Journal / interior design

  • A Year Remembered: Lewis' Nursery Design

    A Year Remembered: Lewis' Nursery Design

     Home is such a special place. This deep belief is largely why House of Verna began. It's why I love my job as an interior designer. It's why hospitality and family are cherished values. And it's why this year can most be remembered in this room. I spent countless hours in this space, learning how to be a mom. Comforting Lewis as he cried. Having him comfort me as I cried. Playing. Rocking. Changing diapers. Folding laundry. Watching the sun rise and the sun set. Eating dark chocolate and almonds at 2am pumping sessions. Reading "Night Night Farm" 10000 times. You get the idea.

    Lewis turns 1 tomorrow, and it's been the fastest / slowest year of my whole life. The milestone finally pushed me to edit these photos and post them - honestly for myself more than anything. I want to have a place to look back at this space just as it was in 2021, our first year together!

    This room is tiny in size, but actually took me until Lewis was about 4 months old to "finish." When my sister died, I was 35 weeks pregnant and officially uninterested in any sort of to-do list. I remember building the Ikea dresser at about 39 weeks pregnant, feeling like I just needed to survive this season and get at least one thing in his room. I took my time putting everything else together, and now I can say this is one of my absolute favorite spots in our house. The sun floods the room in the mornings and last winter it was my absolute favorite spot to sit, drink my morning coffee, and start another day with Lewis. It actually felt very healing to sit in this sunny spot with my baby when the winter was dark and cold in almost every other way imaginable. Like I said, home is such a special place.

    Though it took months to actually call this room done, I began thinking about the space long before Lewis was even here. I knew I wanted the room to be fairly gender neutral and strike a balance between playful and timeless. I wanted the room to be appropriate for a baby, but live with Lewis as he grew older. 

    The room is small square in shape (9x9) and has a sloped ceiling half way through which makes it feel even smaller and cozier. When we moved in, this small room packed a punch with vibrant cobalt blue walls and white trim. I wanted to instead lighten the walls up in hopes of making the room feel as large as possible and add the contrasting color though the base and window trim. If you follow along on Instagram, you may remember my trim color saga. I originally painted it a deep green and…well…hated it. It was too dark and looked almost cartoonish next to the original wood door which has an yellow/orange hue. (Which really popped next to the dark green.) So I took the plunge and re-painted the trim this lighter green gray which I now adore. Alongside painting, we swapped the old-fashioned flush mount for a more modern black and brass mulit-shade fixture and these two things alone completely changed the space!

    The first piece of furniture we had for the room was the crib. It's handmade (!) from our talented friend Josh (our sort of personal Ron Swanson). It survived his 4 kids’ crib days and still is in absolute prisitine condition. When he offered it for us to use, it was an easy yes.

    With the size and shape of the room and now a pretty sizeable crib, the room layout options were fairly limited and the remaining furniture pieces came together pretty easily. The dresser is an Ikea find, and the rug came from RugsUSA. The chair was a Facebook Marketplace score. The corner was so tight so I needed something more compact than most rockers and gliders I could find. For this reason, I almost opted out of a chair all together, wondering if I’d use it that much. Oh my. I don’t know why I thought that, but if you are planning your nursery - invest in a chair that rocks!! It’s become invaluable between pumping, feeding, middle-of-the-night wake ups, reading stories and even playing. 

    The two “accent” things I knew I wanted in a nursery were books on display and a peg rail. Which worked in my favor, because those two things were about all that fit! Isaac built a peg rail himself and we painted it to match the trim. I love how it fills the wall space but can be styled and used for different objects and art that change with Lewis. We sourced inexpensive book shelves from Ikea and mounted them under an existing j-box. We added a sconce from Etsy, after painting the shade to match the trim as well. It’s the perfect little light to have on for bedtime bottles and stories.

    Finally, a DIY mobile and a playful “Confetti” art print brought a childish, playful touch I felt the room needed. Layering these pieces in with light curtains (but still blackout!), brightly colored books, and a basket of toys made the space feel complete.

    When I began working on our registry and thinking about creating a nursery, it felt like most people fell into one of two camps. The first being the picture perfect nurseries. The ones with a definite theme - full to the brim with toys, perfect artwork, special gadgets and products for every scenario, endless cute outfits, etc. This one is undeniably most found on Instagram and Pinterest. The second camp was the one I mostly heard from friends, which sounded a lot more like “your baby doesn’t need anything! You can stick him in a closet!” Which, honestly, I can understand where this comes from. I think it tries to combat the first camp I just laid out, which puts entirely too much pressure on us to craft these immaculate (and expensive) spaces that our kids will likely outgrow in a year. And babies don’t really need much. A few books and toys, some space to roll around. But neither camp felt quite like us, and the middle ground is almost always where I live. Creating the nursery was for Lewis, yes, but it was also largely for me and for Isaac. The first year of raising a human is hard work. It’s physically demanding and emotionally exhausting. I can’t overstate how much a calming and thoughtful space mattered to me. The dedicated space helped me feel more grounded as I navigated those physical and emotional demands. And now when I look at these photos, I truly can’t help but beam a little. Not because this is the most picture-perfect put together room (there’s no theme and very few gadgets) but because it is so *us.* Our family. It is simple and neutral. It’s cheerful. It’s sun soaked most of the day. And now it holds too many memories to type. Too many good and hard moments to explain. It’s now, truly, a sacred little space.

    Cheers to one year into this motherhood gig. I’m ready for more! 

