Surprise! You know I’ve been house hunting, and today I’m excited to share some big news…
Just kidding. It’s not my baby. (“Yeah, duh,” – you, just now, unsurprised, remembering that I asked readers to set me up with their cute sons in my last
glorified diary entry house hunting update.) ANYWAY. Here’s the deal: one of the perks of working here at EHD is the opportunity to do a MOTO – a MakeOver Take Over, if you’re new to our little blog family – where our team can call in favors with our brand partners to help decorate our own spaces in exchange for coverage on the blog (and new original design content for y’all. Everybody wins!).
Since I’m still in the midst of that aforementioned house hunt (Sight unseen offers were made! Letters were written and ignored! Offers $76k over asking were submitted because I have officially lost my mind! Foundation issues were discovered! My heart has turned to a shriveled husk! Updates soon!), I’ve held off on doing a MOTO of my own. I do truly love my apartment – it’s huge, rent-controlled, and priced under market; I have my own garage (a very big flex if you live in Koreatown); there’s crown moulding and vintage charm for days – but it’s always felt like a bit of a stopover point.
I’ve tried a couple of times to pull the trigger on some semi-permanent decisions, like new paint colors or bathroom wallpaper or updated lighting fixtures, but I always just stop short of installation. I just have this nagging feeling that I’m about to leave, which kind of renders my MOTO dreams moot.
But if I’m not going to use my resources, someone should still be able to, right? And finally, five paragraphs in, that brings us to the point of today’s post: two of my best friends are having a baby – a baby in whom I have a very vested interest, as you’ll soon learn – so I’ll be cashing in my MOTO favors for these two dynamite pals and for my new almost-born baby friend. We’re going to make one super sweet, practical, functional, happy nursery/office space and it’s going to be great (I hope). Let the takeover commence!!!
The Deserving Friends
This is some top-notch meet cute content buuuuut if you’re just like “hey lady, just talk about design, I don’t want to read a heartwarming story,” you can hop down to the next section. For the rest of you, IT’S LOVE STORY TIME. (And like, what better way to start your day??? Grab that coffee and sit with me for a sec, girl!!! Everything’s not awful!)
I met Jess in 2009 when we were randomly assigned as roommates at our über-liberal art school in Boston. He was studying writing and I was studying broadcast journalism (LOL) and we had a third roommate who was studying like, how much vodka she could fit in our mini-fridge and how many snack food bags she could open and crinkle non-stop at 3 AM when she was tripping on some sort of hallucinogen. (Again, art school.) What a prize!
Jess and I didn’t click immediately. But true to human nature, two folks with a common enemy will start to bond – and bond we did. “Does she really not hear her alarm going off for 30 minutes?” and “WHO EATS APPLES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT? IS THERE A LOUDER FOOD?” turned into “What time are we going to dinner?” and “Do you want to go to the movies?”
By winter break, we were best friends. We chose to live together again in a new suite for our sophomore year, but Jess decided to transfer midway through the year. Y’all, I have had full-on breakups that were less sad than Jess moving. I was fully codependent but since kidnapping is a crime, I had to let him go.
The next year, I landed in a suite with five of the best people I’ve ever known – the people I reminisce about when I think of ~my college friends~ – and Jess agreed to come visit. This was right before the holidays in 2011 and it was on this trip when he got to know one of my new roommates, Marissa. They had met in passing (actually, at their wedding, they were able to find a photo of them standing side-by-side as freshmen strangers), but had never spent a ton of time together.
But this time, on this trip, they hit it off. Jess and Marissa stayed in touch by playing Words with Friends together over the next few weeks and when they both went home for this winter break, they met for their first date at a diner equidistant from their childhood homes. It must have been a preeeetty good first date, because they’ve been together ever since and I was honored to stand by Jess’ side at their wedding in the spring of 2018.
Update: I sent a final draft of this post to Marissa and Jess on Monday night, because it seemed like the appropriate action to do when you’re about to publish a bunch of personal information about your friends and their house, and it turns out that I have no idea what I’m talking about!!!
From Marissa: “Girl, I love you, but this did not happen. Jess tweeted that he was heartbroken and needed a new girlfriend. You and Melyssa texted him saying he should date me! We connected over Twitter, then Words with Friends, then texted, so we didn’t meet in person til December 26th. He visited you in February of 2012.”
