before & after: johann’s nursery + alli’s bar stools

The controversy over finding out the sex of your baby before it’s born is such a toughie; I can totally relate to both sides. True, knowing the baby’s sex would greatly help you plan for the event and with all the unknown challenges coming your way, why add an extra curveball? On the other hand, surprises are awesome. Plus, this nursery design from Johann made me realize that maybe there are more pre-birth decisions one can make than I would expect, which might sway me toward not knowing. I am far from this dilemma, but I will definitely keep this nursery in mind. A designer by trade, Johann decided that since his baby would be born this year, the Chinese year of the Tiger, he would play with tiger-related colors and imagery in interesting ways. Unsurprisingly, his resulting designs are unique and impeccable; the bright orange is fantastic! I think a boy or girl would be equally at home here. Great work, Johann, and congrats on your son/daughter to be! — Kate

Have a before & after you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

CLICK HERE to see more of Johann’s nursery and Alli’s bar stool makeover after the jump!

In keeping with the bright orange color scheme, I had to share these amazing bar stools from Alli at Bird Dog Press. Alli’s letterpress designs exhibit an equally fun sense of color, so it’s not a huge stretch that she went with tangerine and cherry red for these stools. The bright colors perfectly contrast with the industrial metal material, and while most people would consider reupholstering the original stools, I love that Alli decided to replace the cushions with swiveling tractor seats — very clever. The colors look great in her kitchen, and I’m pretty sure those stools never had it so good sitting pretty in their new shiny coats. Great transformation, Alli!

  1. ann says:

    both colorful and lovely. orange is so sunny and should be used way more often.
    i’m so glad that the two stool bases are different form each other. it’s way more interesting than just matching. and i’m impressed that the posts of the stool seats actually fit on the bases..

  2. Nina says:

    I would move into that nursery in a heartbeat (even if it means sleeping in the crib)

  3. Renee says:

    Both of these look incredible – great job ladies! I love all the bright crisp colours :)

  4. Michelle says:

    Oh I just adore the alphabet framing in the nursery! I will definitely look at all those small frames I see so cheaply at thrift stores in a different light, now. Also, those stools are incredible! One of the best, most creative before and afters I’ve seen. Truly awesome! I’d love to know – how did she paint over chrome? Did she do it herself with spray paint and a sander, or does she know someone at an auto body shop? They look so good!

  5. Sarah says:

    i’m diggin the barstools!

  6. I must know what paint color was used in the nursery! It looks just like the color I TRIED to get when I painted my bedroom. Any ideas?

    Both are, without question, magnificent makeovers. Well done!

  7. Sing says:

    The letter gallery wall is amazing, love this idea!

  8. Trina says:

    Both of these rock. I love daring color. But what I want to know, is where people are getting these incredible pieces of “crap” to turn into awesome home decor items?! Living in a fairly small area of upstate NY, I’d love to know some great places to find pieces with so much potential!

    1. grace says:


      i’d try craigslist, ebay, yard sales, thrift stores, and estate sales. church flea markets are great, too.


  9. Sarah says:

    Oh, how i love those barstools… swiveling tractor seats are just about the most comfortable things on earth to sit on while bellying up!

  10. Melanie says:

    WOW that nursery is beautiful. So light and airy! It looks designed a bit more for the parents than the child, but I think it’s cheery enough to work.

    1. grace says:


      one of the things i’m curious about is if anyone remembers their nursery growing up, and whether or not it effected them. are there are (trusted) studies out there about whether or not a more sophisticated (keeping in mind the basic needs of a baby of course!) nursery is upsetting or bad for a baby? i’m curious. this always comes up and i started to wonder if there are real studies on this- and if anyone actually remembers there. some of the most creative people i know grew up in less than idea homes with no nurseries at all and they are still pretty darn happy, creative and artistic ;)

  11. kelly says:

    I don’t think it matters, and I think it’s perfectly fine for parents to design the nursery more for themselves. I designed our nursery for myself (also using orange). I know I certainly don’t remember my own nursery and I am actually fairly certain that I didn’t actually have one since we lived in a small apartment and my mom had 3 kids. And I’d consider myself a “creative”.

