...because home doesn't happen overnight.
08.20.14 / The Nursery

The nursery we weren’t expecting…

nursery before

The before: not a lot to say here. Questionable green carpet, peeling paint, disintegrating baseboards but, LOOK!, a new window! This is the smallest of the three bedrooms (it’s not even 10′ x 10′) but it faces south and receives a good amount of natural light. When we bought the house, we had planned on this being Everett’s room. But a week before we sold our previous house, we discovered we were unexpectedly expecting. Surprise! In an instant, this room became the nursery. Well, not really in an instant. Mabrey was five months old by the time the room resembled anything remotely close to a nursery.

nursery after 1

nursery after 4

I don’t know about you but my number one goal for a nursery is to make it conducive to sleeping – the more, the better. I chose a deep blue-gray for the walls and Steve thought I was insane. (I was extremely sleep-deprived at the time so it wasn’t much of a stretch.) Once the paint was up on the walls, though, he came around. Somehow, the moody walls made the teeny space feel larger. There’s so much depth to the color, it’s as if the walls recede. It continues to be one of my favorite paint colors in the house.

nursery after 2

Along with a good amount of natural light, I used lots of white to brighten the space. I love the contrast. I chose pinks and corals as accents. In keeping with the vibe of the rest of the house, I added hits of texture with layered rugs, a woven shade and seagrass baskets. Since the room is so small, I chose a simple (and inexpensive!) crib that can be converted into a toddler bed. Two years later, I have nothing but good things to say about it. The quilt is a family heirloom. My great-grandmother made it. It was my dad’s when he was a baby then mine. I’ve used it with all three of my kids. It’s starting to show some wear but I think that only adds to its beauty.

I created the art above the crib using an old mirror frame, leftover tongue and groove planks (from our mudroom renovation) and paint. It’s reminiscent of a sunset. It’s secured to the wall with drywall anchors and 3M adhesive strips. Mabrey has never shown an interest in playing with the art but it’s nice to know it’s not going anywhere if she decides to make it her toy. (I know it looks substantial but it weighs less than three pounds.)

The room wouldn’t accommodate an oversized rocker so I chose one with a small footprint. A lumbar pillow and floor pouf (which now lives in the living room) made late night feedings comfortable enough. Luckily, Mabrey was a fast eater so I never spent more than 15-20 minutes in the rocker at a time. Today, it’s where we sit to read nap time and bedtime stories. We’ve made a lot of good memories in that rocker.

nursery after 3

A trio of floating shelves holds books, baskets and decorative items without taking up precious floor space. Two fabric bins on the floor corral toys for easy access and cleanup.

nursery after 5

A makeshift changing table sits opposite the crib. We’ve had the horizontal bookcase for several years and it has served as a living room console, playroom storage and media stand in our previous residences. It’s so versatile! I added a contoured changing pad, toiletry basket and lamp to give it a completely different function in the nursery. The bins and baskets hold the majority of Mabrey’s clothes and diapers.

nursery after 6

Just like in the other bedrooms, I removed the closet door. The door to the room opens up right in front of the closet and it was cumbersome having so many doors (if you can consider two doors “so many”) in such a small space. I hung a curtain panel from a tension rod in the door frame and called it a day.

The closet is super tiny. I put a standing utility shelf in it for extra storage. The closet primarily holds a few hanging items (like dresses, coats and jackets) that are currently in rotation along with hand-me-downs that don’t fit just yet. I keep a laundry basket in the closet and throw in things that are too small as Mabrey outgrows them. When the basket is full, I donate them. It’s a good system. The basket on the floor next to the changing table acts as a hamper.

nursery after 8

The curtains framing the window match the one hanging in the closet. The woven shade is mounted outside the window frame while a room-darkening roller shade is mounted out of sight, inside the window frame. The trunk under the window was a wedding gift from my mom. I tweaked an off-the-shelf dollhouse (it originally featured blue and orange accents) because I’m crazy like that. Sometimes we bring it out to the living room to play.

nursery after 7

nursery after 10

nursery after 9

nursery after 11

nursery after 12

nursery after 13

I caught quite a bit of flack in the online world for creating a dark nursery but I don’t regret it one iota. It’s actually a very happy place to play and sleep. I’m pretty sentimental about this room. I never thought we’d have a little girl in our family (and I was content with that) so I’m really grateful for this space and the amazing little person in it. She’s quite the firecracker and I can’t imagine life without her. Also, I’m already brainstorming ideas for a “big girl” room. It probably won’t happen for a year or so but, be warned, it’s coming. And then, technically, I won’t be able to call it a nursery anymore and I will sob. The end.

toddler transition 2

UPDATE: We converted the crib to a toddler bed. See the conversion here. I’m currently brainstorming a big kid room for Mabrey!

