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See How Ajai TRANSFORMED Her Client’s Builder Grade Guest Room -Get Ready For A Ton Of Cozy Design Ideas & Working-Mom Real Talk

I can’t believe it’s been ten months since my sweet baby boy (Jack) was born. Ten months of diaper changing, breastfeeding, and little-to-no-sleep. Though there have been so many beautiful moments with my baby boy, there have also been rough ones. I’ve experienced so many emotions during this mamahood-entrepreneur journey, and the thought of going back to work after living as a new mama in the pandemic, was a bit frightening. Nonetheless, I am finally in a place where I feel I can take on a couple of design projects, be a good mama, and maintain my sanity. That said, I chose to take on a project (a guest bedroom) for clients I’ve worked with in the past, and who have become very good friends. I should also mention this project was in Seattle, so I would be traveling with my little one on the airplane for the very first time…quite the experience. 

Jack has always been a very chill baby, but for some reason, I imagined he’d be crying and unsettled on the plane, with clogged little ears, and constantly reaching to grab the person’s hat sitting in front of us. I was very much expecting to have the worst flight ever. I’d heard from so many other moms, who warned me of just how badly this could go. I was told to make sure I was breastfeeding him as the plane took off into the sky, have plenty of bottles on hand during the flight so I could help his ears pop, hold him tight throughout the flight, and try to schedule the flight times with his naps. Panic set in quickly as I began to think about having to nurse in such close proximity to a complete stranger (I like to sit in the middle seat because my husband sits in the aisle seat, as he’s 6’4” and needs the extra legroom). I was also afraid of being so close to people after practicing social distancing for such a long time (and with my little one). All that to say, I used my travel reward points to upgrade us to first class and I summonsed dad and Grandma to come along. 

Children require a ton of attention, especially during the infancy stages. My husband and I were able to juggle our little guy before he was mobile. However, when the crawling began, the working stopped. How nice would it be if I was able to look at Jack and say, “hey little guy, take a 2-hour nap because mommy has to conceptualize a space for her client,” and he actually did it? Wishful thinking… Anyhow, we call Jack “king-baby,” and for good reason – it’s his world, my husband and I just live in it. This meant, someone else would have to endure his reign while mommy and daddy worked. Dad and I (I call my husband dad now, and he calls me mom, which tickles me because my Grandma would do the same with my Grandpa) immediately began looking for nannies and daycares, so we could transition into a normal workweek. We decided on the daycare route, as I’ve watched far too many lifetime movies about nannies (scary ones). Seriously though, since we wanted to socialize Jack at a younger age, we thought it would be good for all of us to get out of the house more often, and this daycare just so happened to offer a co-working space for Dad and I. This made the transition much easier, as I was not very fond of handing over my baby boy to someone else for hours on end. I liked that I could be close by and still stop in to nurse him throughout the day. 

Finally, the first day of daycare was upon us. This was such a big day for all three of us, it was Jack’s first day of school, and Dad and my first day of actually being able to focus on work only. We were so nervous, but excited at the same time. We handed Jack over to his new teacher and sat down to our individual desks. We spent the next five hours wondering what Jack was doing and checking our phones for updates. We got little-to-no-work done, but we did get through the first day. We spent the next couple of days getting better at working while Jack was learning and making friends. By week two, my creative energies began flowing, and by week three, I’d solidified the design concept for the guest bedroom. Like many, social distancing really had me reflecting on my time spent traveling. I missed the adventures my husband and I had in Germany and France. I began pulling inspiration from these bed and breakfast stays and adventures, and in chatting with my clients, I learned they too missed the time they spent traveling internationally. 

My clients mentioned how they would be having guests come over to stay with them during the holidays, and how they wanted their guest room to feel cozy and bnb-like. The current state of the room was builder-grade, and being used for storage. There wasn’t much character, and everything was stark white (including the carpet). The room was also a bit on the small side, and the current mattress was a queen, so it was important for me to cozy the space but also make sure the guests did not feel as if the walls were closing in on them. 

