House & Home

Modern baby nurseries wave bye-bye to pink and blue

Cristin Llewellyn, husband Christopher Ciesiel and baby Maeve sit in their new nursery inside their South Hyde Park home.
Cristin Llewellyn, husband Christopher Ciesiel and baby Maeve sit in their new nursery inside their South Hyde Park home. deulitt@kcstar.com

When Cristin Llewellyn and Christopher Ciesiel found out they were expecting their first baby, plans immediately began swirling for how they would convert a small guest room — the only available space in their cozy South Hyde Park home — into a nursery.

The couple knew they didn’t want anything that looked too traditionally “baby,” and it was important that the room remained useable for an occasional overnight guest even after the arrival of daughter Maeve.

In designing the calming, gray space for Maeve, the Llewellyn-Ciesiels joined the ranks of parents wanting to give their child an offbeat and artistic room, far from traditional pastel nurseries filled with baby paraphernalia.

“We decided on simple, clean lines and not too many bold colors,” Llewellyn said. “We wanted to incorporate pattern, but the base we wanted to be cool and calm.”

The nursery that resulted fits the loose parameters of what Pam DiCapo, the owner of Brookside nursery design studio Lauren Alexandra, said is a trend in nurseries: a modern space with clean lines and little “fluff,” or extraneous cutesy decor.

DiCapo said she has seen trends change quite a bit during her 20-year career.

“I was a distributor of Shabby Chic back in the day,” she said, “and people couldn’t get enough of it. Now, I don’t see that look hardly at all.”

Current nursery trends, she said, include gray and yellow, wood walls and gold accents. DiCapo tries to offer a fresh take on those trends for clients. Pastel gender-specific colors are nearly a thing of the past.

“It’s rare to see pink and blue, at least in pastel tones,” she said. “I am seeing more vibrant hues of those colors and more neutrals.”

It only takes a quick scroll through nursery-related boards on Pinterest to see that DiCapo is right on the money: Natural nurseries with artistic touches are trending.

Bev Weidner, a Prairie Village mother of twins, relied on Pinterest for inspiration during her pregnancy with twins Will and Natalie, now 18 months old.

The Weidner home is all white walls, wood accessories and lush plants. Weidner, who blogs at BevCooks.com, said she wanted the babies’ room to reflect that.

“We knew we wanted to keep things superminimal,” she said. “We’re not really into the big furniture. We’re into natural and small things. So I would look up ‘white nursery,’ ‘natural nurseries,’ ‘simple nurseries.’”

While Natalie and Will’s room has changed over the past year to accommodate their newly mobile selves — record player removed, a Pack and Play added when they outgrew their shared crib — the minimal lines and handmade touches of the room remain.

Much like the rest of the house

Both mothers expressed a need to make the nursery space fit with the rest of the home’s decor.

“I knew we’d be spending a lot of time in here, so I wanted to enjoy it and like it, as well,” Llewellyn said.

Bev echoed that sentiment, saying that she wanted the room to be simple and classic, but with pops of color to reflect childhood.

“To each their own,” she said. “If you want a big, ole bubblegum-pink room, if that’s going to make you happy, go for it. On the flip, for me personally, less is more.”

The Weidner and Llewellyn-Ciesiel nurseries may look different at first glance, but the rooms hold a lot of similarities. Neither nursery is full of bright, loud toys, and both families removed closet doors and shelving to make more space in small rooms. Most notably, though, both rooms are full of a combination of handmade or local art and childhood memories of generations past.

Throughout their home, Llewellyn and Ciesiel use the art of people they know. Llewellyn is a Kansas City Art Institute grad and the owner of Owl + Mouse Textile Designs, so her artistic network is broad.

“Our favorite thing in Kansas City is to find local artists and any local makers and try and stick to that theme,” she said.

The couple had painted Maeve’s room gray when they first moved into the home, and they were not interested in painting it again. Wallpapering one wall was a way to bring a new element to the space without repainting. Llewellyn found a golden artichoke wallpaper designed by her former classmate, Kathryn Zaremba.

Llewellyn’s former roommate, Sarah Kraly, had given her a framed photo pre-Maeve, and the cool tones of the piece fit well with the calming theme of the nursery. Friend Brock DeBoer contributed some pottery and his wife, Colleen, gave some floral pieces from her work at Studio Dan Meiners.

The overall clean lines and cool tones of the nursery were dictated by some decidedly non-Kansas City art. A pair of Ivan Sobotka prints hang above Maeve’s crib. The couple purchased them in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, on their honeymoon.

“We started with the prints,” Llewellyn said. “I knew I really wanted those in here since they were special, and we just had them, rolled up.”

Handmade touches make the difference

The Weidner nursery walls are also covered with special art: an alphabet print from Hammerpress and newborn portraits of the twins by their aunt, Barb Raney, a professional photographer out of Little Rock, Ark.

Many of the other small, handmade touches in the nursery were made not by local artists, but by Weidner and her husband.

Aaron Weidner often scours local riverbanks for pieces of driftwood, which he then turns into homewares like coasters and centerpieces. For the nursery, he attached fabric birds to a tree branch. This piece is mounted above the crib as a mobile. His one-of-a-kind pieces, which are featured throughout the Weidner home, can be purchased on his Etsy store, the Flotsamist.

In addition to the wood pieces, Aaron is also big on spray-painting thrift store finds to make them look new: a plastic elephant-shaped watering pot is now copper and the legs of an old stool are bright white. Aaron is especially proud of glossy, white concrete bunnies that sit under the crib. He said they’re one of the first purchases he made for the room. He said he saw the pair of rabbits and thought, “Oh, they’re brother and sister.”

In addition to the handmade pieces, Will and Natalie’s and Maeve’s rooms have mementos as decor. Maeve’s room features a painted portrait of her maternal grandmother at age 3 and a soft, lambskin throw that was Ciesiel’s as a baby. Llewellyn’s mother gave the couple an antique midwife’s birthing chair, which is used to house a basket of plush toys.

Will and Natalie have their maternal grandfather’s hairbrush on a shelf and their mom’s old Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toy.

What makes these nurseries different from each other, regardless of their similar themes of cool colors and minimal furniture, are the handmade accessories that decorate the rooms. All three babies are surrounded by one-of-a-kind pieces made by those that love them.

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