Caitlin’s Joint Nursery/Office Update – Figuring Out A Multifunctional Layout

Caitlin’s Joint Nursery/Office Update - Figuring Out A Multifunctional Layout

OH BOY, I have a design update, and it’s a big and juicy one! Here’s the deal: two people I love very much are having a baby! The catch: they live in an apartment and needed their nursery space to do double-duty as a WFH office. I wrote about the initial plan back in January, and, well, the parents of the EHD world really did NOT love this joint-space idea. The comments all read, “Caitlin, no!!!” so naturally, I said “Caitlin, yes!!!”

Look, I read all your feedback and took it to heart – you influenced everything from the color palette to the layout to the furniture pieces – but after a lot of back and forth between my friends and I, we did go full steam ahead with the multifunctional space plan (with a little twist!). And y’all, all the major pieces have been ordered, shipped, and installed – my friends are living with this space RIGHT NOW.

The room still needs a little styling and sprucing – we’re waiting to get to know both the baby and the parents’ care-taking preferences a little more before we grab the finishing touches like organizational tools, blankets, or custom signs – but today, I wanted to walk you through the whole layout and furniture selection process from start to finish.

Sometimes I read reveal posts and I’m like “YEAH, but HOW did you figure out how to do that?” so the over-thinker in me wanted to pop in this morning with a real look into a regular person’s process. Maybe you’ll read and be like, “Hey, that’s exactly how I, another regular person, also design my rooms,” and we can just gab about our processes in the comments. Or maybe you’ll be like, “You fool!!! Why did you put the office in there after 100 people told you not to,” and I’ll say, “but did you see how I prepared for a scenario where it doesn’t work out?” and we’ll gab about that. In any case, let’s get to reading so we can get to gabbing!!!

A Quick Catch Up

It’s been two months, so let me refresh your memory (unless you have an elephant memory, in which case you can skip down to the “tips” section): 10 years ago, I tweeted at two of my college roommates and told them that they should date. Instead of being weird or off-putting or presumptuous or awkward, it was very effective: they did, in fact, start dating. And then they fell in love, got married, and now they’re expecting their first child. The moral of the story here is that you should always play matchmaker in a very public (and potentially embarrassing) way, because (a.) the matchmake-ees (not a word, but should be) will end up super happy together and (b.) you’ll have a good story to tell at dinner parties. (Or, like, a good story to write about on a blog for millions of people to read. Either way – a win!!!)

marissa and jess – the parents to be!

But more than that, these are just really great, kind, salt of the earth people who deserve a room makeover. Marissa is an awesome, super-smart librarian (she even worked in our college library, so she’s serious business!) and Jess is finishing up his Ph.D. in saving the world. They are both warm and hilarious and SUCH bright lights in my life, and since I have a very vested interest in this baby, I wanted to gift them a special nursery (for baby) and functional office (for Jess).

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Intro 8
the view from the entry & closet area

So this is what we started with: their original primary bedroom. It was pretty much a blank canvas with neutral walls, carpeting, and classic apartment vertical blinds. Jess and Marissa chose to relocate into the smaller, draftier guest bedroom so that this room would have space for the baby to crawl, learn, and play while Jess would have room to, like, teach the next generation of climate leaders while working on his own research and projects. NBD.

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Intro Floor Plan
a nice blank canvas!

The room is pretty cozy – only 11′ wide by 12′ long – but it is blessed with an awesome layout already. Multifunctional spaces can be tricky when you’re working around a ton of doors or windows (where do things go??? How can you make zones out of such fragmented areas???), so having two straight, blank walls paired with a one-windowed wall and a wall with all of the doors made this a real treat and allowed for a ton of layout possibilities.

What They Wanted

“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.” 

That was the initial design direction given to me by Jess, which I loved. But when I prodded further, asking how they wanted the room to feel, Marissa responded, “green.” That may have been the funniest answer I’ve ever heard to that question, and I do love a gal who knows what she wants, so we rolled onwards. They also had received a few pieces from their baby shower that they wanted to be incorporated into the room…

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Update Already Had

1. Leaves Fitted Sheet | 2. Monstera Leaf Rug | 3. Cat Woven Bin | 4. Rectangular Storage Bin | 5. Hedgehog Fitted Sheet | 6. Collapsible Laundry Basket

These were helpful to see as they really dictated the exact shade of green we’d be shooting to encapsulate – it’s a really bright, saturated, happy tone (no olives or sages here! These two were ALL in). But beyond the color scheme and nature direction, these were the other primary requests:

  • Walnut or gray wood, with chrome accents (this was a fun challenge for me, as my instincts always go straight towards whites, oak, and brass – this project did turn me into a chrome believer, though!)
  • A crib that is safe
  • A rocker that is not an “ugly granny chair”
  • A desk with storage options that makes Jess look like “a semi-professional podcaster when he’s running his classes and meetings on Zoom University”
  • Whimsy, bright, fun art

So with all these things in mind, I started to source furniture, sent a ton of temporary wallpaper options to Marissa and Jess to make sure I was jumping off in the right direction, and started to pull together an initial design plan and layout.