Window Treatment

Wallpaper | Paint

REWIND – I would like to mention that at the start of every project, I have my clients choose a single object, one that inspires them and influences the feel of the room. Through my design process, I like to revisit this item to make sure the room reflects this item and incites the same feeling. The item behind this room’s design is a marble abstract brush. It’s sophisticated, fun, and textured. Along with those aspects, I wanted the room to feel magical, so I went on the hunt for a wallpaper that would embody all of the above. I found the most exquisite floral wallpaper called Coquette from Wallpaperie. I love how elegant the design is, and I was able to have it applied to all the walls without shrinking the space. The room still felt open and spacious while we were in it. It was the perfect contrast to the muted sage lower half of the room. Along with painting the bottom portion of the wall, I had wainscotting added to the lower half of it, as I wanted the space to have more texture. 

Bed (unavailable) | Nightstand (unavailable) | Remote Places to Stay by Gestalten, Debbie Pappyn, and David De Vleeschauwer | Rug | Sconce

The lead times for furnishings during the stay-home-order was horrid (and still is). I used the next coming weeks to source and solidify furniture. During the sourcing process, I came across a beautiful all black bed frame and nightstand with a cane detail by 31 chapters. This is my third time working with 31 Chapters, and I’m happy I did because they rushed the bed and nightstand for me (they were the first pieces of furniture that arrived on-site). Their pieces are some of my favorites. I love using black to cozy up a space, and the cane detail on the bed added to the texture I was working to achieve in the room (such a beautiful and organic detail). When it comes to bed frames, I’m a big fan of head and footboards because I never get to use them in my home (you know… because my husband is 6’4”). However, I still had to take into account that different people would be sleeping in this bed, so the fact that the footboard meets the top/surface of the mattress was a plus. 

Euro Sham | Velvet Pillow | Duvet Cover Set | Charcoal Quilt

More and more, I craved for this space to embody cozy. I wanted my client’s guests to really feel at home during their stay. I wanted their guests to have a hard time getting out of bed because of how comfortable it was. This meant providing them with different blanket weights and a variety of pillows. I’m one of those people who likes my pillow thin. I basically want to feel like I’m sleeping on a piece of paper, and I only need one. My husband on the other hand, loves a large firm pillow, and he likes to have them all around him. Now when it comes to sheets and blankets, I’m quite the opposite of my husband. I love being bundled up in layers of sheets and duvets (linen to be exact), so a linen duvet cover set from Magic Linen was a no-brainer. I have a grey set at home, and we absolutely love it. They’re warm and cozy enough for me, and light enough for my husband. That said, during our travels, I can appreciate a place that gives us plenty of options, so I wanted my client’s guests to have options as well.

London Art (vintage) | Black Marble Brush | Matches (similar) | Brass Candle Holders (vintage) | Ladder (vintage) | Brass Cup (vintage) | Seaside Town

The more I sourced, the more I felt like I was in my element, and falling in love with design all over again. I remembered how special the designer and client relationship was, and how nice it was to be able to have someone trust me with their design dreams and wishes. This really motivates me to make sure I get it right and convey everything they envision. With that in mind, I began looking forward to the trip to Seattle. I packed the necessities and as lightly as I could, and decided that if Jack needed anything additional, I could purchase it once I was in the city. Dad had a carry-on, Jack and I shared a carry-on, and I brought a checked bag and box for the items I sourced in-person and wanted to add to the guest bedroom. All items made the trip, except for a round wooden stool I chose to act as another bedside table. Even though I bubbled and towel wrapped it, I found the wooden stool broken into several pieces when I opened the box (I was pretty bummed about this one). Nonetheless, we approached the checkpoint, and I began sweating bullets. 

Black Vase Trio | Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur | Sconce

One of the TSA officers yelled for my husband and I to come over to his lane. We were instructed to remove Jack from his car seat and carry him through. Another officer checked the breast milk I’d packed for the plane, and another officer checked the stroller. The stroller base kept causing the alarm to trigger, which ended with us all having to go through an extensive search on all of our belongings and have additional pat-downs… we were in the checkpoint for quite some time. After finally making it through the checkpoint, it was time for me to pump. It was then I discovered the terminal didn’t really cater to this sort of situation. I ended up having to pump in the bathroom (not ideal). All of the previous had me terrified of flying with a baby. 

We eventually made our way to our gate. This is where things started to look up. Turns out, parents with babies get to board the plane first and have extra time to settle in before the passenger-stampede. After settling in, I noticed how intrigued Jack was with everything going on around him. I even caught him smiling while he looked out of the window, as the airplane took off into the sky. Jack enjoyed a snack the first 20 minutes of the flight, I nursed him shortly after, and once we were cruising through the clouds, he fell asleep for the remainder of the time. It really was a lovely first flight. 

