Published on February 4, 2019

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Designer Keren Richter has worked on a lot of projects over the years, but this one is her most personal yet.

Working slowly and intentionally over the course of two years, the creative director and cofounder of design firm White Arrow put together a magical nursery for her 2-year-old daughter, Mira. And it all started with the wallpaper.

“Usually with clients, we have moodboards to set the tone from the beginning, but with this room, we had done the wallpapering before she was born. Having that shimmery celestial scene balances out that dark floor,” she says of the paper, an otherworldly print from Calico. “It’s different; you often will see a flower or heart [print] in a nursery, not a celestial mural. From there, it all fell into place.”

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Richter and her husband initially kept the space as a guest room, choosing to fill it carefully with things they loved rather than rushing it. She opted for light whites and pinks to balance out the dark floor and injected a fair amount of vintage pieces into the space to add some character. The dresser, which she outfitted with a Peanut Changer to transform into a changing table, is one such piece; the armoire, which she updated with two rods for kids’ clothing, is another.

They may not be traditional nursery items, but the unique edge they bring is refreshing. Plus, she notes, steering clear of sticky-sweet clichés for a little girl’s nursery also ensures the room’s longevity. As Mira grows, the crib becomes a toddler bed and will eventually be replaced by a twin bed, but the timeless vintage furniture and cool wallpaper are things that she’ll be able to keep and repurpose.

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Richter finished out the space with a few personal touches, including two paintings that she crafted herself for her little one. She nods to some of her favorite brands for chic children’s decor (most of them containing an eco-friendly component), like Oeuf, Kalon, Smallable, and Maisonette, that helped her craft a nursery that’s both baby-appropriate and a space where Richter herself wants to spend time.

“I wanted the space to feel magical and artful. I don’t know if that’s going to be necessarily something that she’s interested in, but since I was spending so much time in there, I wanted it to be interesting for me,” she explains. “Yes, it’s for her, but as a parent, [a nursery] is also for you. She’d be happy anywhere; I’m happy when I’m there.”

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We asked Richter to share some tips on getting the adult-friendly, stylish nursery of your dreams.

Don’t be afraid to be unconventional

I like to source a good variety of brands and keep it eclectic. I often will just use adult furniture and figure out a way to make it work in a kids’ space. That rocking chair is not a kids’ rocker per se, but I thought the shape was unique. There aren’t any rules—you have to feel out your aesthetic and have [everything] relate based on scale and color.

Incorporate antiques

Vintage is great because it’s unique and you’re reusing and repurposing. Oftentimes we’ll repaint vintage pieces and change the knobs or change the feet.

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Think zen

I like to have a space that feels a little calming because kids themselves are so crazy. One of the ways I do that is by grouping all the toys and the clothing and keeping them organized using bins or boxes. Everything has a place. Once you have a calm framework, you can incorporate art that’s personal to you or texture and color and interesting pattern, and it can really be the focus because there’s not so much clutter diffusing that design vision.

Also, think practically

A magic eraser is your friend.

Choose materials carefully

Opt for durable material and use paint that’s eco-friendly so you’re not worried when they start chewing on things. Do some research on what the materials you’re sourcing are.

Invoke Marie Kondo

Think vertically and think about storage. Make sure you’re cycling through things; either you’re putting it in storage so there’s not so much stuff in the space or you’re donating it as opposed to trying to hoard things that aren’t age-appropriate. It’s very Marie Kondo. I recommend her book to a lot of my clients. It’s nice after a hectic day to go back to a space where everything has its place.

See other nurseries that got it right:
Christene Barberich’s Nursery Is a Technicolor Dream
A Cool, Contemporary Nursery That’s Not Afraid of a Little Neon
Creative Duo Reinvents Nursery Essentials with Stylish Flair