OKAY OKAY so my timeline is two months off and it started on social media first, but the gist is the same. In any case, here’s a picture of the matchmakers, Melyssa (left) and me (right) with the mom-to-be in question on our graduation day in the middle. The moral of the story is that you should ALWAYS be intrusive and you should force your friends to date each other. Success rate: 100%!!! (The other moral of the story is that memory is fickle and you should probably start taking fish oil supplements or whatever helps you remember things ASAP because I apparently already have no idea what is going on and that’s terrifying.)
But if THAT doesn’t warm your heart, wait til I tell you a little more about how wonderful they are!!! Marissa, the world’s most incredible mom-to-be, earned her Masters in 2019 and now works as a librarian. Jess, someone with little-to-no-tolerance for plastic water bottles, is working towards his Ph.D. in something very smart that has to do with the environment and sustainability and psychology (I think the gist is like, getting people to care about climate change, which is obviously very important!!!).
A Jess clarification, given the night before publication, for interested folks: “Basically I focus on neighborhood and individual resiliency to climate change and how small-scale community programming can help support that resiliency – in terms of social cohesion (if something goes down, can they rely on neighbors to help each other?), individual wellbeing (in terms of mental health – eco grief and eco anxiety is a thing!), and efficacy (e.g. that people feel like they can actually do something to address these issues). It’s okay, no one knows or understands what I do.”
WE GET IT JESS, YOU ARE VERY SMART AND YOU’RE SAVING THE WORLD. Just a little bit of light reading for this Tuesday, huh?? Some of us are just trying to write blog posts over here while you win over the hearts of minds of communities nationwide. If you weren’t sure that these people deserved a nursery (and a room where Jess can like, soothe the eco-grief of the masses), I know you’re like, “ah, yes, give these people a beautiful room, STAT,” because…same here.
Anyway, they also have two cats – Kallie and Leo – the former with whom I am deeply obsessed because she constantly looks like you’ve just told her some horrifying news and like she’s horribly disappointed in you. They are very good pets for very good people getting ready to shepherd a new person into the world.
Now that you know the folks, let’s talk about the room! Marissa and Jess had been using this room as their primary bedroom, but they’ve since relocated into their second bedroom as that space is draftier and they want their baby to be toasty warm and comfortable. They’re already great parents!!!
There were a couple of key takeaways I got from the early shots, though – the carpet is an absolutely wild blend that shows as gray and brown simultaneously (the couple says it leans warm, and they live there, so I have to believe them, but…she sure looks gray here.); there are baseboard heaters which means we are either extending that curtain rod out FAR or we’re going to end up with roman shades that cover a decent amount of wall space above and around the window so light leak doesn’t wake my new favorite infant; there’s a great 3′-ish stretch of wall next to the closet that could be perfect for shelving or a changing table/dresser; one of these walls could be a real strong candidate for a nice little statement wallpaper.
The room is about 11′ by 12′, so it’s a nice size for a cozy office and nursery. The layout is also great – I don’t know if y’all also suffer from “oh my gosh WHY IS THERE A FEATURE ON EVERY WALL” syndrome, but the closet is back on the wall with the door, so having two full blank canvases without doors or windows is a real treat (especially since this room will have to do double duty as an office).
Like any legit designer (LOL who do I think I am????), I figured I should probably ask Marissa and Jess to shoot me over some pins of nurseries that they’d been drawn to. In response, Jess wrote, “We were hoping for a nature/plants/forest animals?/cats theme… mostly nature-ish with cats and other animals sprinkled in. Idk it all works together in our heads.” OKAY. GOT IT. (PS. Jess’ emails are all very funny and I will be quoting more below.)
There were definitely a lot of common threads, though. Seems like these two love a green accent wall and some nature-inspired art…
They’re also fans of a natural textures and calm color palettes (which is great, too, considering they aren’t sure if they can actually paint)…
But they also love a nice little bright green statement wallpaper or decal moment, which I’m happy to deliver on! I also learned that they prefer darker or gray wood, which is why it’s important to not just run a design plan off pins 🙂
Overall, their inspiration got me excited – it feels doable and achievable but still really special and catered to the design preferences of these two people. I am eternally grateful that my pals did not go pinning photos of lucite cribs and metallic wallpaper because I would have been overwhelmed!!! This, though, I can handle (even though I’m a regular person, and not a designer, and I’ve never picked out nursery furniture before. DETAILS!).