When we arrived in Seattle, we headed to our hotel, and we rested. The next morning, my husband drove to collect my mom from the airplane, and I hit the ground running. I headed straight to my clients to get things ready for installation. With the help of some pretty amazing clients (they really were heaven-sent), wallpaper went up, sconces were mounted, and I added the finishing touches to the spaces. The next day, I met up with Ellie (the photographer) to photograph the space. It was nice to be able to work alongside another new mama, who too was navigating running a business after having a baby during the pandemic. We shared tips with one another, and enjoyed being in our element. 

Becoming a mother has had an impact in how I design now. I always want to make sure there’s love in the space, instead of designing merely for aesthetic and functionality. Jack not only inspires me, but he helps to keep me grounded. I believe this translates in the way I create now. The love I have for designing a space, procuring the perfect items to tell a story, and learning about the journey’s of my clients and how they came to be in their home, means so much to me. In addition, traveling has always been a passion of mine and after completing my first successful on-site as a new mama, I have the confidence to take on even more projects while pursuing my passions. My husband and I made a pact before Jack was born, to always push him to pursue his dreams. This experience, and the feeling I felt after, is a memory I look forward to sharing with Jack as he gets older.

Re-entering the world as a new mother and learning how to navigate parenthood alongside running a business was tough, but I’ve loved every minute of it. Call me crazy, because I’m ready to do it again. I’m already looking forward to my next design project.

*Design by Ajai Guyot
**Photos by Ellie Lillstrom

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Vicki Williams
21 days ago

Somehow that room has grown. It is so lovely. I love all the elements and how they have come together. Simple, elegant, but not overstated, cozy, altogether a dream retreat. Will be looking forward to seeing more of you!

this is seriously stunning. i can’t believe what a change this is.

Kristin
21 days ago

The wallpaper is gorgeous! The whole room is stunning. What a transformation.

Erin Dae
21 days ago

Absolutely gorgeous room…but your biggest impact on me this morning is renewing in me the wonder of motherhood. As a mom of 3 teens/tweens, we are at a VERY busy stage of life. Your words about the little moments with Jack and the transition into daycare etc. reminded me what parenting is really all about. Thank you.

K
21 days ago

What a beautiful transformation! This is amazing Ajai!

Susan
21 days ago

Very pretty room. I would love staying here. Looks so cozy

Amanda
21 days ago

What a lovely, cozy room. I think you really nailed it. I want to bury myself in that bed and sleep.

I had a baby in February so I also really enjoyed the personal aspects of this essay. It’s been such a weird, anxiety ridden time to bring a new person into the world. But it sounds like you’re really getting on your own two feet, and I’m there with you just trying to figure it all out.

Cse
21 days ago

This is such a lovely post, thank you for sharing. The room is beautiful and Jack is *gorgeous*. My kids are tweens now but I vividly remember what it was like to step back into work when they were babies. It’s tough but you’re clearly rocking it. I wish I could be a guest in this room!

Rusty
21 days ago

I’d wallow in comfort in that bed. 💗
Such a restful, calm space and I love how you catered to different guests’ preferences like pillows, blsnkets, etc.
Ajai, somehow you’ve stretched the room! It’s bigger!
The wallpaper makes me want to colour it in…kidding (kinda not kidding)🤭
The vessel under the nightstand looks like a rustic chamber pot though.😂🤣😂 If if wasn’t in a bedroom, maybe…
A super-comfy room for guests to feel like kings and queens!

21 days ago

Beautiful room and beautiful reflections on the various stages of new parenthood and working life. Thank you Ajai and thank you EHD for sharing voices and talents like hers. More more more of this please!

Alexis
21 days ago

I love the way you worked the sconces since the space is narrow and the bed slightly off center. I didn’t even notice right away that the bed wasn’t centered. After removing dated/loud wallpaper throughout my house and repairing drywall, it has been hard for me to get on the wallpaper train lately, but this paper is stunning!

21 days ago

Running the wainscoting around the room to incorporate utility shelf makes it look *so* custom! Genius idea! Love the return of sage green, as well. Glad your travels went well with the “little guy!”

margaret
21 days ago

Perfection. Absolutely beautiful.