Resources of note:

wall paint – Benjamin Moore dark pewter
trim paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
flooring – Jasper engineered hardwood handscraped birch in Texas brown via Build Direct
ceiling light – Ikea, discontinued
curtains – West Elm, discontinued
curtain rod – Target
woven shade – petite rustique from Overstock
room-darkening roller shade – Levolor from Lowe’s
dollhouse – Plan Toys terrace dollhouse
trunk – gift
area rug – jute chenille herringbone from West Elm
sheepskin rug – Ikea
floor lamp – gift
crib – GULLIVER from Ikea
organic mattress pad – Amazon
crib sheet – Amazon
crib bumper – Amazon (white version unavailable)
artwork above crib – DIY
quilt – vintage
striped crib pillow – West Elm, discontinued
rocker – Amazon
lumbar pillow – etsy
floating shelves – Ikea
wire book bins – Kroger
various seagrass baskets – Ikea, Kroger
fabric toy bins – Target
resin deer head – White Faux Taxidermy
fabric garland – DIY
wall mirror – Ikea
table lamp – Morten table lamp from West Elm
extra long, contoured changing pad – Amazon
changing table – EXPEDIT from Ikea, discontinued
striped bins – Ikea, discontinued
doll stroller – Land of Nod

In case you haven’t seen enough of this itty bitty room, here are a bunch of links documenting its evolution:


















*BONUS* – Mabrey’s birth story.

You can access this nursery tour (along with a general house tour and individual room tours) under the “See My House” tab in the side bar. I’ll be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



Hi, I really like your blog the house, the things….but more than that-your writing. I, had a blog that I am ignoring right now. It served it’s purpose. It was about exercising and I did it, made videos posts, wrote about it. slowly my little introverted self wants to start up again but I refrain. Not because it is bad, or because it doesn’t pay enough, or because it’s sucking up a lot of my energy way more than I ever anticipated. There was a benefit to my blog. Nothing will keep you in better shape than writing about it. I imagine the same goes for design blogs? Remember that writing is enjoyable, sharing is enjoyable and kudos to you for striking a balance between writing and feeling compelled to stop living to write. I appreciate the older post about being honest as much as any diy post you wrote or luscious picture of your living room…the writing is why people stick around not for the projects.


Ugh, people and their opinions about what one does in one’s own home. And just recently Apartment Therapy featured dark nurseries. I was kinda ticked they didn’t feature Mabrey’s. Keep up the great design, I learn with your hits and “misses” (what you would call a miss but to me is a hit). Honestly, in my opinion, you can do no wrong.

It is so adorable!! And so is Mabrey.


Hey Dana,

This is my most favorite room. It has color, it has personality and even with the dark wall color feels bright and lively. Perfect for a little sweet heart.

But what I love most is, even with its small size it ends up as the place your kids spent a lot of time.I have seen quite a lot of pictures of kids playing there at different occasions that you shared. And if there is any color contest for rooms, you should totally enter this room. it definitely a feather in your portfolio.


Yes, it’s a great nursery (and I caught significant flack when painting my daughter’s nursery LIGHT gray in 2010. Now I can’t remember the last time I saw a nursery painted any other color!), but I just happened to glance through the links and catch Mabrey’s birth story. Such a storyteller you are (Is Everett’s birth story out there anywhere, because holy shit?!). But I have to tell you that, as the mom of the little girl I never saw in this family, born nine and seven years after big brothers, the last two senentences made me weep. I can’t wait until she awakens this morning so I can keep on doing just that. Just. That.


Yeah, “sentences” should be “paragraphs.” Or spelled right. Either/or. That’s the universe telling me to quit being sentimental and go clean the toilets.


