When we came across this apartment two years ago, one of the major selling points was this secret turquoise “room” at the end of the hall.
At first, I could not see past the beige wall-to-wall carpeting. The craigslist posting had highlighted hardwood floors, a bay window, two bedrooms, and an amazing price … but I mentally checked out as soon as I noticed that carpet peeking out over the top step before we walked in.
I tried to keep an open mind because this place was a steal for a two-bedroom, especially coming from 11 years in New York where I was accustomed to paying too much for too little space. Even in my ittiest of bittiest of NYC rentals, however, I still had hardwood floors! For me, wall-to-wall carpeting in a rental is a very tough pill to swallow.
Once we started walking around the apartment and got lost because it was so cavernous, my fears about the carpeting started to fade. There was an EXTRA ROOM. The extra room was tiny and cold and covered in dirty turquoise paint (that was inexplicably scattered around the rest of the apartment, like on one stair tread and one threshold and in splatters on the kitchen countertop) … but it was bonus space. Plus, I HATE moving. We were not planning on a baby then, but if one happened to show up, I did not want us to find ourselves back on the apartment-hunting circuit.
We jumped on this deal (and broke our lease on the teeeeeeny but gorgeous one-bedroom in an old fishing captain’s mansion a few blocks away, where we lived in fear that our neighbors would kill us in our sleep for complaining about their 3am Tuesday night prescription painkiller parties).
When we moved in, the little blue room quickly became a treacherous enter-at-your-own risk storage space/tool closet.
We did our best to keep it hidden and sealed …
… until baby time!
When I got pregnant, I was in no rush to prepare a nursery. The baby would sleep in our room for at least the first few months, and what does a baby care about having its own room anyway?
BUT … I got kind of nesty a few months in. I knew we would have to do some painting. And that I should minimize my time around the fumes. And that we should leave plenty of time for the fumes to dissipate before baby’s arrival.
Conveniently, Erik was home two days a week for a limited period of time during the farm’s off-season, and we had a one-week Jamaican babymoon planned for the midpoint of the pregnancy. All of these factors combined to illuminate a giant neon sign in my head that read: MUST PAINT ROOM NOW.
Erik was not thrilled initially with my sense of urgency, but I really wanted that room painted (1) while he still had some time off during the week and could paint while I was at work and (2) before our vacation so that we would be far, far away during the bulk of the off-gassing. I was pregnant, so I won the argument.
Of course, before we could paint, we had to face the tedious task of prepping the room for paint.
We emptied the contents of the room, right down to this poor light fixture that clearly had not been removed since the house was built in 1920. See the five sloppy layers of previous paint?
Erik may have electrocuted himself while removing the light, but anything for the baby, right? He spray-painted the light with Rustoleum Gold and re-installed it after the room was painted.
We patched and sanded and spot-primed for weeks.
Finally, we were ready to paint.
Somewhere in here, I asked the landlords for permission to make all these changes. Thankfully, our already-well-underway plans were approved. Even if they weren’t, there would have been no turning back. Oops!
I had a vision of a teal, grey, and white nursery. We were not finding out the baby’s sex, and we wanted to keep the room gender neutral. I read a million nursery-decorating blogs and decided on BM San Antonio Grey for the walls and Simply White for the trim and ceiling. Here it is going up:
Once on the walls, I thought the paint looked too purple, but I decided to save my marriage and live with it for a bit.
I put Erik in charge of choosing floor paint, and he went with BM Calypso Blue. We chose low-VOC and ventilated the heck out of the room so that I could help with the cutting in. Again, important to save the marriage.
We finished the painting, breathed a sigh of relief, and took off for a glorious week in Jamaica.
Upon our return, I broke the news to Erik that the purple walls were not acceptable and would need re-painting. He took it like a champ.
I spent a Sunday afternoon with my mom agonizing over every single grey paint chip in existence. I had a very specific goal of making the room feel like a “soft hug,” and nothing but perfection would do. After holding each chip in several different lights next to a piece of floor-colored scrap wood, we settled on Valspar’s Seashell Grey. Because I liked the name.
Here’s the room before and in progress:
The Seashell Grey was a winner. The color was so subtly grey that it made the room feel airy and warm at the same time. And again, I felt especially satisfied that the floor and wall paints both had ocean-y names.
Once the room was painted and cured, we could start introducing the furniture we had been collecting: the antique harvest table that my parents used as a changing table for me when I was a baby, the glider passed down from my friend Steph …
And the $69 IKEA Sniglar crib that fit so perfectly we may as well have built the room with it in mind.
Speaking of cribs, I cannot tell you how many hours I spent researching cribs and getting totally caught up in the potential toxicity of the paint, the finish, the fake wood … and totally discouraged by the $$$$$$ of cribs made with real, unfinished wood by genuine Amish craftsmen, etc. My jaw dropped when I discovered the Sniglar. It was a no-brainer.
The 100% wool flat weave rug was a splurge during a Wayfair sale. I saw it and had no choice but to purchase it.
Next on the agenda was the closet. Thanks to the exposed pipes, the closet was the main culprit in the definite un-baby-friendliness of the room.
Pre-paint and post-paint:
The first order of business was removing the door and hinges. This room is too small to lose 1/4 of its space to a useless door!
To tackle the pipes, I took some measurements and sent Erik to Ace Hardware for six pieces of solid wood, which we assembled and then painted white. The long solo plank was for the top shelf …
… and the other structure became our custom box to hide the pipes and create functional space.
The pipe cover-up box is free-standing and removable in case we need to access the pipes for any reason.
With the actual “construction” of the room finally sorted, I could turn my attention to the fun part: personality!
We wanted to maintain the natural, airy, peaceful feel of the room … which obviously starts with the window. I left the cheap vinyl shade up for daily light filtering and ordered this bamboo Roman blind for natural essence.
I chose accents for the room based on the colors in my splurge rug. I got this organic crib mattress for a quarter of the price on craigslist and scoured amazon for 100% cotton and as-organic-as-possible bedding. I was so excited to see my vision in real life when the baby shower gifts started arriving.
I found another 100% wool flat weave rug with a similar, yet non-competitive, geometric theme on overstock.com and tricked out the changing table with an organic changing pad and cute pink and coral birdies cover.
I used the IKEA photo ledge technique to display the beautiful and colorful baby books from my shower.
I had ordered some canvas bins for organizing cloth diapers in the changing table drawer and then had a closet epiphany when just one was leftover. I built two more shelves to size and ordered a few more sets of the bins.
I also used this IKEA kitchen rail for hanging clothes and found plain wood infant clothing hangers at The Container Store. The baskets on the top shelf are from Marshall’s.
And that’s about as far as we got by the time Beatrice made her grand entrance …
… which turned out to be far enough because we somehow had everything we needed exactly where we needed it when we first brought her home from the hospital.
Once we figured out what kind of baby we had on our hands, we were able to expand on the decor and art selection, but I think I should save that tale for another day. I’ve definitely exceeded my word/photo limit for one post and surely have crashed your computers if you’ve been kind enough to read this far. Until next time …