Reanna
21 days ago

LOVE how the room turned out! Absolutely beautiful!

sal
21 days ago

I never thought glossy black plus cane would work together in a piece of furniture; you’ve convinced me. Great job!

Tracy May
21 days ago

You did a great job on the space! But what I loved most about this post was the personal aspect. I have 4 kids and it is very challenging and complex to be a working mom (or any mom!) while navigating the world and raising kids. I pumped once in a pumping room in an airport, and then have also used a Mamava (https://www.mamava.com/find-mamava) at a convention center. I have also had the bar in the airport re freeze my ice packs –and they were so happy to do it! My very first time to fly with an infant, I nursed right next to a really nice older man. He never really looked at us, but definitely looked far away when I needed him too and carried on pleasant conversation the rest of the time. I always pray, please send an angel to sit next to me!

Tara Lynch
21 days ago

This is the most lovely transformation. Agree 100% with Vicki Williams that the room seems to have grown. Really well done! Thanks for sharing.

Courtney
21 days ago

I loved this! The room looks really lovely (the wallpaper, the paint, and the wainscoting–so cozy and chic). But I also totally related to the personal aspects–all that first-time stuff as a new parent is so hard! It brought back a lot of memories and made me miss the baby phase. And can I just say I’m jealous of your daycare/co-work setup? What a great concept!

Heather O’Brien
21 days ago

Just wow! What a simply gorgeous and calming space for their guests! I would love to be a visitor that got invited to sleep and stay in that casually elegant guest bedroom. Ajai Congratulations!!! That room is absolutely perfect. I love the large scale black and white wallpaper design combined with the muted sage green paint on the bottom. Your clients are very lucky to have you as their designer!

Frankie
21 days ago

I’m going to buy frames from Hobby Lobby and place them on the wall for wainscotting. Fingers crossed! I’m glad to see sage again. I don’t know why it went out from the 90’s.

Lindsay
21 days ago

OMG! One of my favorite posts this year by far–absolutely exquisite. I loved the “inspiration” marble brush. How do you find your clients’ inspirational objects? Do you have them walk you through their home or do you bring them things? Fascinating process. I love loved the wainscotting, the single bedside table, the assymetric sconces, the collected art on the ledge, the cane in the headboard and bedside table–I am going to have to pore over this post again and again. Oh, and of course, loved the working mom journey weaving through it!

21 days ago

Um, I’m sorry. I’m too distracted by how cuuuuuuuuuute that baby is to concentrate on anything else. Congrats Ajai!

Sara
21 days ago

What an unbelievable change. I love how this feels like a restful retreat and there are so many thoughtful nods to travel. Also, kudos for getting back out there. The new mama transition is tough, but eventually you start feeling like a new, better version of your old professional self.

21 days ago

The room is elegant and so full of love! Thank you for sharing your navigation through motherhood, design, and travel. The amount of perspective you’ve given through plane travel with an infant, especially during a pandemic, is eye-opening. Just as eye-opening as the final design of this bedroom. I love how everything came together. It’s stunning!

Tyan
21 days ago

Well done! Beautiful room, and beautiful family <3!

Anna A.
21 days ago

This is STUNNING! What an amazing space! The colors (especially that green), the textures, that little nightstand vignette… it all looks so great together. I love everything about this room!!!

Kara
21 days ago

Ajai, I love everything you do (even things as simple as your links in the Sunday email)! That co-work/daycare situation is what dreams are made of. I worked from home PT without childcare for 2 years with my first and I guarantee I would’ve stayed at my job if I had access to something like that.

Cici Haus
21 days ago

This is legit one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read and something I definitely needed to hear as I approach my due date with my first! Also – holy cow that room looks incredible! Ironically it’s very similar to my nursery design plan (same color green lower panels & B&W wallpaper on top) so it’s really great to see it “in real life” as well! I just…thank you, Ajai!! You’re amazing.

Elise
21 days ago

Aja, love the room! I’m usually not a wallpaper fan but the wallpaper you chose really transforms the room. Baby Jack is gorgeous. Enjoy motherhood. Btw, we are flying across the country (moving back to the East Coast) next week (first time during the pandemic) and received TSA Pre-check as a gift. You might want to check into that to make going through TSA faster and easier, especially with a baby.

