Home & Garden

Mother's imagination, less than $1,000 transform historic home's room into nursery

Eleanor means sunshine, Jane means grace. Those are the qualities Julie Roberts wanted in her newborn daughter's room.

Eleanor, born July 18, has a nursery that is filled with sun, reminders of the outdoors, and history — her own, and that of her parents' 100-year-old house on Lexington's Elsmere Park.

Roberts, a professional wedding photographer, started with a room that already had warm-toned woodwork, a tiled fireplace, mossy green walls (Valspar's Gentle Pasture) and a bed with an intricate dark wood headboard.

Roberts' husband, Nick Solon, works renovating downtown properties at BrokenFork Design. The company emphasizes retaining historic natural design elements such as stained woodwork while incorporating updates for center-city living.

Roberts and Solon's two-story brick house was built about 1905 by developer John F. Hall for Horace Wilson, according to documents from the National Register of Historic Places. A cul-de-sac off North Broadway between Sixth and Seventh Streets, Elsmere Park, which is included on the register, was built beginning about 1890 for middle-class businessmen and professionals. Although now near the core of the city, it was one of Lexington's first suburbs.

The couple, who married last year, wanted something stylish and warm for their first child's nursery, Roberts said.

"I wanted to bring the outdoors in," she said of the room, which was featured on the popular shelter Web site Apartment Therapy (Apartmennttherapy.com), coincidentally on the day Eleanor was born. "It was a challenge to do it and still be natural. We didn't want it to be pink or foo-foo."

Roberts' mother, Melinda Manning, said of her daughter, "She has the knack for knowing what's going to look good."

Eleanor liked the surroundings her mom created for her. At just 6 days old, she was wiggling in her Boppy pillow in the crib, admiring her special place.

Her parents started working on the room in January and finished it shortly before Eleanor came into the world; the whole makeover, including shelves, cribs, mobile and craft materials, linens and a rug, cost less than $1,000, Roberts said. The rest of the house is formal with touches of fun, but Eleanor's room "is a little more whimsical than the design in the rest of the house," Roberts said.

Hence:

■ A distressed changing table that originally came from T.J. Maxx and was once used as a TV stand. Over the changing table is a framed set of botanical prints that Roberts points out are like a set at the nearby restaurant Georgia's Kitchen on North Broadway.

■ A pair of white shutters repurposed from the house's renovation and mounted over the fireplace, where they flank a collage of photos of newborn Eleanor framed in a rustic paned window.

■ A bowl made by Roberts for the couple's wedding sits on an antique chest of drawers and holds Eleanor's hair bows. It sits next to Eleanor's baby book, handmade by her mother, who says she likes to work with paper.

■ A quilt hung on the wall over the crib made by Manning has the words "You are my sunshine" embroidered on it.

■ Two redbud branches painted white are used as rods for frothy white curtains covering the windows around the baby's crib. Another branch hangs over a nearby guest bed, where moss-covered letters spell out E-L-E-A-N-O-R. "That was like the easiest project ever, and I love how it looks," Roberts said.

■ A mobile with bird and butterfly figures hangs over the rocking chair, between the changing table and crib. The design on the nest-inspired mobile changed several times.

■ An area rug was picked up at Target and has a wool-and-jute feel to make the hardwood floors look a bit softer, although Roberts said the texture might not be the most friendly when Eleanor starts to crawl.

■ A full-size bed in the nursery lets the room serve double duty as a guest room for when Grandmother comes to stay.

When a nursery is as well-planned and -executed as Eleanor's, not all baby gifts make seamless transitions into the décor. Roberts said presents that didn't make the cut were returned, exchanged or swapped among members of a private Facebook group that allows the members to trade extra items for materials they need.

Nonetheless, the room has transition possibilities for when Eleanor becomes a toddler and then a school-age child.

"If she wants to change it when she's a little older, we could change it," Roberts said. "It doesn't have to stay that way forever."

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