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Before & After: A “Bland ’90s” Spare Room Becomes a Dreamy Nursery

published May 8, 2024
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Window nook in baby room before renovation.

Sometimes, timing is everything. At least that was the case with author and interior designer Clare Sullivan when it came to welcoming a child into her and her husband’s home. The couple had just moved from New York City to Connecticut and didn’t plan on starting their family for a couple of years. But, as fate would have it, the pair found out they were expecting just weeks after moving in. 

“I feel very lucky that the timing was right, and I found myself pregnant after moving out of our small apartment,” Clare shares. “With this little room at my fingertips, it has given me a creative outlet to embrace pregnancy and prepare for a major life change — in a very fun and colorful way.”

Credit: Nikki Hirst

Initially, their extra spare room would be turned into a second guest bedroom or office space. It was a charming room with original ’50s details and a “bland ’90s makeover with beige paint.” The room had unique traits like slanted, low ceilings, sturdy wood baseboards, oak floors, and quirks like the short doors (which Clare calls “gnome doors) leading to storage spaces. And after learning about the exciting news, she knew it was the perfect place to create a nursery for their first son, Myles Henry. 

Credit: Nikki Hirst

“I’m a bit of a maximalist and can’t stand to be bored by my surroundings, so I knew I’d have to put in some major elbow grease to transform the space into something colorful and magical for my son,” she explains. 

Credit: Nikki Hirst

Clare admits that the slanted walls were “begging to be covered in a fun wallpaper.” She turned to her friend Sara of Sara Fritz and found star-patterned wallpaper that made her dream of her son counting the stars on his wall one day. The wallpaper was the starting point, which included other colors like soft greens, blues, reds, and oranges. 

Credit: Nikki Hirst

Once the mood board was locked, it was time to start designing the room. To start, all of the items that were in the original room had to be hauled down to the basement or donated. Next, it was time to wallpaper the walls. 

Credit: Nikki Hirst

“I did this myself and have since declared myself retired from wallpapering until I’m not pregnant anymore — it was a LOT of work,” Clare admits. “The room is small, but all those slants make for a pretty decent square footage of cover.” 

Credit: Nikki Hirst

A visit to the hardware store resulted in Clare finding a custom blue color (based on the wallpaper) that she used to paint the trim and doors. The next step was furnishing the room, which Clare admits she usually did “at night while I [Clare] was a little delirious,” but it led to exciting surprises when the boxes arrived. 

Credit: Nikki Hirst

Several pieces in the room are from Etsy, like the Roman shades, and the One Kings Lane upholstered bench in the window nook adds a “touch of cozy.” But the dresser she had painted in Benjamin Moore’s Kittery Point is a standout piece. One of her favorite DIY projects in the room was gilding the area around the circus tent pendant. 

“I used gilding paint from Michaels to paint a gold star around the light,” Clare notes. “It’s reflective at night and tonally goes hand in hand with the crib.”

Credit: Nikki Hirst

Now that the room is finished and Clare’s in her third trimester, she finds herself hanging out in it — especially when she’s tired from working on her upcoming book, Budget Luxury, which covers topics like DIY projects, inspiration, and tips.  

Credit: Nikki Hirst

“It feels like a peaceful retreat and has become my favorite room in the house,” Clare admits. “I treat this room differently — I’m cleaner in here and much more careful. Maybe because it’s not mine — it belongs to my child, which is an amazing feeling that gives me goose bumps!”