I love the room. It’s so pretty. I would have done the exact same thing with the dollhouse. Not crazy. When I read that you donate Mabrey’s old clothes, I was wishing I could just happen to be at whatever thrift store you drop them off at…my daughter is almost a year, and Mabrey’s clothes are so cute. :)


Haters are going to hate. Don’t let their negativity kill all the positivity that you have created in this room or your home in general. They are just mad they didn’t think of it first! Cheers to a job well done!


I think it’s funny that people would give anyone grief for a paint color. But so many people are convinced babies need garish colors on the wall (for stimulation!!) and lots of obnoxious loud toys. Do something different and watch out!


Love this room – and I don’t even have kids! That wall color gives is a sophisticated feel…something I wouldn’t have guessed was possible in a child’s nursery/bedroom. Kudos to you! And keep sharing the inspiration!

I agree with Danielle! I love that it’s not all bright and pastel or pink because she’s a girl. It’s a wonderful room filled with textures and colors and hints of sophistication. Very well done!


Such a beautiful room! Before I had really discovered your blog I remember seeing a picture of the dark walls and white crib on Pinterest. I immediately pinned it to my nursery inspiration board. We eventually painted my daughter’s room Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore. It is my favourite room in the house, even though lots of people thought I was crazy to use such a dark colour. I am now a regular reader of your blog. Thank you for your bold choices and the unique inspiration!


I love Mabrey’s room, it seems to suit her very nicely and reflect her mama’s style. I have a question about the floating shelves. We bought a smaller version at IKEA and had it up in our master bedroom, but it never seemed to sit flush against the wall and I could never put anything remotely weighty on it. I actually removed it a few weekends ago and hung some artwork up to cover the holes. We used drywall anchors and everything. How are your shelves holding up? They look pretty sturdy in the photos. Did Steve, or you, do anything in particular? Can’t wait to see the “big girl” room eventually! Don’t rush it though, savor the nursery while you can. My 2 oldest are in bunk beds and the little one who just turned one last month is still in her nursery, and I hope to keep it that way for a while ;)


I just love Mabrey’s room…and the backstory that goes with it. Her room has such style and sophistication…and that will remain with her as she grows :-)


I really like Mabrey’s room! I would go dark in my kiddos rooms but they both face North and would be cave like in my house. Where are the cb2 hooks? I totally thought they were in here!


I love this series of going through each room! Looks like IKEA changed the Expedit to the Kallax series http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50278482/#/80275887 When I read it was discontinued I couldn’t believe it because those are so popular!


I know! It’s a total loss!! But the KALLAX looks similar.


They are on the wall next to the floating shelves. I took these pictures at the beginning of the summer (that’s how slow I am at blogging sometimes) so the CB2 hooks weren’t hung yet. I love them though! They will be a part of the big girl setup.


We were able to screw into studs when we installed the shelves so I’m sure that helps. They are sturdy! I don’t have anything heavy on them though due to the weight limit…which is kinda vague. Something like 10-30 lbs based on installation.

Don’t worry, I’m not rushing the big girl room. Just thinking about it. I’m not taking Mabrey out of her crib until she’s ready. So far, she shows no signs of climbing out or wanting a regular bed. Both the boys slept in a crib until 3+ years old!


Probably 75% to 90% of Mabrey’s clothes are hand-me-downs! One of my best friends has a daughter about a year older than Mabrey. She’s more petite than Mabrey so when she outgrows her clothes, they are the perfect size for Mabrey most of the time. Also, my friend has really good taste (I can’t wait to feature her house tour soon!) so I never turn down clothes from her!


Haha! Screw the toilets. Cry your heart out.


Oh, I can do wrong. I’ve repainted nearly every room in this house. Some, more than once! But that’s okay. It’s all about figuring out what works for you.


I often wonder if readers will stick around once we “finish” this house. I will forever be tweaking things but, one day, we won’t have any huge renovation projects left to tackle. But I plan to continue sharing snippets of our home and family life. DIY posts with dazzling graphics and numbered steps do well on pinterest but, honestly, I don’t enjoy writing them. (That’s why you don’t see many on here.) I’d much rather pound out a post about what’s inspiring / irking / puzzling me. I love sharing ideas through the written word.

I’ve always been a writer. I started writing poems, books and songs in kindergarten then went on to attend several young author conferences. When I tell Steve that I used to write poems and stories in my spare time (even throughout high school), he tells me it’s the craziest thing he’s ever heard. I don’t know how good I am at it, but writing is a huge creative process and necessary release for me.