The Couple’s Requests
Like a lot of parents, Marissa and Jess seem to want the best for their kid??? Weird. They were VERY amenable to anything I had to offer (“we’re not in the position to be excessively particular,” Jess wrote, not knowing that this baby will only be getting the best from their parent’s weird college roommate) but there are a couple of restraints I’m working with as I started sourcing product. I’m going to pull straight from Jess’ requests because he is a laugh-out-loud funny writer and these are GOLDEN.
- The Crib: “Obviously, safety and durability are the biggest priorities, as well as the crib not being the kind that have the side slide down (see: “Elf”, opening sequence, for why that’s problematic). We’d also like drawers underneath if possible because storage is another priority (who knew that a little person needs so much stuff??)”
- The Rocker: “Marissa and I are very particular in different ways about rockers because her priority is comfort while I don’t want some ugly granny chair. She definitely wants something with cushions/something sofa like? – that is, not a traditional wooden rocking chair, or a wooden rocking chair with cushions tied onto it. And I’m fine with that, but most of them online are fugly so I want something that looks more modern. (On the other hand, again, if you are like “hey I have a slightly fugly rocker, do you want it”, I would still say yes.)”
- The Desk: Jess has a BIG honkin’ desk that I’ll be replacing. He writes, “Marissa low key hates it because it’s so big. Also ignore that I have hot pepper plants on top of it… I need to re-pot them. Anyway, Marissa is positive that my desk will take up too much room in the nursery but I’m having a really hard time visualizing it without knowing, like, the standard sizes of cribs, changing tables/dressers, rockers, etc. Ideally, I’d like to fit all of these items in the nursery as well, but I have NO idea if that’s even possible. On the other hand, if you’re like “hey, I have this desk that I want to give away that would be perfect for a PhD candidate because it has drawers for storage and is still long enough (without being 6′) that he can look like a semi-professional podcaster when he’s running his classes and meetings on Zoom University”, then we would take it.
- The Wood Tones: “We’re mostly looking for a darker wood or grey wood in the crib and changing table/dresser. I guess the rocker would complement those? Idk. Basically whatever looks good together, I’m down with – including if the crib and changing table/dresser are different wood tones but still look nice.”
- The Art: “I have a cross stitch that I just finished and need to frame that I’m putting in the GDrive folder also. There’s also art on Etsy that I adore but haven’t purchased yet because I want to see how everything looks together first. (If it’s helpful: Here’s a cross stitch that’s in my queue to make for Baby’s room. Here’s one of the artists I like, and here’s another – maybe not this actual print, but you get the idea. And Marissa looooves these name signs, so we want to leave space for this above the crib.)”
So the main goals here: safe, comfortable, appropriately-scaled pieces that look good together (design!!!), and bright, whimsy, fun art. WE’RE COOKING WITH GAS!
What They Already Got
And to make it even easier on me, Jess and Marissa have already purchased or received a few things. I feel VERY, VERY, VERY lucky to have a framework to build around as the original inspiration I had pinned for this project for my own reference definitely leaned a little more autumn-toned and desaturated. Taking a peek at the pieces they had already secured and wanted to include made sure that I was pulling items that would complement the nursery THEY wanted to have in their house, not the nursery that I wanted them to have in their house 🙂
First – JESS MADE THIS CROSS STITCH. Let’s meet in the comments and tell Jess to drop his Ph.D. and focus on cross stitching instead. INCREDIBLE. This is obviously going in a very important spot once it’s framed. (Jess wants me to note that he got the pattern for this cross stitch right here in case any of you want to duplicate!)
But I started to pick up the “nature/plants/forest animals/cats theme” when took a peek at the rest of the products they’d already sourced. Call me crazy but I thiiiiink there’s a definite color palette developing… (PS. I don’t know how to use photoshop and I’m trying my hardest to NOT ask anyone on the team for help on this one so I’m using Mal’s trick to make this graphic. Please give me some grace if you’re like, “wow that’s NOT great photoshop work!” My job is doing math. Graphics are not in my wheelhouse!!!)
I know, I know – not the artfully arranged numbered scattering you may be used to, but I TRIED. But as you can see, we have some pretty consistent threads: saturated greens, illustrated leaf motifs, and sweet grayscale animal prints (if you can’t tell – which like, I’m sure you can’t – those are hedgehog printed sheets from Target and they are SO CUTE.
These are all so bold that they really take the weight off of my shoulders – these bright and patterned pieces (and the corresponding art, like the pieces Jess had sent to me above) are going to be the stars of the show. My contributions are ALLLLL supporting actors, and that’s great!!!
