It’s rare that walking into a baby nursery feels like a retreat, but Toronto prop and craft stylist
Rayna Marlee managed to achieve a breezy vacation vibe in her son Benson Lief’s nursery. “The beach is my happy place, so I wanted to share this with Benson through the way I decorated it,” she says. Blond wood, whites and wovens commingle in the serene space. Rayna chose a neutral palette and let children’s toys and books, which she found at local shops, bring in hints of color. Here, she shares her secrets for designing a stylish neutral nursery both you and your baby will love.
House & Home: Your son Benson’s nursery is beautiful! What was your inspiration behind the space?
Rayna Marlee: Thank you! When designing the nursery, the goal was to create a beautiful and calm, yet playful space that both myself and the baby would love. The beach was the major inspiration for the room.
H&H: How did you approach decorating the nursery?
RM: I began decorating the space similarly to how I would begin one of my styling projects. I pulled lots of inspiration photos, jotted down some notes and ideas, and created multiple visual mood boards. From there, I was able to choose the color palette and see common elements I knew I wanted to use, like textures and natural wood. I also knew right from the beginning that I wanted a reading corner (I absolutely love children’s books) and the mini Eames-inspired table set was a must-have!
H&H: What is your favorite source for unique kids’ items that fit your aesthetic?
RM: I love trying to support small local shops. There are so many incredible small shops making beautiful and really special kids products. The mini wooden schoolhouse on the shelf is from a great Canadian company called
Little Rose & Co., and the sweet linen strawberry is from Canadian shop Goldie & Lulu!
Products: Bookshelves (Spice Racks), IKEA; Table and Chairs, Home Craft Décor
H&H: Any secret stylist tricks you can share?
RM: Think creatively and be resourceful. The map artwork on the wall is actually a bonded leather mat! When Benson is older (or when I want to change the decor) he can use the mat on the ground as a play mat. You can do the same thing with a beautiful rug. The adorable book shelves are actually Ikea spice racks – who knew! Also, anything can be framed. Get creative with artwork, whether you frame your keepsake childhood toy, or a favorite page from a children’s book, have fun with the little details and make sure to add those personal touches to the space.
H&H: How did you make the space look so stylish without sacrificing functionality?
RM: I think the overall neutral color palette helped with the stylish vibe. I saved color to naturally come through in the children’s items like books and toys rather than the larger furniture pieces.
Products: World Map Mat, Gathre; Crib, Ikea; Bear Quilt, Rylee and Cru from Macpherson Toyhouse; Bunny, Jellycat from Indigo
H&H: Mess is inevitable, but what are some ways you keep the clutter at bay?
RM: It is very true, mess is inevitable but bins and baskets can do wonders for helping things stay orderly. Benson’s nursery has a number of baskets, one for his laundry, another for toys, some others for books — everything has a place. I even have a rectangle basket for his diapers. They sit on the change table so they are easy to reach but they look tidy. I also roll his muslin blankets for a neater look and keep them in a canvas bin for quick access!
Products: Bicycle Canvas Basket, Pehr from Indigo; Basket, HomeSense
H&H: Things can add up fast in kids’ rooms! What are your tips for staying on budget?
RM: I think there are definitely some items to splurge on but there are many easy ways to save as well. I found regular furniture to often be less expensive than kids’ furniture. We knew we wanted a rocking chair but all the nursery rocking and gliding chairs cost so much. We found this beautiful rocking chair from Structube for half the price. We love it! The rug is from HomeSense and was not found in the kids’ section. We also used a regular Ikea dresser that doubles as a change table.
Products: Rocking Chair, Structube; Pouf, Urban Barn; Clock, Zara Home; Heart Pillow, Urban Outfitters
H&H: We love how you incorporated greenery into the space. What are the best plants for kids’ rooms that require little maintenance?
RM: Greens always brighten any room but you don’t want anything that involves a lot of work or that can make a mess. In Benson’s nursery there are a few different types of plants, all that are kid-friendly. There is a faux succulent (it looks super real!), an air plant in an adorable dinosaur planter by
Bailiwick (based out of Hamilton, Ontario), that only requires a spray every so often, and some dried eucalyptus (dried flowers would work, too!).
H&H: Did you DIY anything in the space?
RM: I made the large woven wall hanging above the change table. It was a special project I made for Benson’s nursery that I worked on while pregnant. I’m surprised how much he loves to look at it.
H&H: What’s your favorite way to give big-box furniture a custom look?
RM: Knobs are always an easy and a great way to customize a piece of furniture. Try to add personal touches that show off you or your child’s personality wherever possible.
Products: Dresser, Ikea; Knobs, Anthropologie; Lion, Jellycat from Indigo; Basket, Zara Home; Change Mat, Leander from West Coast Kids
H&H: How do you make a shelf look worthy of a #shelfie?
RM: I think the key to a good #shelfie is to have a mix of different items, varying in shape, size, and color, that are organized with purpose. I always like to color-coordinate the books for a fun and and also clean look. As well, I try to add personal touches wherever possible, like the framed picture of Benson’s footprints and shoes he’s outgrown.