     

    Walls / TrimLight / Rug / Dresser / Curtains / Sconce / Bookshelves / DIY Mobile / Art Print

  • Design and Hospitality

    Oversized trim, large windows, arched doorways. I fell in love with our apartment right away. “Draw the checkbook!” I yelled from the single bedroom, 30 seconds into the tour. Well…I guess this is a little exaggerated. We calmly looked for more like 10 minutes. We asked a question or two, interested adults are we. (And then, of course, realized we had forgotten our checkbook like true millenials. So it was more like a “check’s in the mail!” yell as we hit the road back to Iowa.)

    It was easy to fill the new apartment with furniture and accessories before we moved. It was a true blank slate, ready to hold all my “first choice” pieces.

    ...Right?

    In reality, I found designing and decorating more challenging. It’s still a work in progress more than 18 months later. I partly attribute this to all the typical apartment-dweller’s reservations like space constraints, uncertainty of how long before another move, and avoiding over-investment. But there’s been another question, growing in weight over the years and tapping my shoulder more often. It inserts itself between me and purchasing decisions and asks:

    Where does style bend for hospitality? Where should design work for others over myself?

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    We moved to Minneapolis alongside a group starting a church in the city. Building and fostering community has been at the forefront of our minds since we arrived. A small group of people meet in our home weekly, we knew there would be many new friends we’d want to meet, and we expected visitors now that we live somewhere...you know…cooler. (The masses words, not mine.) Our hope is that friends, family, and guests find rest in our apartment; that people feel welcome.

    So can design or decorating choices encourage this aim? Can they actually inhibit?

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    I don’t exactly believe our pillows and draperies will change the world but I DO believe curating and filling our homes are opportunities, not just luxuries. I actually believe our furniture and even our accessories can serve a split purpose. They can fulfill an aesthetic desire, while simultaneously help serve others and create a comfortable space.

    Maybe you feel the same. Maybe you are building a home to be shared and are wondering how layouts and furniture plays a part. There are many unique questions bundled inside this bigger question of design helping or hurting hospitality - but I’ve narrowed in on 5 places to start.

    1) Is it easy to move around the space?

    This is probably the most intuitive point. We all like to move about in our homes easily. Crowding too many heavy pieces together will make the room look full before anyone even finds a seat. Keep the bulky statement pieces to a minimum, and walkways open and easy to understand.

    2) Are necessities easy to find?

    This point touches on intuition too. Warmth, water, food, a place to hang your coat or throw your shoes. These things should be basic, requiring little or no thought from guests and friends. Leaving room for a visible stack of blankets, water jugs and glasses, or hooks for coats help friends come in and be comfortable quicker. Taking it one step further, keeping extra toilet paper in the bathroom, extra dish towels by the sink, and extra coasters on the coffee table help friends move around more effortlessly.

    3) Is there some durability to your furniture pieces?

    Note: durability does not necessarily mean a high price tag. I’m not asking if it will outlast your great-grandkids (though, this would be amazing) but will it stand up against natural use and wear?

    My dining table comes to mind at this point. I had dreams of a very simple mid-mod table before we moved in. Maybe one day I will have one. But after months (literally) of searching, we couldn’t find anything that fit our small space, had leaves to bring out for larger dinners, and was in a comfortable price range. We ended up purchasing a large custom-built table from Craigslist. It fits our space as-is, and came with optional leaves that lengthen the table to comfortably seat 10. The look of the table is pretty rustic and the legs are much too chunky to ever be considered mid-century. But the durability made us say yes. You can spill anything on our table. You can drop any heavy thing. You can scratch, ding, and pour away without making a difference. Without having to consider damage to this table, it’s easy and thoughtless to set food and drinks out and walk away. Ideally, you don’t have to make a choice between durability and style. But if you do - choose durability.

    Furniture seems like the easy example to this point, but durability certainly plays into fabric and rug choices as well. I once listened to a podcast discussing design decisions and the guest talked about a white couch she previously owned. She loved the look of bright white sofas and brought home one she visually loved. She was a young mom wanting to spend time with other new moms, and…you can probably see where this is going. Every mom who came over with her young ones was instantly put on edge seeing a bright white couch begging her children to spill something. The design decision inhibited hospitality.

    4) Is there good light?

    I’m cringing as I write this - this is currently my weakest point on the list. Sufficient light helps in every area of the home and will make your home multi-purpose. Cooking, getting ready for work, reading, working, and hosting dinners all require different but appropriate light. Now: if you know, you know. Old/historic homes have amazing, unique fixtures - but they are almost always too dark. Layering is your friend! Floor lamps, table lamps, under cabinet lighting, and plug-in sconces/pendants are a few options to help.

    5) Is there function or purpose behind your big pieces?

    Going back to point #1 (is it easy to move around?) it’s a good idea to think through your large pieces - especially in apartment living. Large pieces may need to serve dual purposes. Our trundle sofa from Ikea is one example. The chaise lifts up to hold extra bedding and pillows, and the sofa transforms into a full bed for guests. If it’s going to take up most of our living space, it needs to be very functional. Other examples could be large, decorative baskets to house smaller items, bed frames with built-in drawers, or accent chairs that can move and double as desk chairs.

     

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    Eventually, our decisions and questions will boil down to how tightly we will hold on to our vision. Working for an interior design firm and loving the process of making a home your own - I appreciate a good vision and love a smart design! Let’s absolutely look for furniture and accessories we love and that fit our style. But could we also consider function and durability? Could we consider others - people we know and people we don’t yet know - in our buying decisions? Could hospitality and community benefit from - or even inform - our design decisions? I think they can.

    So tell me: what are your thoughts?