When Chicago designer and art director Jen Serafini and her husband bought their Bucktown home, the mom-to-be knew she wanted to create an adorably whimsical and perfectly gender-neutral room for their baby daughter. After they transformed the space with a fresh coat of white paint, Jen began adding soft pops of pink and incorporated both old and new decor to make their little one’s nursery one you won’t forget. Keep reading to find out how the room originally looked when they first moved in, how one set of artwork inspired the entire room’s design, and get the details on a few very special pieces Jen brought back from her childhood for her daughter’s nursery.
You’re currently working at Leo Burnett. Can you tell us more about your role there and what you specialize in?
I work in the Department of Design, a small design team within the agency that touches a variety of projects, from logo designs and brand systems to event branding and non-profit work to strategic thinking and campaign building. Every week can bring in a new project which keeps things fun and interesting! In my time there so far, I’ve worked on everything from big box brand campaigns to small non-profit event logos and everything in between.
You and your husband purchased your first home last year. Congrats! What was the transition like from renting for seven years to finally owning your own home?
It was amazing! I have loved renting and trying out different neighborhoods throughout Chicago (we’ve lived in River North, Streeterville, Lakeview, West Loop, and now Bucktown!), but I’ve definitely been ready to settle into a space that we can call our own. I was tired of high-rise living and wanted to be in a more family-friendly neighborhood with parks, etc. When moving from an apartment to a whole house, there is definitely a lot more space which is great, but that means we need a lot more furniture to fill it. It’s been a learning experience in taking my time and not rushing to have everything done quickly, because it’s just not possible. Normally with apartment moving, I’m unpacked and decorated in a weekend, and here we are eight months in with lots of holes to fill – and that’s OK.
Chicago has so many great neighborhoods. What’s your favorite part about living in Bucktown?
We absolutely love Bucktown – and the craziest thing is we didn’t really know too much about the neighborhood until we looked at this house. We live on Holstein Park, which is a true hidden gem — it’s super family-friendly with lots of community activities, a town pool, and it’s quiet and walkable to some great local spots.
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Since your home was built in the early ’90s, it was probably time for some updates. What renovations have you done to the home since you moved in?
Our home has been a labor of love – built almost 30 years ago, it’s in good shape structurally but definitely needs a lot of cosmetic updates. Our dream projects are to redesign the kitchen and master bath, but until then, we want to complete everything we can on our own that doesn’t require major renovations before the baby comes. We’ve redone the floors in the basement and the upstairs and are waiting until we do the kitchen to re-stain the hardwood floors on the main level. When we moved in, every room was a different color. From a green bedroom to a yellow office, orange bathrooms, etc., it was color overload. My amazing husband spent months painting the entire house (walls, ceilings, trim, doors) back to white with a couple of neutral colors here and there, so we can have a nice clean slate. He also changed out every single electrical outlet and switch which aesthetically has made a huge difference! Next on our list is lighting and our outdoor patio space, which we’re hoping to have complete by the end of the summer.
Let’s talk about the nursery! How would you describe the design style? What was your original inspiration?
As far as the decorating process, we love a mix of new and found/antique pieces. Our aesthetic is clean and modern but cozy and approachable. Striking that balance is a win in our book. Our nursery is a perfect example of this. We’ve taken pieces that we’ve both grown up with and mixed them with more modern, new items to create a truly special and unique space.
I didn’t have an original inspiration per se, but I did buy the three pieces of artwork by Pax & Hart over the crib first because I saw them on Instagram and immediately fell in love. It was an impulse purchase, and then I tried to work backward from there. Those pieces are pretty feminine in nature, so I wanted the rest of the nursery to be fairly gender neutral. I’ve never been a “girly girl” and definitely didn’t want too much pink in the space.
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How does the finished room compare to what you originally envisioned for the space?
It’s pretty close to what we imagined! I went through some phases of being VERY indecisive, sending my poor friends endless mood boards with bold paint colors, etc., but in the end, I knew that the simpler the better. I’d rather have the room feel clean like a blank canvas so that we can rotate blankets, accessories, art, toys/books without it feeling too busy.
How did working in art and graphic design come into play with designing and styling the baby’s room?
The first thing I started thinking about was what art and prints I envisioned for the space. I love mixing things together and didn’t want it to be overly matchy-matchy, so I combined art I already had with new pieces that compliment each other. I’ve had the girl holding flowers by Clare Elsaesser for years in my bedroom and thought it would be perfect in the nursery. The three prints over the crib are Pax and Hart (linked above). The ABC print was gifted to me by my friend who’s also a designer, printed by Oddball Press. Lastly, about seven years ago, I fell in love with this set of Roald Dahl postcards that I had to have weirdly knowing I’d want them for a future nursery. I was excited to dig them up for this space! As a designer, I also love different patterns and prints, so items like the Storq Kit Bag, cute swaddles, and the lemon keepsake box (gifted by a friend) all add a little more fun and color to the room.
