Before and After: A One-Bedroom Apartment Sneaks in a Nursery with This Cute and Clever Redo
Small space dwellers are no strangers to creative solutions for making the most out of their square footage. And that seems to go double for small space dwellers with kids, who need to carve out room for multiple family members to be able to relax, play, and sleep safely.
Take it from my sister and brother-in-law, Haley McCracken and her husband James. They’ve long been residents of a one-bedroom apartment in the Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Cobble Hill — and they didn’t change that even when they welcomed two new additions to their family within a span of 17 months. (Their older son, Waller, now a star-of-the-show toddler, was born in May 2020, and his old-soul younger brother, Fleet, came in October 2021.)
Because they didn’t want to leave their modest-sized walk-up, with its abundant natural light, open kitchen, and kid-friendly New York location, Haley and James had to get creative when it came to finding space for their two new kids. The answer? A 7-foot-by-9-foot storage closet (luxuriously already outfitted with a window!) right off their bedroom that had previously been used as the couples’ clothing hideaway, as well as visual artist and photographer James’ catchall for books, art, and photography equipment.
The space was the perfect size for a nursery, so Haley and James set out to create a space that felt cozy, bright, collected, and, most of all, functional. Start to finish, it took the couple about a month to clean out and move items from the closet (eagle eyes may notice that the family’s clothes are still hiding behind the curtain in the space), add a fresh coat of paint, and find small-scale furniture that would fit the tiny room. Currently, their eldest sleeps in there, while the younger son’s crib is right outside the door in their bedroom.
Because of the limited square footage, they didn’t want to bring in anything that wasn’t strictly needed. Maximizing vertical space was key, and they did this by way of wall-mounted book racks, a hanging clothes rack, and floating shelves to hold baby care essentials. Well-designed toys double as decor, and a rattan diaper-changing shelf is compact but useful.
The geometric concrete wall planters in rust orange and deep teal, gifted by another of Haley’s sisters (not me — there are four of us!), sparked the color scheme for the space and inspired her to spring for the bold yellow chair that is now a statement piece in the room.
“It’s a collection of items we had and others we picked up here and there once we found out we were expecting,” Haley says. Every piece in the space has a clear function or a sentimental meaning.
For instance, Maine (Haley and James’ honeymoon locale) shows up in a Lobster Fest Poster; there’s also a 19th-century paper mâché Frenchie in honor of the couples’ two French Bulldogs, plus a wall mount hook from James’ childhood bedroom. There are also handmade touches, including a wooden mobile made by Haley’s (and my!) crafty mom, and a cross stitched piece with the lines, “Reminiscin’ this ‘n’ that and havin’ such a good time Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, golly, what a day!” from “Robin Hood.”
“So many of the things that make up the small space have a story behind them — stories we hope to share with Waller and Fleet one day,” Haley says. “Hopefully, they can take these items with them when they’re older, along with the stories. James is known for being a big storyteller, so having created a space filled with some of those stories is what we love most.”
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