Great Expectations

Originally published in Domino

Let's just say, I've always been supersitious. Since forever. Holding my breath passing cemeteries, refusing to walk under a ladder, never placing new shoes on the table or my handbag on the floor (where “all your money will inevitably run out”)—oh yes, I’m a believer. In fact, in our tiny apartment at the top of a tenement building in Brooklyn Heights, it’s not uncommon to have sage and palo santo burning every room and wafting through the hallways (sorry, neighbors!). So when it came time to start creating a nursery from a quasi laundry/guest room, that very familiar pang of paranoia began to perk up. For us, becoming pregnant was a diffcult journey of starts and stops that took nearly a decade to realize. The road was long and it didn’t always feel hopeful. The thought of buying baby things or (gasp!) preparing a room for the little being before she offcially arrived...well, that terrified me. But thanks to plenty of encouragement from friends and family—not to mention my hard-to-ignore, ever-growing belly—I finally surrendered to the idea. We can build this room. It’s safe. Don’t be so freaked out...Right?

Photography by Jessica Antola/Domino

It was partially that lingering fear—but also my love of bucking both traditions and trends to create my own way of doing things—that inspired our strategy for what has undoubtedly become the most special room in our home.

My husband, Kevin Baxter, is an architect and the founder of Baxter Projects, which, of course, comes in handy for such dream weaving and renovations. With no more than 800 square feet in the entire apartment, this sweet corner offered only 8-by-12 feet of space to play with. The vaulted ceiling and extra-large skylight helped give it a boost of air and light, but we also had to be realistic about how this room would function—and how that functionality would need to change as our daughter grew bigger. That meant keeping our infinitely useful and comfy Ikea sleeper sectional, but re-covering it with an incredibly luxe printed velvet I can only liken to 1960s atomic Italian modernism. Even in a small space, the sleeper is essential, at least for the first three months while our postnatal doula takes up residence with us (and eager friends and relatives drop in for visits). The second challenge was streamlining storage. Assembling a smattering of small furnishings—a dresser, changing table, toy chest, and on and on—felt disjointed, even cluttered. So thanks to my husband and Brooklyn-based carpenter–visual artist Nathaniel Wojtalik, we were able to imagine a floating wall unit with all the shelves (even a mini closet) we needed to take our baby from teeny-tiny to toddler.

Photography by Jessica Antola/Domino

With just a few structural tweaks, it can adapt as she gets even bigger.

Next, we installed affordable and durable wall-to-wall sisal carpeting, a must for adding a warm feeling as well as buffering the noise from our busy Brooklyn street below. And when a few friends asked me what my baby room colors were, I won’t lie, I just looked at them quizzically. We love the deep shade of earthy charcoal, Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball, that we painted the walls when we first moved in. From the start this moody tone made the room feel safe and cozy, and since that’s exactly the vibe we wanted to create for our little one, we just made some touch-ups to give it even more depth.

It’s true, nothing about this room screams typical nursery—in fact, if it weren’t for the sleek mini crib and bassinet, some colorful picture books, and a minimalist mobile, you might not realize that a baby resides here. But she does. And no doubt, she’ll continue to make it her own as she grows up and makes our space feel more like a home than ever before. Of that, I’m not superstitious at all. I’m certain.

Photography by Jessica Antola/Domino