The Tips from You, My Heroes

That’s around where we were when I posted the original intro post, and you all provided some INVALUABLE feedback. I know that Em can testify to this, too (she’s changing her home layout in response to your comments!), but y’all are a smart and thoughtful bunch. I’m really lucky to have you as a sounding board! Here are the big 3 that really stuck with me that I hadn’t really considered:

  • From Virginia: “There is SO MUCH PATTERN all the time. So it can be really nice to have some neutral pieces in the mix.” This one definitely informed the furniture decisions – I wanted neutral, clean backdrops for the baby paraphernalia, but it was especially valuable when I picked out the wallpaper.
  • From Rachael: “Some advice from someone who did a PhD while having babies—you cannot use the same room for an office as you can for a nursery.” Boy, this one weighed heavily on me…and I thiiink I figured out a great little solution in case things go south with a shared space. Read on 🙂
  • From Erica: “I agree with the others who are confused about an office/nursery combo. Even if the baby is sleeping elsewhere, wouldn’t the background on said Zoom calls be a crib?” And yes, this was the comment that influenced my final, official layout. Without further ado…

Where We Ended Up

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Update Layout 2

OH BOY. Let’s break this down a little bit and show how we got here. (It’s like showing your work in math class, except this is actually fun and I’m not crying.)

Starting counter-clockwise, from the top: I got Marissa an awesome, not-fugly glider (hooray!) with a matching storage ottoman and a great little end table, so she could be comfy while hanging out with the baby. I also decided to put the crib right next to it for easy lines of sight from the hall door. On the next wall, I diiiid install a desk (just wait, it’s flexible!) flanked by two wall-mounted shelves, which will be awesome for joint toy/diaper/other things babies need AND Ph.D. storage (the anchoring also makes them great for not falling on baby, which I was VERY concerned about at every stage of this process).

On the other long wall, I grabbed them a stunning long and tall dresser to do double-duty as a changing table (it’s gorgeous, you guys – just wait!!!) and finished the room off with two kid-sized storage bins in the tiny area between the entry door and the closet doors. It’s a really practical and fair layout for a room that’ll be working overtime.

OKAY, ENOUGH TALK. NOW THAT YOU KNOW WHERE IT’S GOING, LET’S LOOK AT THE ACTUAL STUFF I BOUGHT!!! You know, the things that are actually living in Marissa and Jess’ apartment RIGHT NOW!

The Crib Wall

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Update Crib Wall

Wallpaper | Side Table | Glider & Ottoman| Floor Lamp | Monstera Leaf Rug | Crib | Cat Woven Bins

First off: I cannot tell y’all HOW MANY WALLPAPERS I looked at. I must have sent Marissa and Jess at least 30 options – there were a few that they loved (and even more that they did not love, if I’m being honest), but once I found this one, I was done. It echoed a pattern I knew they liked (they had herringbone bins from their registry!), and it felt like a nice mix between “green” (see, I can take direction!) while still being “youthful for baby,” and “not embarrassing if your coworkers catch glimpses in the background of a Zoom.”

I really liked that it was a simple, saturated pattern, so Marissa and Jess can shift decor as baby grows – it looks like leaves but it’s not super literal, so while it works for this “nature/plant/animal” theme, it can complement any other style they lean into down the road. Color-wise, it also worked with the tone of their rug, which was ::chef’s kiss::. 10/10 BIG FAN OF THE WALLPAPER.

Next up: that crib! The other bonus of picking such a light yet saturated, bold wallpaper was that it made an awesome backdrop for a sturdy, timeless walnut crib. This one was from Target and it’s a 3-in-1, so it’ll last a few years as the baby grows! Plus, it looks like a million bucks (despite being under $300 – what?!) and it’s SO SWEET when flanked by their really cute, textured happy cat bins.

Jumping over to the left, you’ll find the beautiful, comfortable glider! She’s sleek, modern, definitively NOT granny, and she came with a great matching storage ottoman, which is obviously key in a multipurpose space. Most importantly, though, this glider was very highly rated by actual parents, which was why I wanted to grab it for my pals. (Bonus: Marissa and Jess’ cats LOVE taking naps on it, which feels like the ultimate comfort endorsement.)

And you know I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some Article in an EHD room – I love this sturdy, four-legged green table for an extra pop against the glider – it brings the green a little further into the room – and this simple, graphic globe lamp for a little hit of black some contrast against all of the straight angles in the space.

The Office Wall

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Update Desk Wall

Shelving Units | Desk | Filing Cabinet | Office Chair

THE CONTROVERSIAL OFFICE. Here’s the deal: I decided to flank the windows with 2 wall-mounted bookshelves from CB2, because (a). I thought it would look nice and bring some symmetry to the space, (b.) I wanted shelves that were anchored to the wall, and (c.) Marissa and Jess have floor heating, so I wanted to make access to that hot vent a little more difficult for curious babies. I went with the awesome walnut and black finish, which speak to the crib and the Article lamp from the other wall. These units are a blank slate with a TON of storage (I have 4 in my own home and they hold SO much!) – I can’t wait to see them all styled out with bright toys, textured bins with daily baby essentials like wipes or diapers, and sweet books (and also some serious books, for adult Ph.D. learning).

