The SURPRISE Nursery Project
Laura, a friend and client of mine, called me earlier this year with a question. She and her husband were expecting their first baby and per his family tradition, he wanted to keep the gender a surprise. Unfortunately, Laura had always envisioned a gender specific nursery and the surprise aspect made planning more difficult.
So, Laura asked if I would be willing to take over the nursery design. I’d be the baby gender secret keeper and they wouldn’t see the final nursery outcome until after coming home from the hospital. UM, YES! I’m in!
Initially, our approach was a gender neutral scheme and then once the baby was born, and they were still in the hospital, I would layer in more feminine or masculine touches through art, bedding and accessories as necessary depending on gender. We’d paint the walls grey regardless and the ‘bigger’ items, such as the crib and dresser, would be consistent for both schemes.
The Baby Boy scheme was mostly neutral with pops of denim and navy in the pillows and artwork. In a very tonal scheme (for any room), I think layering in a variety of textures keeps the overall look from falling flat. So we brought in a high-pile rug, leather pouf and some denim inspired pillows.
Blush tones would rule the Baby Girl scheme and artwork would become decidedly more feminine. We’d add a more lady-like, long ruffled crib skirt and tonal bedding.
After reviewing this approach, I could tell this isn’t what she REALLY wanted. Laura still had some very gender specific ideas that just weren’t getting achieved, especially if the baby was a girl. Pink walls, traditional rug, the whole nine yards! We agreed to having her husband install a lock on the door so I could plan and get things installed while they were at work and keep the secret under wraps.
So, I got to work on tweaking each scheme slightly. Baby Boy would get a more modern pendant and we’d interject some touches of black in the scheme to ground it a bit. I sourced some pale pink oushak rugs if Baby was a girl and selected a clear glass beaded chandelier.
We had one last meeting to make sure we were on the same page for either a boy or a girl and then the fun began! Laura’s doctor had the gender sealed in an envelope, which they handed over to me. I was pretty eager to get started and now that I knew the gender and the nursery door was locked – I got to purchasing.
Anything that was gender neutral was delivered to the client’s house and I had specific items shipped to myself for safe-keeping. Accessories and art were a touch harder as I am more of a flea market / antique store explorer for those things. I couldn’t very easily run options past Laura without giving it away. Luckily, she trusted me to purchase these items keeping with the scheme and working within our budget.
I installed over three separate days – the first day to paint and place furniture (with help, of course, from a trusted contractor). Then I went back and arranged and hung the gallery wall and spent some time playing with accessories to make sure everything looked just right. I used as many gifted items (especially books) as I could and layered in some more unique, vintage touches that I had collected over time.
That said, I am super excited to share this BABY GIRL nursery with you all!
Caroline Jurgensen Photography
This was easily the most fun project I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on. It’s rare (unless you’re Joanna Gaines or Emily Henderson or Kelly Wearstler) to get the kind of creative license to really run with a project. I have never been so nervous/excited for clients to see a finished space. I really wanted it to be perfect for them and probably over-thought everything more than I should have. Mom and Dad love it though, so it was worth the nerves a million times over. I was honored to have the opportunity to work on this project with them and hope they continue to love it for years to come!
XO – Aubrey