    What *I* wonder is about all these “modern” toys that look super cool. Like, the ones that are made of really beautiful wood and look lovely in your home. They don’t seem like they’d be helpful for babies’ development. Actually they just don’t seem very fun. I know that having ugly fisher price toys laying around the house isn’t ideal aesthetically, but if the toys are colorful, fun, make sounds and help my kid play and learn, then I think I can put up with aesthetically displeasing toys for a while. I just make sure I have cute storage to put them away when I don’t want to see them.

  12. Sarah says:

    Kelly- Ever heard of Montessori toys? they are very minimalistic to the point of being abstract. They help foster a child’s imagination by giving them just enough information and the rest is made up by the child. They are also beautiful.

  13. Janie says:

    Can you tell me where the corner shelving unit in the nursery came from? That’s just what i need for between my (grownup) bed and the wall…
    Lovely room — lucky baby

  14. Avril says:

    I love the white and orange nursery! My two cents on finding out gender: it’s going to be a surprise either way…either at the Drs. at about 20 weeks or in the delivery room…you won’t believe how many gifts you’ll get, so let them get “gender appropriate” things, otherwise you’ll be so sick of all the “gender neutral” yellow! Also, friends and neighbors with kids will start putting older kid things aside for you and save you bundles. I was glad I found out with both of mine.

    1. grace says:


      that yellow comment always reminds me of the movie juno, when jason bateman says “why is yellow gender neutral? have you ever met a guy with a yellow room?” ;)


  15. Caroline says:

    Does anyone know how the tractor seats were actually fastened to the bar stool bottoms? Are there any photos of the underside of this project?

  16. sara says:

    Janie, I think that’s the newest Ikea Lack shelf. It’s perfect for weird little areas!

  17. Janie says:

    Thanks, Sara! It is the Lack — which I’ve seen before but it never caught my eye like seeing it here.

  18. alli says:

    For those asking about the tractor stools, … a little background story can now be found on my blog:
    The seats were welded to the legs.

  19. DotM says:

    I’m also curious about the paint job on the tractor seats. How was it done?

  20. alli says:

    I don’t remember my nursery. But I vividly remember my room in 1st grade. My mom painted it like a sky with clouds and then put those glow stars on the ceiling. I loved it.

  21. lealou says:

    Love both of these! Personally I think it makes complete sense to decorate with the parents’ taste in mind — the babies will not remember and it’s fun to get creative and do something different thank the same ‘ol.

  22. Brilliant work Johann – stunning room.

    Re Grace’s query on the impact of decor on babies:

    – babies don’t see in colour for the first few weeks of their lives, so black & white are good colours in the early days as they’re strong and eye-catching for tiny eyes

    – a variety of textures are also great for little hands

    – bright colours are stimulating as babies grow up but if the nursery isn’t as fabulously stylish as Johann’s then they’ll survive :o)

    (my 70s/80s bedroom furniture wasn’t exactly cutting edge but I look back at it fondly!)

    – love and hugs will make the difference to little ones (and maybe a bit of support from IKEA)

    Elle x

  23. I simply LOVE the alphabet over the crib!! It’s not too much and completely adorable! Love it!!

  24. ginger says:

    I really like the colour scheme. People need to give that “keep calm and carry on” poster a rest now though.

  25. Jen O says:

    When you ask about color development, I can’t help but also notice that currently our culture is forcing a narrow color spectrum (pink or blue) on children from a very young age. This shows up in all facets of their lives, from room design through toys and apparel. We seem to have lost the wider color range that used to be common when rooms did not need to have a sexual identity (circus, rainbow, clouds and stars).

  26. Amanda says:

    I recently saw an elderly man with a beer gut wearing a “Keep Calm” shirt. That, for me, was the nail in the coffin.