I read “Bird by Bird” this summer (if you haven’t read it, it’s a must!) and it really resonated with me. Writing is like any sport in that you have to practice and stick with it to hone your skills. The minute you stop, you start losing ground even though the innate talent is still there.

I feel very fortunate to have this blog as a writing medium. I get to share two of my favorite loves (houses + writing) in one place! To hear that you will be around long after the renovation dust settles makes me so happy. I hope I’m still here, too.


I like that you photograph the room with Mabrey in it. Kids’ rooms feel so bland without the little people they belong to.

I LOVE that color for a nursery. The whole room is fantastic, in my opinion.


I’m attempting to design a nursery myself right now… I really like the look of the West Elm rug, but my only concern was whether it is soft enough for a baby to play on/lay on since it is partially jute. Have you ever thought it was too rough?? Thanks!


I hope you don’t mind my intruding on the conversation, but I find myself getting so much out of this particular discussion! Your blog has been a mainstay for me, despite the plethora of places on the web to land. I think one of the reasons for that is your authenticity to “right sizing” in both home, belongings, and even blog posts. I have just started a meager little blog (it’s been on my to do list for years) and one of the things that has created the delay is the call to create endless amounts of tutorials, and the flashier the better. The call for new, better, more, etc. is quite overwhelming. And it leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction. I find your writing and tamed way of sharing is a beautiful quiet place to read. It is probably the number one reason I come back over and over again. And it gives me hope that there is room for this kind of writing (“beautiful peeks” I call them) in my own venture online. And PS the paint in Mabrey’s room gave me the courage to do the same in my boy’s room–something I too will never regret!


I love Mabrey’s nursery. I have been following along with you since before you were pregnant with Mabrey and have loved watching your style develop. We decided to do a dark color in our nursery too (ours is even smaller than Mabrey’s which is hard to believe!) but the navy blue walls (Benjamin Moore’s Gentleman’s Gray same as F&B’s Hague Blue) totally make the small space (8×9 w/o a closet or door!) seem so much larger because like you said the walls fade back. One of the biggest misnomers is telling people to do light in small spaces! Thanks for sharing as always! I loved the cameos of Mabrey!


P.S. Here is a link to our nursery: http://www.allthingsbigandsmallblog.com/2014/04/how-we-do-it-raising-baby-in-small-space.html


As an exercise in home decor, I think the nursery is beautiful. Personally, I’d rather children’s rooms look more like traditional children’s rooms. But whatever.

As for “ugh, people and their opinions,” remember, if you’re okay with praising something in another person’s home, then you’ve got to be okay with someone criticizing too.


I LOVE everything about Mabrey’s room…including the wall colour:)


So cute!


It’s not rough at all! I wouldn’t say it’s particularly cushy or thick (a rug pad would help with that) but it’s soft underfoot. Mabrey rolled and crawled around on the rug as a baby and now we sit on it to play. I would recommend it!


Hi Dana, I’ve been reading your blog for a while (I have photos of my Ikea kitchen in a folder waiting to send to you – I’ll get round to it one day soon!) and I had to comment on this post to totally agree with you. When we had our first, I painted the nursery the most beautiful, deep, earthy red. We didn’t know what we were having, but that wouldn’t have swayed me anyway. I figured, the baby has been in a warm, dark environment for the last nine months, I want to create a warm and cosy environment for when it (he, as it turned out) comes out. The colour is Tuscan Red by Little Greene Paint Company, which I don’t know if you have in the states, but it is a heritage paint company whose paints are beautifully pigmented and strong. Our second boy is now in the nursery, the first having moved into his big boy room, but I still love the colour I chose for the nursery. There is a picture rail and space of about a foot between it and the ceiling, which we have painted an off white (which we’ve used on and above all the picture rails in the house, and also on the woodwork). You think Mabrey’s room is small – our nursery is about 2m x 1.8m! The boys will have bunk beds in the bigger room when the youngest is old enough. Sorry for the essay :-)


Oh my! Your goose dress is beautiful!! It fits you like a glove.


Have you ever had problems with the laundry basket or any other baskets made from similar materials scratching your floors?

[…] at House Tweaking tweaked an unused room to create this lovely nursery for her little one. Mixing quality wooden […]


I love the nursery color as well…so rich and comforting. Love the blinds as well – they bring such a great natural element to the room and complement the walls. What are the dimensions of the blinds?Did you have to use two of them side by side?