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Were there any quirks in the nursery you had to design around? If so, tell us about them.
The nursery is on the smaller side, about 9 ft x 10 ft, so we had to be very intentional with the way we set up the space. This is also the only room in the house with wainscoting, which at first we were considering removing. I think the way the previous owners had it decorated turned us off — baby blue walls and frilly curtains which made it feel very country. Deciding to paint the whole room white helped modernize it, and now we love it!
You guys decided to use pieces in the room that you both had grown up with which is so special. Can you tell us a little bit more about which pieces these are?
Over the years, we’ve collected several really unique items either from our family or our travels, and they are some of our favorites that we own. The dresser is from my husband’s childhood bedroom that we’ve refinished and painted white, which adds some great character to the space! The oversized teddy, Paris mug, bear hanger, and silver bear piggy bank (apparently my parents liked bears!) are all mine from when I was a baby.
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Where was your favorite place to shop for new pieces such as the crib, chair, and decor?
So many good spots to shop! The crib and chair are both by Babyletto — I didn’t want to spend too much on those items knowing that they aren’t forever pieces. The baskets are a mix from Serena & Lily and Pehr, the quilt is Parachute Home, the shelf over the dresser and star/moon hooks are RH Baby, rug Pottery Barn Kids, and the artwork is from an online shop in Australia, Norsu.
What is one thing about pregnancy that you didn’t expect and wish someone had told you about?
I had no idea what to expect during pregnancy and got a lot of great advice from friends who have kids. However, one thing I discovered on my own was the importance of keeping my mind just as healthy as my body. Normally, the unknowns of life tend to give me anxiety, as any of my friends or family will tell you, but being pregnant forces you to tackle the reality of those unknowns head on. I did a lot of reading, from Start Here to Loving What Is and Rising Strong that all helped me maintain a sense of calm and acceptance as things happen with my emotions and body that I can’t control! The biggest lessons I learned were the importance of meditation, learning to accept and be at peace with what you can’t plan for, and being engaged in each moment as time passes so quickly. I’m so used to traveling all the time, working out five days a week, and constantly being “productive” that I really had to re-learn how to embrace the calm, quiet time at home and give my body the rest that it needs.
Do you have any favorite products that have helped you get through this pregnancy? Anything you would suggest to newly-pregnant moms?
I started using balms and oils on my belly the day I found out I was pregnant for fear of stretch marks and to keep my skin nice and soft! I switch between sweet almond oil and BioOil and mix those with Burts Bees Belly Butter. I also have been living in my Lunya romper — it’s the most comfortable thing to lounge/sleep in with a growing belly! Lastly, I love the maternity pillow from The Sustainable Baby Co. because it works for both pregnancy as well as nursing. I tried to not buy too many maternity specific products (pillows, clothing, etc) and just work with what I had or if I needed something making sure I could get multiple uses out of it.
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What are your family’s plans for work and motherhood once the baby is here?
My husband and I both plan to continue to work full-time after the baby comes. I’ll be taking three months off for maternity leave, and then our plan is to get full-time care for our little girl in the fall. We’ve been working with Sarah from Gold Coast Nannies to help us find the perfect person, and she’s been amazing helping us navigate as first-time parents! There’s a lot to think about and consider when bringing someone new into your home that we would have never thought of on our own.
Do you and your husband have a name picked out for the baby yet? If you’re planning on keeping it a secret until she’s here, can you share with us some girls names you’re loving right now?
We do! I won’t say yet, but here are some we love, and it may or may not be one of these 🙂 Ella, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, and Sienna.
What is one wish you have for your daughter as she goes through life?
My wish for our daughter is that she understands the importance of self-love and confidence at a young age, which will help guide her sense of self-worth as she gets older. Building from my own experiences, I know what an emotional rollercoaster life can be during your early teens through college years. Understanding your value and believing that you are a beautiful person – inside and out – is the single most important thing any young woman should know. The best decisions I’ve made in my life are when I choose what’s best for me and my own happiness, without worrying about what everyone else thinks.
Jen Serafini is The Everymom…
Self-care activity you love? A good face mask and my jade roller.
Ideal way to spend a Saturday in Chicago? Taking our dog for a long morning walk down to Red June for coffee and then strolling the 606, working out together, getting some house stuff done and ending the day with pizza at our favorite spot, Boiler Room.
Food you have been craving in pregnancy? Cereal! Love mixing a few together.
Family tradition you hope to start with the baby? Growing up, we would always make pizza at home as a family. My dad worked in a pizza shop when he was a teenager, so he would show us how to roll and spin the dough, and then we got to pick what toppings we wanted. It’s something I always enjoyed because it was quality family time and I love pizza. When I met Nick, he also loved to make pizza and it’s something we do together often, so I’d love to continue the tradition with our daughter! Maybe not right away, but as soon as she can eat it 🙂