  27. Amanda says:

    I have a gold picture frame I’d like to paint white, and I’d also like to know if I need to prime or sand it first or do I just go ahead and spraypaint it?

  28. Lisa says:

    I think that the pink and blue colours are something of the past.
    I didn’t dare ruin the surprise of what the gender of either of our children were going to be. We only get so many surprises in our lives. I think it also is the introduction of having a child and just going with the flow of raising a child instead of sticking to all of your preconceived rules and regulations. Yes those Waldorf toys are lovely but honestly a child will use it’s imagination no matter how politically correct it is perceived by adults. Take a no toy gun house and watch how fast a child makes a gun out of it’s fingers, a stick, tinker toys… see children use their imagination all on their own!

  29. Seema says:

    I loved the idea of wonderful nursery! Simple loved it.

    Even my first child was a kept as a surprise and it absolutely feels wonderful being a Mom and getting the surprise as a gift.

    It is also true that child do not remembers how his or her nursery was. Most important part is the security the child needs from his mom during first few month of his life and absolutely feels the warmth of Mom for his rest of the life that he gets in initial months.

  30. Eva says:

    very cool stools.

  31. Ellen says:

    i have to laugh… there was no “nursery” in my day. There was simply a room, a crib, and you shared it with siblings in the household. There was no “decorating” or memory of any such thing. Best I can remember is “grandma’s house” because throughout my life, NOTHING was “decorated or changed.” It simply “was” as it’s ever been… and the consistency is what created comfort and security. It’s the “experiences in life” that create the memories. SAVE your Budget, and let your imaginations Soar with your kids. Don’t let them sit on the sidelines while “making their environment look like a mail-order catalog!”…. It’ll be time worth spent … trust me…. Enjoy Life while you can.

  32. Tanya says:

    What a bright fun nursery. I love the framed Alphabet

  33. Brittany says:

    It has been interesting hearing everyone’s thoughts — my husband and I are expecting our first and its a surprise. I think we could do the nursery in a fun gender-neutral way, but my husband isn’t as big of a fan. I am hoping some people will give us stuff besides gendered pink/blue clothes — books, toys, and all the other gear. Overall, I love surprises — how many do you get like this!!

  34. Nina Still says:

    Beautiful nursery, I am often blown away by how much time parents put into the nursery design. Makes me feel a little guilty our kids room is a bit of a shambles, but at least the ceiling is filled with mobiles.
    When I grew up, my walls were covered in a floor to ceiling painted pinboard, so I could fill them and change them with lots of pictures, photos, jewellery etc. A very simple idea I might try in my place.

  35. meg says:

    Love the nursery, but what’s with the half wall in the first pic? Is there a staircase there?

  36. Isabel says:

    Your befores’ and afters are shocking!!! You are really good at this!!!!

  37. April says:

    I *love* the alphabet gallery wall!! All the mismatched frames are so fun and whimsical… and yet they don’t suffer from being too busy because they’re all the same color. Lovely, fresh, and fun!

  38. Signe says:

    Beautiful nursery. I love the colors and the alphabet wall is so clever!!! I would love to know where they found an orange crib sheet. I searched online for months looking for one and never found one that would work.

  39. Mati says:

    The room’s lovely, and looks easy to organize and keep clean. A nursery should be mostly a place to put stuff and have the occasional quiet moment, since babies are so much safer sleeping in the same room as parents.

    As for learning the baby’s sex in order to plan the event, what requires planning? How to gender a newborn? Surely the highest priority is what best serves a small human being – light, color, plants, texture – rather than the earliest possible sorting into culturally constructed roles. Stunningly, infant boys’ skin doesn’t melt if they wear, or see, pink, and my daughter survived a sky-blue room with no apparent ill effects.

  40. Very cool way to reclaim some old bar stools. The paint looks great. Are those authentic tractor seats? They look kind of small.

  41. May says:

    Love the alphabet gallery wall! Where did the letter prints come from? I’d love to buy them.


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