It’s just one shade! Overstock carries various widths.


No, not at all. But they never have anything heavy in them and they don’t get dragged around (we usually pick them up to move them).


Oh wow – thank you so much!


Hi Dana,
I love your blog and really enjoyed this post. I know the trunk was a gift from your mom, but do you know where she got it?
My husband and I have been looking for a simple, beautiful trunk for years but haven’t been able to settle on one. I’d love to get him one as a surprise for our fifth wedding anniversary, and we were both commenting how much we love the one in Mabrey’s room.


It came to us unassembled and unfinished. It’s pine. We assembled, stained and poly’d it. I have no idea where she got it, sorry!


Flack for a dark nursery?! That room is absolutely amazing! I cannot believe someone could criticize one thing about it. What I love most, and what you didn’t really talk about is how beautiful the toys are – Mabrey’s little wooden play stoller?? LOVE! I wouldn’t mind that stroller being parked in the living room because it’s so darn lovely. Where is it from??


It was a gift from grandparents. It’s from Land of Nod!


Hi there,
I love every inch of this nursery! You mentioned you got the wire baskets at Kroger. Are you talking about the grocery store? Where in the grocery store? With the flowers?



Yes, the grocery store! haha. They’re usually in the storage / organization section…but our local Kroger has a home section so I don’t know if they’re available in every store.


I am thinking of purchasing the GULLIVER crib from IKEA and I am wondering if a standard 28X52 mattress will work for it? What size mattress did you use for Mabrey’s crib?

I have been using this nursery as an inspiration for my little girl’s nursery…it is my first child and I really wanted something that was feminine and sophisticated without being too girly! You have done that very well!


I will measure the mattress in the morning (when Mabrey is awake) but it’s the same crib mattress we used with the boys in a different standard-sized crib.


Thank you for checking!


I love your work! Constantly find myself clicking on links to pics I love from other blogs…and ending up here! Finally stayed to look at everything! Question…I’ve been eyeing the west elm rug you have in your adorable daughter’s nursery…it reads so much more ivory in your pics (and theirs) than the sample looked in person recently. Maybe because sample only 2×2 or way photographs… In person, does it feel the way looks in your blog photo? That’s what I’m going for (lighter than darker). Thanks in advance if you happen to respond…and for all the hard work detailing your projects!


In real life, it’s a good mix of ivory + the natural jute color. I think it reads lighter rather than darker which is why I wanted to use it in the dark nursery.


I love Mabrey’s nursery as is, but I was wondering if you still have plans to do a ‘big girl’ room any time soon? You mentioned having done some brainstorming; I know I would love to see a mood board of ideas:)


A big girl room will probably happen within the next year or so. We’re content for the time being…meaning Mabrey sleeps well through the night and I don’t want to jinx anything ;) I haven’t thought about it too much so far, but I will definitely share plans once I make them!


Thanks for the reply, Dana:) I always look forward to seeing more of your designs!

[…] the past couple of weeks I’ve been oogling dark moody walls on Pinterest and found House*Tweaking’s blog post about her baby’s nursery painted Benjamin Moore – Dark Pewter. It was/is stunning. I […]


I love your blog, design and family! I have a growing brood. 2 today, perhaps more down the way. We just bought a 101 1400 sq. foot Craftsman in Oakland, CA and doing lots of projects. So 2 questions. Where did you get the Bamboo blinds? And do you have blackout blinds underneath?

Second part of the question is I’m trying to be frugal and the house came with dark wood blinds in the bedroom. We had all the trim painted BM Simply White so the dark brown just doesn’t go. Thinking about white blackout blinds, but considering painting the wood blinds. What would you recommend?

Thanks! Very happy mama coming upon your lovely blog. xoxo Beth


Woven blinds are from Overstock and are installed outside the window frames. We installed Levolor room darkening shades within the window frames in the bedrooms for privacy. See more here…


If you already have wood blinds, I don’t see why you couldn’t paint them but they typically don’t provide enough darkness for our light sensitive family.


Thanks for responding re the window treatments. You might have listed this but I just can’t seem to find it. The storage dresser in your daughters room?


The storage cubby is from Ikea several years ago.


Do you remember what size rug you ordered? My room is the same size and I’m thinking 8X10 would be too large?