before and after

Before & After: An Awkward Walk-Through Becomes A Beautiful Nautical Nursery

by Maxwell Tielman


Photos by Samantha Elizabeth Photography.

When I was nine years old, my family moved from a small cottage on Buffalo’s west side to a slightly larger home a few blocks away. The house, converted from a duplex and left abandoned for several years, was in epic need of repair—rooms needed to be gutted, windows were broken, there was no functional plumbing or electrical, and there was a giant hole in the ceiling between the first and second floors.  My father, a relentless tinkerer, took this fixer-upper as an opportunity to live all of his home-reconstruction fantasies—ripping out old walls, completely rebuilding the bathrooms, and knocking off the home’s back stairs to make room for a back yard. Through all of these reconstruction efforts, my father (and our team of slightly incompetent contractors) managed to leave the house with one glaring problem. Between my father, mother, sister, and me, there were only two bedrooms. In the apparent stupor brought on by renovation excitement and construction adhesive exposure, my father (bless his heart) decided that my sister and I would be able to share a bedroom. Until I graduated high school. Recognizing this grave error, I spent the next few years of my life alternating between makeshift bedrooms in whatever space I saw fit. After learning that our home’s terrifying basement and wash room were pretty much uninhabitable, I made the decision to move into our second floor alcove. A remnant of the home’s upstairs  living room, this space functioned as a bit of a limbo space, a walkthrough that led to all of the second floor’s rooms. Undeterred, I put my thinking cap on, installed a giant curtain as a fourth wall, and turned this crazy awkward space into a semi-functional bedroom—one that saw me through graduation.

All of this is to say—I’ve got MAD RESPECT for anybody who has the imagination or patience to turn their home’s awkward, Frankensteinian spaces into functional, beautiful rooms. Take Marina Dupler, of Marquette, Michigan, for example. When she and her husband learned that they were expecting a child, they decided to get creative when it came to carving out a nursery space in their home. Lacking enough actual rooms for a nursery, the couple decided that a previously unused walkthrough was their best bet. “There are three doors in the room,” Marina notes, “One leading to our room, one to the guest room, and one to a ‘fire escape.'” After a bit of sprucing up, though, the couple was able to kill two birds with one stone—transforming this previously awkward space into a beautiful, functional nursery. With the gender of the baby unknown, Marina and her husband used the word “meaningful” along with a whimsical stuffed whale guide their decorating decisions. The end result is a beautiful, nautical-themed space, perfectly sized to accommodate their new daughter, Ruby. Check out the rest of the photos plus Marina’s design notes after the jump! —Max



Above image: The walkthrough space before. The door leads to a patch of roof above the first floor.


Above image: the finished space. White chair from Overstock.com, striped rug from Overstock.com, wall sconce from IKEA,  pouf from Target, curtains handmade using fabric from IKEA, dresser purchased from a neighbor and repainted. Wall color was custom mixed using Clark and Kensington paint from ACE Hardware.

marina_ba_4 marina_ba_5

Above image: The bookshelves were constructed by Marina’s father using wood from the property of her childhood home. The whale art was a gift from Marina’s sister.


Above image: “The piece on the wall featuring wooden stakes,” Marina notes, “is deconstructed from our wedding; a directional sign that features places special to Nick and I. Each stake was painted by family members in the days before the wedding.”


Above image: The Stokke crib was Marina’s niece’s and was shipped from London by her sister.


Above image: Marina and her husband handmade the mobile using pieces of felt and driftwood found on their favorite beach.


Above image: “The stuffed whale with mustache was purchased on our babymoon to Portland, Oregon,” Marina says. “The whale served as the color and design influences of the nursery.”

Budget total: $696

Suggested For You


  • VERY cute! But please be careful with that adorable mobile as the baby learns to stand. She could pull one of those felt critters off, gum it into a slobbery mess, and put it into her mouth.

  • Looks great and I love how everything truly is meaningful. Max, I completely agree. I am always inspired by folks who find creative ways to make their space fit their needs, especially with nurseries. Babies don’t really need their own space anyway until they get older. Our nursery is the very small trunk room next to our bedroom. It would be considered small for a closet. But it worked fabulously.

  • Wonderful! If I would have a third child, I would love to have just the same space. Very lovely.

  • Love, love, love that wall colour, especially with white trims …. very crisp – and Max ! That story about your lack of bedroom as a kid nearly brought me to tears, you poor thing ! Hug to you today oxo

  • I love Max’s story too – we can all relate can’t we? The crib is to the left in the first photo. The Stokke crib worked great for that space – a standard crib would have blocked either of the accordion doors. Thanks for the word of caution CeeCee. We’ll change that once Ruby is tall enough to stand. We would have loved to add felt eyes, eyelashes and some fun pink lips to the whales in the mobile, but of course the fear of small bits of felt in a mobile positioned over a crib nixed that idea. Instead we used fabric sharpies. Thanks all!

  • I like this change, even if I would prefer à brighter lighter color for the walls in a small space, especially when it is dadicated to a child. A contrast is necesary, and the white furniture helps a lot.