Keys to a Non-Traditional Nursery

How did we tackle a contemporary nursery? Well, we began by declaring that we would NOT create a ‘typical’ room. Wait, let’s back up just a little…

Boys run in my (Anthony’s) family. I’m one of six boys and only one of my father’s brother’s had girls, the rest all had boys. When we began our family, we basically resigned to ourselves that we’d likely have boys. When we found out we were going to have a little girl, Naomi literally screamed in the office and I could not have been happier (I knew how much Naomi wanted a girl and really wanted her to have a daughter).

We left the doctor’s office thinking and talking about what we were going to do for the nursery. Both of us are architects and knowing we were having the first girl in my family, a LOT was riding on our nursery. Colors, textures, furniture; where would we begin? We really didn’t want to think too much about it until we found out the gender, so now that we had our marching orders, it was game on!

This was the point where we declared, ‘we will NOT create a typical little girl’s nursery!’ While brainstorming, we wanted a room that was comfortable and energetic, felt like a nursery but could grow with our daughter, and had its own sense of place but really flowed with the rest of our home. Pink on pink on pink was out; it’s just not what we were about. The rest of our home had cooler colors; blues, tans, greys, some browns and we wanted to extend that into the nursery in some way. Naomi really loved the color coral. It was a great orangey-pinky color that had just enough spice to it to be more contemporary in a nursery. But we didn’t want the whole room to be that bold, bright color so we set off to find the right contrasting color to use as the base of the room. We found a great grey tone (color matched Glidden’s ‘Wood Smoke’) that was a nice extension of the other colors in the house but had a warm feel about it which made it very comfortable and inviting.

We thought it would be the perfect base for the room with coral as the accent color. Building the room from there was just all kinds of fun! Finding coral fabric for the curtains was a little challenging at the time but we thought it was important to have something bold for the window treatments in order to infuse color into the room.


We also didn’t want to solely commit to items that were all coral in color; too matchy-matchy for us. We wanted to create a fun, child’s room that was bright, cheery, and sophisticated. So, we brought in some pops of purple, green, and white to add some interest.


We scoured antique shops, art festivals, and clearance sections looking for fun items that we could bring into the room, but that would also not break the bank. Paint was definitely our friend and we were not afraid to repaint an item to make it work. We found a great little shelving unit and thought, what if we sprayed it violet and used it next to the glider?

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We also collected a variety of size/shape picture frames and painted them all white to add some personal touches to the room, without having the distraction of different wood tones and colors in each of the frames. We loved the idea of bringing in some owls (before owls exploded into the national phenomenon they are now!) so we found a hideous, multicolored one and sprayed it crisp white to sit on the shelves. Anthony also cut out and painted some additional feathered friends to add to the room.


Finding a changing table that fit the small space (the room was only about 9 feet by 9 feet) was challenging so we created our own!

We purchased a basic Ikea Hoppen 4-drawer chest and two sheets of wrapping paper from the Paper Source and got to work. We cut the paper to fit the drawer fronts and used contact cement to adhere the paper to the drawers. A layer of clear contact paper on top and some wire baskets attached to the side gave use the perfect changing table for our small space with some style.

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These were all easy, low cost ways to bring some pops of color into the room and keep it kid-focused but not ‘baby’.  A bold graphic was something that interested us but we were finding a lot of images with “1, 2, 3’s” or “A, B, C’s” and it just didn’t fit for us. Not wanting it to feel too ‘baby-nursery’ we were searching for something bold that was also meaningful so we turned the general idea of a large patterned wall into a numbers mural.

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Not just any numbers though, instead of the traditional 1, 2, 3… we chose a variety of special numbers (to us) to overlay on the crib wall. Childhood house numbers, lucky numbers, and important dates were all laid out in a scaled drawing of the wall and arranged until they gave us a pattern we liked. We were lucky enough to have access to large scale plotters and used them to print full sized templates that we taped up and traced onto the wall.


We decided to use shades of the wall color in different finishes (gloss, matte, eggshell) to paint the numbers on the wall.


Of all the items/ideas in the room, the numbers were talked about the most and it was fun for us to be in the room and think of fun memories associated with each of them.

I could write on and on about the nursery. We had so much fun creating it and all the little details… when we put our little house on the market just after our little girl turned one, this was one of the rooms we knew we would miss the most. The great thing about the house we purchased is that our daughter’s new room is about three times the size, and we’ll show you how we were able to take the basic features of this room and translate them into a new space that has the same feel and comfort – which made a very easy transition for our daughter into our new home!

-Anthony + Naomi

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