The Art of Repurposing

Elizabeth Boland of Bethesda-based Design In A Day has created two nurseries for her son, Jack. The first involved converting a guest room when she and her husband were living in a Silver Spring apartment; the second when they moved to a nearby house. She scrambled each time to retrofit furnishings she already owned into a cohesive space that was inspired by her love affair with the American West.

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

1. Start with what you have.

“A lot of the time, [parents] are converting an old room into a nursery—it’s not like they have a big empty room and they’re starting from scratch,” Boland says. Because most “adult” furniture tends to be gender-neutral, look around the house for a dresser, chair or table that could work in the nursery. Boland used a handsome white-lacquer dresser from her design studio, realizing almost by accident that its lower shelf works perfectly for Jack’s books, which he can grab on his own. Another dresser that she had in the apartment nursery had to be jettisoned in the new, smaller space—not a big deal since she didn’t buy it new to begin with. As luck would have it, a Karastan rug she had already owned worked well in both nurseries.

2. Pick a theme that’s meaningful to you.

After going to college in Montana and then living briefly in Aspen, Colorado, Boland became hooked on all things Western. So she decided to splurge when she saw a huge Indian print on design website Natural Curiosities. “It’s fun art that he can have for the rest of his life,” Boland says. “He loves falling asleep staring at his Indian.” A handsome impressionist-style painting of a California mountain hangs in the new nursery. She also got creative with the window treatments. Inspired by the colorful stripes on Pendleton’s classic Glacier National Park woolen blanket, the drapes are made from fabric that Boland found at Bethesda’s Bruce Variety, which is now closed.

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

3. Mix and match.

Rather than using a prepackaged set of crib bedding, Boland created her own look. She combined brands with different colors and patterns from Daisy Baby & Kids in Bethesda, and purchased burlap from Bruce Variety for the crib skirt, which enhances the nursery’s rustic Western feel.



A Piece of History

Popular fashion blogger Candace Ourisman was pregnant when she and her husband, Chris, who helps run his family’s auto dealerships, were decorating their new home in Bethesda’s Edgemoor neighborhood with the help of designer Erica Burns. “I wanted it to be sophisticated but different,” Ourisman says of the nursery that she and Burns designed for her son, Van. “Something with whimsy.”

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

1. Use family photos.

Ourisman turned to the auto dealership’s extensive photo archives to decorate Van’s nursery. She found a black-and-white photograph taken in 1923 at the family’s original dealership on H Street in Washington, D.C., featuring Van’s great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Ourisman. “I love portrait photography, and these characters are really neat,” she says. The old-time photo also set the tone for the nearby chaise longue, which was upholstered in a masculine fabric from British textile company Holland & Sherry.


2. Focus on your own needs.

Sure, it’s your baby’s room, but parents spend nearly as much time in there as the infant. “Make a space that’s functional for you and the baby, but also make a space that you want to spend time in,” Ourisman says. Besides a “super-comfy” custom chaise longue that’s wide enough for sleeping, Ourisman also commissioned a neon sign above the dresser with her favorite quote: “To thine own self be true.”  The yellow sign—her late mother’s favorite color—inspires Ourisman each time she’s in there. “I wanted to honor her, and for Van to have a piece of her,” she says.

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

3. Don’t look for baby-specific products.

Besides the crib, Ourisman says, nothing in the room was specifically made for babies. She splurged on an antelope-patterned rug in deep navy blue from Stark. “Everything else was based around it,” she says, noting that she tried to stay neutral with the furnishings so the rug would stand out. She found the antique dresser on Craigslist. “It’s so beautiful—and the details on it are absolutely amazing,” Ourisman says, adding that Van will never outgrow it.



Color Coded

Meaghan McNamara was six months pregnant when she and her husband, Eric Larsen, moved into their new house in Kensington. The small, white room that would be daughter Hadley’s nursery provided the perfect blank slate. “I really wanted it to be colorful,” McNamara says. She chose an animal theme because it allowed for bold colors and offered endless options. “I didn’t want your typical elephant-, lion- or tiger themed room,” she says. “I wanted to incorporate fun, bright and unique art that amplifies the theme.”

Photo by Regis Lefebure


1. Find an inspirational starting point.

It can be anything, McNamara says—a pillow, a piece of art, or even a swatch of fabric. “Make it something that’s meaningful to you; it will help you start tying in colors you love.” McNamara chose a kaleidoscopic painting of a lion’s head that she created at McNamara Design, the Kensington interior design shop and furniture rehab company she owns. “I loved the colors I used for that,” McNamara says, referring to the combination of orange, coral, mint and black.

2. Don’t be afraid of color.

McNamara, whose specialty is repurposing old furniture with new paint and fixtures, painted a brown Ikea dresser that she and her husband had in their former apartment. She used Benjamin Moore’s fun ’n games, which matches the minty shade from the lion painting. Next came a black and white graphic rug from that contrasts nicely with the dresser, while pops of coral emerge in drapery panels from

3. Use unconventional art and accessories.

This was easy for McNamara, whose shop sells work by local artists and other goods. That’s where she got the jaunty stuffed zebra head that hangs on Hadley’s wall. And instead of purchasing a premade mobile for over the crib, she used an embroidery hoop to hang white and gold ribbons, creating a twinkly, gossamer piece that delights her baby. Then she scoured Etsy for animal-themed art, which hangs from clips all over the wall above the dresser.


Photo by Regis Lefebure

4. Don’t forget neutrals.

The colors throughout Hadley’s nursery are notable in part because McNamara grounded them with strategically placed neutrals. There’s a white Eames rocker overlaid with white sheepskin in the corner, along with a black floor lamp topped with a shade she found at Target. In front of the crib, she placed a gray storage ottoman that hides toys inside. A huge white L (for Larsen) hangs on the wall above Hadley’s crib. It might be too much if it was in color, but instead it has a subtle presence that’s underscored by a colorful banner that McNamara’s sister created. With these neutral anchors in place, McNamara says, the space can easily (and affordably) change with different color accents as Hadley grows up.