Our little nursery started out quite simple. When I was pregnant I began with all things light and airy, very neutral, and super sweet. Our house is very neutral and so I tend to design in that direction. My favorite color is white, which you wouldn’t guess after taking a look at Cooper’s room! I often say he brightened up my world, and that he sure did.
So like I said, I like things neutral, but this crazy thing happened. We had a baby, we met him, and he was spectacularly wild! Cooper James was born on September 25th of 2017 and this boy has captured our hearts with his curiosity and demeanor, his continuous smile and contagious giggle. His light and innocent room wasn’t up to par with the playful boy inside. I changed my tune and wanted it to be magical, dancing with fun. I wanted animals and color, spectacular spirit, balloons and beach balls. The famous line you hear at the circus is, “Come one, come all”, and this welcome phrase reminded me of our happy boy who smiles at everyone.
Cooper greets me with a smile when I peek over his crib in the morning, beams at servers and patrons at a restaurant, laughs at Paisley, and my favorite - his ear-to-ear grin walking down the pew in church. The magic of the circus and the spectacle it creates felt like a perfect starting point for his "new" nursery decor!
WHERE TO BEGIN?
FIND INSPIRATION IN ANYTHING
Many years ago people began using the word “circus” as a metaphor for extraordinary disorder. Audiences were dazzled by constant activity, craziness so to speak, and although the circus produced a crazy show and attracted tons of people making a town chaotic, in fact the circus itself has always been tightly organized. The movement of people, animals and supplies across the country by railroad was incredibly disciplined. On multiple occasions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Army followed circuses to learn “up to date methods of moving men, animals and baggage.” What I love about this story, and what is so intriguing to me about the circus, is that something so spectacular and chaotic, can still be organized and deliberate.
I wanted to leave behind the white and peaceful nature of his nursery decor, which was lovely for the first 6 months of Cooper's life, and create patterns and colors to emulate this controlled chaos and beauty. I love the book If I Ran the Circus (if you haven't read it, buy now!) and something about that book and these stories I read about the "real" circus really spoke to me. Before I go on, I know that there are some issues with animal rights when it comes to the circus and to be clear, I LOVE animals and would never want an animal harmed. When I say I love the circus, I love the spirit of it, the inclusiveness of it, the magic. So. Let's move on!
PICK A COLOR AND/OR PATTERN
Find a color and/or a pattern that you love and go from there. That is what I did when I saw Pehr's circus print. Cooper’s room is quite tiny and so attempting to pack it with color could get tricky. I decided to focus on two main colors (blue and red) and fill the rest in with pattern and texture. I was immediately drawn to Pehr’s design. The elephant riding a bike really cracked me up, because I once heard, and now confirmed, that Alcohol was the vice of choice for elephants. They drank beer and wine but preferred bourbon and Tennessee whiskey when they could get it. Elephants were wild! Wild animals, check! This led me to the stuffed ones.
We received so many stuffed animal gifts and these canvas containers are perfect for holding them all. The giant giraffe was a gift from my best friend, one of the first items in Cooper’s room. The giraffe needed a friend, so along came the tiger thanks to Melissa & Doug. I wanted to keep some innocence and friendliness to the space, as these wild animals can be scary, so I added a deer! And of course they are free to roam about the room, no cages ;) Ok, I am starting to sound like a circus leader!
DIY DIY DIY! DON'T SEE COLOR!
If you find a toy, a piece of furniture, a frame, imagine what color it can be not the color it is. I became a spray painting maniac and I find that it is so much easier to decorate when you can change the colors!
From the side table and bear standing on top to the bookshelf, the elephant on the door, the diaper dresser and the frames – everything started white, black or brown and became bright and bold! I also put up the wallpaper on our accent wall and it was much easier than I thought it would be! I put up the vinyl stars above his crib. I loved being deeply part of the design by making things to fit the room.
I think my favorite DIY project is his “book shelf”. People sometimes think that the circus is a form of escapism, but in reality the circus celebrated the realities of the world. The circus was at times the first place that Americans encountered new technology and Circuses staged spectacular reenactments of current events. To me the circus is as educational as it is fun, and this reminded me of illustrated books. We have a million, and I love them. I could buy ten books a day, there are just SO many! I wanted to have buckets of books, plus a way to display some of my favorite on the wall. I knew that a shelf would be tricky, as he climbs and pulls things down, so I found this cool old “chicken coop” basket display that was brown and rusted. I knew I could nail to the wall, making it safe and practical. I of course then spray painted it red!
See all the before pictures below!
My favorite story is the tale of the white fluffy rug! Let’s just say that there is no room for a white rug at a circus! So we started out with a plush shag WHITE rug. Like, was I crazy? Talk about a first time mom fail! How on earth I thought that would stay clean is beyond me. And to be clear, it did not stay clean. One morning I spilled an entire cup of coffee on it and another day Cooper spit up after eating carrots. My white rug became slightly brown and orange! I knew I did not want to replace it with another rug, because this would inevitably happen again! When decorating I think people assume rugs are the only way to get style and pattern, but I am here to tell you that there is another option! A foam mat. You may be thinking, what? But it is true. Little Nomad makes the most beautiful foam play mats that look like rugs. We covered Cooper’s room WALL TO WALL with one and I am never looking back. In fact, I spilled coffee this morning and wiped it right up!
I also really loved that the circus traveled and I wanted to find decor that he could have for awhile, as in move to his big-boy room eventually! I loved this map right when I saw it!
This is a hard one! I have to say that Cooper’s alcove for his crib looks like it was made for just that. I put up about a hundred or so gold stars and I imagine the animals and circus talent laying on the grass after a long day and big show, gazing up at the stars. This little room came with this little alcove that was perfectly made for a crib, and for stars. This was a no brainer and feels truly magical.
I also really love the art. I do not usually gravitate to art or clothing with words as I think they can sometimes be silly or a tad bit tacky. But, when I saw these prints I really loved them. Cooper is so silly, being kind is the most important quality to teach and have, and I have always found him to be brave, whether at the doctor's office or his first day at daycare. I loved these images and words, and they felt like they fit.
Creating a room for someone is really special. Loving every inch of that space, customizing colors and choosing permanent decor is fulfilling. I can’t tell you how much I have loved creating a circus for Cooper. Every morning it makes me smile and I love watching him explore and play in his little magical space.
If you have any questions, please reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram @addiegundry
Also, take a look at DIY Decor Mom! If you have not seen her blog yet, it is just fabulous and she did a really nice feature on Cooper's room!
BEFORE PHOTOS (bookshelf, table and bear)
Rocker: Pottery Barn Kids
Crib: Pottery Barn Kids
Dresser: Pier One Imports
Changing Table Top (that went on top of our Pier One dresser): Babies R Us
"Bookshelf": Hobby Lobby, then painted with Rust-Oleom
Foam Floor Play Mat: Little Nomad
Bed Sheet, Changing Table Cover, and Canvas Bins: Pehr Designs
Elephant Door Hanging: Hobby Lobby, then painted with Rust-Oleum
Be Kind, Be Silly, Be Brave Artwork: Etsy: The Graceful Goose Studio
Frames for Be Kind, Be Silly, Be Brave: Pottery Barn
Animal Image Artwork: Etsy: Dekanimal
Frames for Animal Images: Walmart, then spray painted blue
Map: Hobby Lobby
Star Decals: Etsy: The StickUpKid
Giraffe: Pottery Barn Kids
Tiger: Melissa & Doug