A Cheerful Place (Unveiling the Nursery, Part Two)

(Read part one.) We’ve come a long way in the third bedroom — now the nursery — since we first saw the house in September 2010. At long last, we’re ready to unveil the nursery, which we started way back in December 2011. Here’s the before photo from the first time we saw the house, and the finished product just a few weeks ago.

Pre-closing: small bedroom

We’ve been nearly ready to show this room off for months, with just a few small details holding things up. First was the door frame that I needed to finish. The trim on the left side of the door above got damaged when I took it off to fix the jamb, so I needed to make some repairs with wood glue and clamps in the basement. But it couldn’t go back on until I fixed the jamb — which my friend Kurt came over and helped me with on the day Rachel went into labor. No joke.

He was over at the house after work on Monday, June 11th when Rachel was staying late at work cleaning out her desk and experiencing what we shortly found out was early labor.

Rachel called me to tell me she was feeling “weird” and “focused” and I told Kurt that I was pretty sure we were having the baby tonight or tomorrow. So while 95 percent of this room was finished probably two months ago or more, the very last detail was finished just hours before Lily arrived. Well, technically, you can see in the picture above that I’m still missing a piece of plinth at the bottom that I need to make (no one sells that exact pattern.) So yeah, it’s not done yet.

Rachel: First, a little bit of background on the color scheme. When my grandmother died two years ago, I inherited her considerable stash of fabrics, notions, buttons, ribbons and lace. I immediately set aside a green stripe fabric and a purple stripe fabric for a future girl nursery; the green could still be used for a boy with other colors, of course, but I was set on the green. I didn’t look at them for a couple of years, but pulled them out when we got pregnant. I visited a big-box baby store when I was first pregnant, and immediately realized I would not be happy with purchased textiles or a ‘theme’ of any kind. Of course I had to make my own items!

I used the green stripe fabric for several of the pieces below (the pillow and the closet curtain), but the purple stripe fabric is a small, silky scrap of fabric that was too small for most of my projects; I’m still looking for the perfect use for it. I found two other coordinating fabrics from G Street Fabrics in Rockville; both are soft, simple batik cotton prints. (My leftovers will make lovely little girl dresses!) All told, I made two laundry bags, a crib skirt, a lumbar pillow, a closet curtain, and a Roman shade.

Here’s another before/after view.


Most of the pieces in this nursery are hand-me-downs or antique store finds. I cased Craigslist for no less than four months to find the perfect dresser while Steve was stripping paint. We rented a truck and drove to the ‘burbs for this beautiful piece, which perfectly fits the room without overwhelming it. (It also came with a lovely, tall mirror that we can install when Lily’s not kicking around on the top of the dresser-cum-changing table.)

The rocking chair is a comfy hand-me-down from my mother’s grandfather; it had been lounging in my grandmother’s house, too. It perfectly matches the crib, another hand-me-down from a friend and former coworker. It even has a handy drawer underneath for extra storage!

The footstool was an antique store find for less than $20, and I found a quilted pillow case at another shop and recovered the footstool with that (it was covered with a hideous yellow tapestry pattern). Recovering something of that size took less than 30 minutes, since I already had a staple gun and the foam left over from our dining room chairs. Voila!

First, the window, which I covered with a Roman shade. My mom and I did a lot of research on the best way to cover this type of shade, and I purchased a plain white Roman shade from JCPenney online. (Fantastic selection of curtains, shades, etc.)


I cut my fabric an inch long on each side, and allowed an inch for each rib in the shade. Using heavy-duty fabric glue and the inspiration from this blog post, I carefully started at the top and glued the fabric down on each rib of the shade, first on the top and then the underside of the rib. After those were all done, I went back and glued down the sides. I put lace and lavender rick-rack along the top portion, where I left some of the white exposed. Then Steve installed the shade…


Overall this took less than three hours (less than any of the other nursery sewing projects) and required no sewing!


The closet curtain was a different story. This probably took the longest. We opted to remove the closet door completely because the room is so small. It took me FOREVER to find a small curtain rod with tiny finials that wouldn’t take up too much space jammed up against the wall. I also cased eBay for months to find the perfect curtain tieback; this crystal one is just lovely (and believe-it-or-not, we hot-glued it to the wall!)


My green stripe fabric was exactly wide enough to double the width of the closet opening, so I didn’t have to hem either side. I wanted the curtain to have a lot of green on it to help it blend into the wall. I sewed a small strip of lace onto one side, and ended up having to sew it by hand (all 84″ of that curtain) because my machine wasn’t cooperating. I laid a piece of the lavender batik fabric on top after hemming the sides, then covered them both with at least four or five different laces and rick-racks. (The hardest part is not sewing up the curtain rod opening!)

The mobile is a treasured gift from my childhood best friend Alyssa and her husband Wallace.

My architect/designer brother Jeremy had promised to make me an artistic and creative mobile for our baby (he had created a huge steel mobile reminiscent of Alexander Calder for his loft apartment). He even sketched an idea for the mobile, which would have been made of wood, in the guest book when he left DC in February. Alas, he did not finish the mobile before he died, and I told Alyssa of my sorrow that I did not have that artwork from Uncle Jay for Lily. As my oldest and dearest friend, and a talented designer, no one was better able to conceive of the bird mobile; she made the birds herself from interior design scraps. Her husband Wallace, a talented artist in his own right and a long-time friend of Jeremy’s, found a second-hand mobile contraption and somehow painted it the perfect green; it plays the mockingbird lullaby ‘Hush, Little Baby.’ Now that she’s more alert and honing in on objects, Lily is beginning to really love the mobile!


We bought a Billy bookcase from IKEA for behind-the-door storage, which Steve routed out on the back to fit flush against the wall over the taller baseboard and trim. The white metal holder came from Home Goods. The jumpy goat, from Bruges, Belgium, has been languishing in a drawer ever since our 2010 trip to Europe, waiting to be hung in the nursery.


I always envisioned this room based on a vintage animal storybook theme, with crystal knobs and little-girl touches. It has evolved to be slightly different, and we opted to frame family photos, so we can point out family members to Lily, rather than framing the pages of animal storybooks. The knobs on the back of the door are IKEA. The sparkly butterflies hang over the changing table; my mom picked those up at a craft store, and Steve secured them to the ceiling (right over the changing pad) with fishing line.

I also made the laundry bag hanging from the back of the door, after reading this blog post. You’re supposed to use a large pillowcase, so I just used my batik fabric to make two pillowcases (one extra), then hung them with ribbon and an embroidery hoop.


The beautiful number cards are from a shop in Charlottesville; I purchased coordinating lavender ribbon, hot-glued the cards at particular intervals onto the ribbon, and secured them with nails. We covered the nails with small white knobs purchased for $1 at an antique shop outside of Charlottesville.


Steve and I prayed for a child for many years, so this framed prayer from I Samuel is especially appropriate hung over the light switch. It hung in my room when I was a little girl, and I love the aged parchment look and the weathered pale pink frame.


We’re leaving the wall over the crib empty for now, awaiting three cross-stitched items: two from my room and my brother’s room when we were little, and a third that my mom is making for Lily. I completed several other sewing projects for this room (a lumbar pillow and the crib skirt), but I’ll save those for another post.

I’m so thrilled with the way this room turned out! It is feminine, playful and colorful, but it is a calming place, too.

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