well for baby Salley as it did for little Walter. On the daybed, a Euro pillow, embroidered in pink with Salley’s initials, sits in the spot once reserved for Walter’s; a pink plaid dust ruffle sweeps along the bottom of Salley’s white wrought iron crib. “My mom had the dust ruffle made while I was still in the hospital,” says Sarah. “We couldn’t find fabric we loved, so we cut up an Ikea duvet comforter and used that!”
Walter’s original changing table is gone — it was actually a bookcase and is now being used for that purpose. A white Chinoiserie dresser stands in its place near an antique bow front chest that Sarah received from her grandmother. Instead of filling the walls with art, Sarah has left space for additions. “I want to layer the artwork as the children get older,” she explains. “That way, their rooms will grow with them.”
Like the Ramas, Anne Marie and Edward Crosswell discovered that they would be having a second child while their older child, Grady, was still in his crib. But instead of moving Grady to a new room, the couple decided to start from scratch for the new baby, particularly since they knew they would be welcoming a baby girl into the family. “We really liked Grady’s room and wanted to keep it intact,” says Anne Marie, who had spent months creating a perfect space for her new baby boy. “Since I was the mother of a toddler when I was pregnant with Louise, I didn’t have the luxury of time for her room.”
But while Anne Marie wanted Louise to have a feminine nursery, she also wanted it to be a calming, Zen-like space. “I knew from experience how much time I’d be spending in the nursery, so I wanted it to be serene and beautiful,” she says.
She kept the same misty gray paint color on the walls that she had used throughout the turn-of-the-century home’s second floor and then expanded the palette to include soft blushing pinks and pale ivory. She found just the right shade in a Schumacher fabric that she chose for the Roman shades that cover the nursery’s expansive windows. “I first saw it in a nursery posted by a designer I admire but really fell in love with it when I saw it in person,” she says. “It’s a botanical stripe, but in blush instead of green. It’s soothing but still makes a statement.”
Throughout the nursery, Anne Marie has carefully chosen details to create a setting that is both polished and harmonious. The bumpers on Louise’s white Jenny Lind crib are trimmed in a soft pink diagonal stripe that echoes the Roman shades; flirty bows in the same fabric attach them to the crib’s carved spindles. Underneath a window, a trio of custom pillows top a low bench — two are covered in a companion fabric to the window treatments, and the third is a white matelassé monogrammed pillow adorned with elegant trim. Although the bench’s under-seat compartments currently contain baskets filled with pink-and-white towels and sheets, one day they’ll hold Louise’s favorite books.
“It will be a nice piece as she grows,” says Anne Marie. An unassuming white upholstered chair also turned out to be quite special. “It does all sorts of fancy tricks like swiveling and gliding, so it’s really comfortable and soothing. It was actually one of the best things we purchased for the room. It’s covered in outdoor fabric, so it won’t stain.”
Several sophisticated accessories, such as a gold etagere (bolted to the wall for safety), a dramatic mirror, and a vintage white bamboo chandelier, will carry Louise through many years.
Anne Marie lights up as she describes a few of the room’s additional furnishings, including a ceramic lamp decorated with a large pink bow, a painted chair, and an antique quilt rack hung with several handmade blankets.
“The lamp was in my room growing up, the quilts were made by people very close to our family, and the chair was mine when I was a child,” she says. “We put a lot of things from Edward’s childhood, including some wooden carved items and a replica of the church he, and now our family, attends in Grady’s room. Sentimental items make a child’s room seem so meaningful. I get so happy every time I come into their rooms. They’re peaceful and soft and already hold a lot of wonderful memories.”