Anne Sage and I have been internet friends for 10 years. I was a fan of her blog and style before I started mine, so I did what we had to do before social media – I emailed her an “I like you” note. That’s how we used to double tap in 2009, folks. She was kind and warm, and her style was and is so fresh and modern, with nary a “try-hard” cell in her body. She’s one of the good ones and I’ve admired her both in person and on the interwebs ever since. So when she sent through photos of her nursery, I begged to post about it and here we are. So without further adieu, here is blogger/styler/designer Anne Sage’s beautiful AND SMART “nursery” solution for their small but wonderfully warm, home.
Our 1954 Los Angeles bungalow is many things—bright, airy, welcoming—but spacious isn’t one of them. Not only does it measure under 800 square feet, it also has to accommodate two work-from-home adults and three snooze-from-home pets. Yet for all the patience and creative thinking our limited layout has required, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We love our tree-lined neighborhood, we value the lean environmental footprint that small-space living fosters, and we cherish the memories we’ve made in our little postage stamp-sized corner of the world. It might be tiny, but it’s home!
So when the time came to prepare for our first child, I embraced the challenge of adapting our current space for a new family member. Since the second of our two bedrooms serves as my husband’s office—with a built-in desk and shelving system that isn’t going anywhere soon—I didn’t have a whole room to dedicate to our new daughter. Instead, I carved out corners in a few different rooms to ready our home for her arrival. I admittedly had wistful moments of wishing I were designing “The Nursery”. But in the end, I’m proud to say that the finished result says “Welcome Home, Baby!” just as warmly. Plus, our friends have all warned us that kids take over the entire house anyway. I figure I’ve just gotten a proactive start on that process.
Here’s how I did it, using these top 8 tips to get a small space ready for baby in a way that’s functional, cohesive—and of course stylish.
1. Set Your Intention
Whether I’m designing an entire house or even just styling a coffee table, I always start with a few keywords to act as touchstones. Having a verbal filter through which I run all my decisions ensures that the final outcome feels edited and on-purpose. (This is especially key if you’re like me and easily distracted by all the beautiful furniture and decor options out there!) In this instance, my guiding phrase was “Elegant Whimsy”. I wanted to create a mood that felt playful and sophisticated all at once, appropriate for a child but not over-the-top sticky sweet. You can see this intention playing out in pieces like the cozy boucle swivel chair, which looks straight out of a Parisian atelier but feels like a hug from a cheerful polar bear.
2. Carve Out Functional Zones
I first considered the various activities I’d be designing for if I did have a dedicated nursery space: nursing and sleepytime, dressing and changing, cuddle and playtime. Then, I adapted areas in three different rooms where those activities could take place. Our master bedroom hosts the changing station and a bassinet, which makes good sense considering it’s safest and easiest to sleep a newborn near caregivers in those early months. In my husband’s office we placed a crib and nursing chair, giving us room to expand as she grows without eliminating his workspace altogether. And in a corner of our living/dining room, I filled a petite bookshelf with board books, blocks, and stuffies. All our functional needs are easily met, regardless of what room we’re in.
3. Incorporate Meaningful Pieces
That wistful feeling I mentioned earlier, the one that arose when I thought about not having a whole room as a nursery? Its source was a place inside me that simply wants my daughter to know how wanted she is, and how incredibly excited we are to make space in our life for her. So I set about adding meaningful touches to send that same message. With an X-ACTO knife, I cut stencils and painted a quartet of one-of-a-kind posters to hang over the crib. I also crafted the piece above the bookshelf, covering over an inexpensive framed canvas to create a movement-driven abstract that’s inspired by several artworks I’d saved on Pinterest. Homemade wall decor was my way of injecting heart into each vignette, but any elements with personal significance can have the same effect! Perhaps it’s a family heirloom piggy bank perched on a shelf, or maybe it’s a shadow box of mementos. Just select objects that tell a story of love, and you’ve made the perfect choice.
4. Embrace Toys as Decor
I must have been an elf at the North Pole in a previous life because I absolutely adore toys. It was, therefore, no huge stretch for me to incorporate the toys we’ve received as gifts into the decor of each baby-ready nook! Granted, I was mindful to register and shop for toys that were in keeping with my color and materials palette, as well as with my intention of “Elegant Whimsy”. Even before becoming pregnant, I’d bookmarked online boutiques such as Bitte for their selection of high-quality, sustainable playthings (that handsome linen panda is my personal fave). Decor stores that have a kids’ section—like Crate&kids—are another terrific resource for stylish toy edits. And when putting the 11th-hour touches on each space, I was thrilled to discover that Amazon is a quick resource for wooden toys, puzzles, and games in muted colors. Toys are just another means to explore the basic elements of design—color, shape, texture, proportion—and can be curated accordingly.
5. Take the Opportunity to Upgrade
I used the occasion of baby’s impending presence to make improvements throughout the house. For example, when considering the changing station in our bedroom, I knew it would ideally be placed atop our dresser. However, the one we had was too narrow to fit a changing pad and diaper caddy—as well as too short to comfortably stand at while wrangling a squirming infant. If I’d been designing a dedicated nursery, I’d have included a baby dresser on my shopping list. So I simply shifted the focus of my search to a new chest-of-drawers for our room. The one I chose is four inches taller than our old dresser (no stooping over poopy diapers!) and two inches deeper as well. It’s an incremental change but it affords us more storage for our own clothing, plus brings with it the bonus of an aesthetic update to the master bedroom.