I mean, there are three big ones that come to mind.
First, and most importantly – what’s the right balance between nursery and office? I want the baby to be surrounded with bright and happy things, but I also don’t want it to look like Jess is teaching Zoom University from the inside of a 1990s Discovery Zone.
We ran the above house tour from Ann Sage in March of last year – 3 days before everything shut down – and it is STUNNING (click through the house tour because the baby’s play area in the living room is also gorgeously curated!), but it definitely leans into very hard neutral territory. We could technically do something like this that really lets the bright + colorful art shine, but I’d be eschewing the ask for darker and grayer woods.
Second, how to you bring interest and life to a neutral space? The EHD nurseries of lore have been filled with special paint jobs or (permanent) wallpaper installations. What does a beautiful renter-friendly nursery look like? (And am I really a person qualified enough to answer that question?)
This nursery from Orlando used wall decals, which does inspire some confidence. If you’re really looking for some additional baby content this AM, I can’t recommend that post enough – he did the whole thing in TWO. FREAKING. WEEKS.
Third, how the heck am I gonna pull this off from a different state? And beyond that, how are we going to document it? Jess and Marissa live 2,250 miles away from LA, so it’s not like we can just send Sara over for an afternoon shoot. Plus, I don’t want to be like “AH YOU JUST HAD A BABY? Great, congrats, please leave your house during a pandemic for a day so I can hire a photographer to take photos of the interior!!! It’s for my blog!!!” This is an honest question – how would you like to see final shots? Are iPhone pics okay? Should we wait to reveal until the vaccine has fully rolled out so you can see the full family in the space? PLEASE ADVISE.
So yeah…how do you design a room from 2,250 miles away for a baby that’s due on 3/19? QUICKLY AND EFFICIENTLY. I’ve spent the past two weeks pulling all sorts of in-stock items – desks that aren’t too big, bookshelves that won’t topple and crush the baby (this baby will the ONLY other person to ever be roommates with both Marissa and Jess, so they must be protected at all costs!), cribs that will not enable a midnight escape, rockers that are both comfortable and modern (not a fugly piece in sight, Jess!), dressers that can do double-duty as a changing table, temporary wallpaper ideas that will not drive either parent crazy if they’re forced to spend a day staring at it…you know. BABY STUFF. All the essentials.
I’m still wrapping up that process – turns out when you can’t do returns and when this is the stuff your friends are gonna be stuck with for like, 2 years, you get REAL particular about measurements! But I’ll be following this method that we perfected for a Velux makeover – it’s a dream for any of you out there trying to help a family member or friend with their own designs – so I’ll walk you through it real quickly!
Basically, last year (or 2 years ago? Honestly, did last year even count?) Julie and Emily pioneered a way to make design fast, cheap, AND good. I’ve mapped out Jess and Marissa’s nursery/office on graph paper (again, no photoshop skills here, doing this the computer illiterate way), cut out shapes of my ideal crib/dresser/shelves/desk (to scale, of course), and I’ve been playing with different configurations and layouts based on differently-sized pieces.
I’ll be sharing grids of all of Jess and Marissa’s in-stock options – like in the photo below, from the Velux project – and hoping that they’ll heart their favorites and X out any hard passes.
From there, I’ll be able to play with any available options on Keynote – mixing and matching from all the contenders, with a preference for the things that they’ve hearted – and I’ll be goofing around with graph paper to TRIPLE CHECK that everything fits before making the final calls.
The official selections are going to be showing up to their house sight unseen (or at least that’s the plan, unless they end up entering ultra-nest mode and are like, “SHOW US RIGHT NOW”) and they should be all installed and ready to go by this time next month, which gives us a solid 4 weeks of buffer time before THE BABY APPEARS.
So yes, this is technically a surprise MOTO nursery and office…just not for me 🙂 But this is where I ask for your help – I’m obviously not a parent, so is there anything I’m missing for furniture or decor? Do you have any tips for a “noffice”? (Nursery/office, the term coined by Jess that I am definitely stealing.) Do you have any thoughts on how it should be revealed? Any well wishes for my dear, dear, sweet pals who deserve all the good things in the world??? HAPPY TUESDAY, HAPPY 2-MONTHS-TIL-BABY DAY, HELP PLEASE. xx
Opening Image Credits: Design by Anne Sage | Photo by Monica Wang | From: No Nursery? No Problem: 8 Creative Tips To Make Space For Your New Baby (+ A Stylist’s House Tour)