KT
21 days ago

The transformation is impressive! Ajai, you turned an empty room into a cozy and inviting place to stay.
P.S. Baby Jack is absolutely adorable!!

Patricia
21 days ago

I can not believe the before and the after are the same room. And you did it all long distance with a single install day. You are amazing. Your baby is amazing. Your room is amazing.

liz
21 days ago

You are a genius! This is really incredible and I’m sort of in awe that you were able to make it happen. Love everything about it. So inspired. Thank you!

liz
21 days ago

Yes, forgot to mention how beautiful your family is! Thanks for sharing your pic. 🙂

MKP
21 days ago

Absolutely beautiful work. The room is just gorgeous and the transformation is actually hard to believe. It looks stunning. I am so happy for you that you are finding a way to keep designing while focusing on taking care of Jack. The daycare/workspace combo is absolutely brilliant, and I’m excited for you and other new parents who have that option. The last few years have brought A LOT of tragedy, but at least some good innovation has been forced to come out too. For those of us lucky enough to have health and jobs, there are some good changes that have occurred alongside the bad stuff.

Marci Lambert
21 days ago

so beautiful! you do amazing work!

Billie
21 days ago

Love the finished room. 1 question. The fuse/electrical box. Ugh . What did you do with it?

anon
19 days ago
Reply to  Billie

Very good question! I was wondering that too. What happened to the fuse box? I hope it wasn’t Photoshop. Can we get an update in the post?

In my rental, there’s a horrible eye level breaker box on the wall exactly between the kitchen and living room making it visible from the kitchen, living room, and dining room. I hang a calendar with beautiful photos that covers it up.

In my living room, there’s an eye-level eyesore on-off/thermostat for the electric baseboard heating that has to be turned on manually. When the heat is off, the ugly controller is covered up with a piece of art (canvass stretched on a frame). I put 2 nails in the wall to hang the art perfectly level because I take it off and rehang it often in the winter when turning the heat on and off. It’s so easy to just plop the art back on the wall because the 2 nails make it impossible to hang it wrong.

shannon fleming-wood
20 days ago

What an incredible transformation! Gorgeous! And thanks for sharing your parenting stories as well.

Rachel
20 days ago

The room is so beautiful! Loved this post, thank you for sharing about that part of your design process of having the client pick one object, that’s such a great idea for any kind of creative process.

Adrianne G
20 days ago

Beautiful work! Bummed the bed isnt available, however the space is really lovely.

DeniseGK
20 days ago
Reply to  Adrianne G

Same! And nothing else at the linked site even comes close to how great this one is (for me). Wah. 😉

20 days ago

I am searching this kind of post and now i found that the right article. You explain everything openly. I like your ideas. That room looks so happy already, the LIGHT. Keep rocking!!!

sarah
20 days ago

So gorgeous. You made such a small room gorgeous!

Paula Carr
19 days ago

I’m a little late with this, but I LOVE it. That “before” was pretty depressing, but now it’s just pretty pretty pretty!

19 days ago

What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing all your thoughts on both the design and working Mama struggles. I finished teaching a school year when my boy was little while my folks looked after him in the day. My husband and I decided I would take a break from teaching after that year. We did some traveling between his work projects and I reconnected with my art background. Nursing made for easy baby travel and I fell in love with my big wide scarf to add a layer of privacy. Everyone does the best they can figure out for their life pattern and personal needs. My boy is four now and we are hesitant yet eager to travel again with him.

19 days ago

Thank you for all the details of flying with your babe, and also all the work that goes into taking care of an infant! That picture of your family is so beautiful – I feel the hugs around that boy. The room is beautiful!

anon
19 days ago

This is a really neat transformation. What made you think of wainscotting instead of crown/base moulding? It seems lately everyone is going with shiplap, beadboard, or other kinds of paneling. How does wainscotting fit in with the rest of the house?

Also, what was up with the shelf in the before picture? What caused that to be there in the first place and why did you need to integrate it? And as Billie asked, what did you do with the fuse box?

Were you intending on leaving the side of the bed that has that wall long shelf wihtout any kind of side table for anything? Could a floating shelf provide a place for someone to put their eyeglasses, phone, glass of water?

Sarah
18 days ago

I LOVE THIS. Have read EHD for years but never NEEDED to comment before. This is so fab. Well done, seriously.

Marie
17 days ago

Lovely room and adorable baby, Ajai! Well done all around!!

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