6. Seek Out Crossover Pieces
For rooms that are doing double duty, it’s worth taking the extra time and thought to source objects that resonate for all the ways the space is being used. Case in point? In our combination home office/nursery, I wanted the artwork on the wall above the computer to feel appropriate for both a grown-up workspace and a child’s room. (Plus, I wanted it to be big enough to make an impact on that big, empty wall!) I was stumped until I stumbled on Gathre’s giant map of the world play mat. Not only does it measure a whopping 52”x76”, but it makes perfect sense as both office and nursery decor. Plus, I can brush up on geography during those long hours of nursing from the chair in the corner:)
7. Think “Evolution”, Not “Sacrifice”
There were certainly some poignant moments in the process of getting our small home ready for baby. For one, we waved goodbye to the piano in our living room to make room for the play nook. Handsome though it was, when I was honest with myself I was able to admit that I didn’t play it regularly enough to warrant keeping it. Even tougher was restyling the bookshelves in my husband’s office. I’d spent hours thrifting hundreds of white books to fill each cubby, but putting that shelving to work as storage for baby took priority. Also, getting some adorable pom pom storage baskets for those cubbies helped ease the pain, too.
8. Set the Stage, Then Surrender
Designing a space is one thing; living in it is another. I fully expect each of these thoughtfully designed stations to disintegrate the moment that baby arrives. The bassinet, which looks beautiful next to the dresser for photos, will likely end up next to our bed for easier nighttime feedings. The changing pad and diaper pail might travel around the house as the rhythm of our days develops. As for that beautifully curated selection of toys? It’ll probably get replaced by a collection of neon pink and purple eyesores when she starts making her own decisions—since it is a daughter’s job to give her mother grey hair, after all. Yet I’ll always have the foundation I’ve built to return to, a gold standard of tidiness and style upon which I can ground myself. I’ve been told I’ll need it in the days (and months! and years!) ahead.
Thank you Anne for sharing your beautiful and soon to be happier home. And now for our favorite part of the design process, the ever satisfying “before and afters”. Also, keep scrolling are all of the resources:)
Master Bedroom/Changing Station:
Dresser: Gia 7-Drawer Dresser in Cream
Bassinet: Rattan Bassinet
Brass Mirror: Gerald Large Round Wall Mirror
Stuffed Hippo: Dusty Rose Hippo
Blanket: Pink Bunny Stroller Blanket
Diaper Caddy: Yamazaki Favori White Storage Box
Diaper Pail: Bubula Diaper Pail
Giraffe Toy: Sophie La Giraffe Teether
Changing Pad: Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad in Vanilla
Drawer Organizers: Canvas Grey Square Drawer Organizer
Lumbar Pillow on Chair: Colorblocked Throw Pillow
Doll (on chair): Jess Brown Rag Doll
Crib: Andersen Maple Crib
Side Table: Kids Rattan Nightstand
Table Lamp (on rattan side table): Quinn Grey and White Table Lamp
Crib Sheet: Pink Hearts Fitted Sheet
Art Frames: Brass 18” x 24” Frames
Hanging Map Over Computer: Gathre World Map in Midi+ Size
Desk Lamp: Original BTC Hector Table Lamp
Rainbow Shelf: Wall Shelf and Mirror
Peg Rail: Beaumont Peg Rail
Wood Rainbow: Wooden Arch Stacker in Desert Colors
Wooden Camera: Wooden Mini Camera
Dress on Hanger: Quincy Mae Organic Brushed Jersey Baby Dress
Sweater Jumpsuit on Hanger: Newborn Knitted Sweater Romper
Storage Bins: Pehr Pom Pom Bin in Natural
Stuffed Llama: Ride-On Llama
Panda Stuffy: Linen Panda
Hamper: Woven Bear Hamper
Hanging Koala: Koala Teething Rattle
Pastel Wood Stackers: Small Baby Stacking Rings
Elephant Toy: Elephant Pull Toy
Wood Dog Toy: Dachshund Puppy Push Toy
Bookends: White Marble Bookends
Ottoman: Pink Knit Pouf
Colored Blocks: Pastel Soft Blocks
Stuffed Bunny: Jellycat White Bunny
Stuffed Giraffe: Jellycat Medium Puffles Giraffe
Bookshelf: Maze Small Bookcase
Bear Chair: Bear Animal Kids Chair
Felt Storage Bin: Llama Storage Bin
Wood Storage Bins (on shelf): Wood Bin with Fabric Sides
Rhino Toy: Stuffed Linen Rhino
Puppy Toy: Jellycat Grey Smudge Puppy
Arch Stacking Toy: Wood Rainbow
Alphabet Puzzle: Pastel Colored Letter Puzzle
Baby Gym: Plan Toys Play Gym
Hanging Animals: Woodland Animals Baby Rattles
*Design and words by Anne Sage
**Photography by Monica Wang Photography