Conversely, I decided to go with a white desk – overruling the couple’s preferences!!! – to make sure the room didn’t feel too heavy. Plus, the white will reflect the light from the window and Jess will look like a VERY professional podcast host, instead of his earlier goal of just looking like a semi-professional podcast host.

But beyond that, I decided to put the office area on this wall (instead of on the wall across the crib) because it will provide a cleaner background for Zooms – you were right, we don’t need a crib in every shot! Jess will be able to angle his computer towards the dresser and entry and totally mask the fact that he’s, you know, working from a nursery. In the daytime, he’ll also be able to work on his angled computer without having any computer light shining straight into the crib, which is a nice win.

But let’s talk about the real coup here: I heeded your warnings!!! I ended up going for a rolling desk and a locked rolling filing cabinet in case the combined spaces do get a little bit untenable. Jess will be able to unlock the casters and move everything quickly, without hassle, and by himself (I mean, Marissa will have given birth – she’s done enough without having to rearrange furniture). This desk is about 48″ wide, so if the office doesn’t work out, they’ll be able to pull in a tiny loveseat and make a sweet reading nook surrounded by the shelves. Plus, Jess found and fixed a classic Herman Miller chair for like, 20 bucks, so…that’s awesome, and I wasn’t going to fix what ain’t broken, you know?

The Dresser Wall

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Update Dresser Wall

Bear Nightlight | Dresser | Monstera Leaf Rug | Collapsible Laundry Basket | Rectangular Storage Bin | Art (clockwise from top left) 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5| 6

Fun fact: so many of you had said that the Ikea Hemnes was the perfect height for those looking for a double-duty dresser/changing table, so I went on the prowl for something with the same height…and BOY, DID MY JAW DROP when I found this walnut one from Article. Nothing else could compete!! It’s gorgeous and mid-century inspired with tons of storage AND it’s a great height for easy diaper changes. Plus, it’s a keep-forever piece that Marissa or Jess will be able to work into a ton of different rooms in the future – is there a room where this classic shape WOULDN’T look good? (Answer: no! It would be stunning in any space.)

I flanked it with their existing storage bins to bring in some of the pattern from the opposite wall, but I also had to grab this adorable bear nightlight. HE’S SO CUTE AND HAPPY and he looks like a nice gentleman who would be friends with the cat bins. He was also surprisingly affordable, so uh….add to cart. I love a smiling animal and I’m not afraid to say it.

And last but not least, that art!!! This was actually straight from the requests of Marissa and Jess – they had found the artist on Etsy and said they loved her work. Her name is Amber Davenport and has SO many amazing pieces, but I ended up choosing these six (you can actually get the cats in a set of three; I bought the other three a la carte) to hang in a grid pattern above the dresser. I wanted to bring some more color and life to this side of the room (so the crib wall wouldn’t feel too overpowering), and these pieces were the perfect balance of vibrant and cheerful without being too busy – if Marissa and Jess bring in print through changing table pad covers, toys, onesies, etc., the art will still have enough “oomph” and color variety to stand on its own without clashing. Per your feedback, these will be VERY anchored to the wall. (Thank you, wise parents!)

The Storage Wall

Emily Henderson Cailtin Nursery MOTO Update Closet Wall

Round Mirror | Stacking Bins | Monstera Leaf Rug | Side Table | Glider & Ottoman| Floor Lamp

And last but not least, the entry and storage wall! For this one, I only had about 3′ of wall space to work with, so I kept it really simple with 2 stacking storage bins – also in white, to balance out the white desk across the room – with a classic Target chrome mirror (to speak to their love of chrome), which will bounce light from the window around the room.

At the end of the day, my thought process for the room was to install two bold, colorful (albeit mostly-green!), pretty-finished wall areas while leaving two totally blank-slate storage walls for Marissa, Jess, and baby to fill with bins, baskets, toys, books, or whatever they need. More than anything, though, I wanted to give them long-lasting pieces that could work beyond the nursery phase – they’ll be able to re-use their new desk, bookshelves, dresser, storage bins, and lamps in a bunch of places moving forward.

Once the baby is born and the two have a better idea of what final accessories or organizational materials will suit them and their day-to-day life the best, we’ll go on a little bit of a shopping spree to grab all of their final touches…but for now, the wallpaper’s up, the furniture’s in, and we’re expecting a new human any day now. But now that you’ve seen the final design plan, is anything missing? Do you have any favorite blankets or pillows that made your early baby days a little more comfortable? How’d I, a not-designer, do on her first e-design from 2,250 miles away? (I can take it, I swear!!!) Let’s chat all things multifunctional spaces and also leave some love for the almost-parents below, yeah? Xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Brady Tolbert for EHD | Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: A Girl’s Bedroom Makeover With Stokke

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