before and after

Before & After: Making Safari & Outer Space Work for Baby and Guests Alike

by Sabrina Smelko

Situated in the charming town of Fairfield, CT and just half a mile away from the beach lies a 1,100-square-foot Cape-style house, home to blogger and designer Brooke Christen, her husband Kevin (an athletic trainer), and their children, daughters Ella and Lola and son Finn. The family moved to the East Coast from Utah nearly two years ago seeking a peaceful place to raise their children, and one close to New York City, where Kevin works.

“We now, finally — after a year and a half — can say that [our home] feels complete, but I am sure I will find something new to update,” Brooke begins. After overhauling two bathrooms, the kitchen, and changing the home’s floor plan (their master bedroom is where the old kitchen used to be), the last task on their to-do list was creating a haven for friends and family to enjoy when they visited from Utah. But with the anticipated arrival of their baby boy, Brooke quickly realized the work wasn’t done, and one more challenge was ahead of her: crafting a multipurpose room that could act as a nursery for Finn while still offering a spot in which guests could stay.

Working with the essentials — a daybed, crib, comfortable seating, and storage — Brooke managed to create a space that didn’t feel overly juvenile or too stuffy. Using a soft, neutral palette and lots of fun decor that marries outer space and safari, the room is inviting and comfortable for guests of any age, while still giving Finn all of the things he’ll ever need or want. “Finn loves to stare at the astronauts and stars on his ceiling,” Brooke shares. “Everyone wants to be where the baby is.”

While the transformation was a win-win, the process wasn’t as easy as it’s made to look. With a family of five living in a small home that hosts overnight guests often, “the most challenging part is making room for everything,” Brooke explains, “I have to really evaluate everything we bring into our home… There is no buying something ‘just because.'” This truth, paired with Brooke’s goal of fostering a comfortable space for the family that celebrates their story rather than the latest purchase, results in a home that feels lived-in and loved. As Brooke puts it best, “I am thankful that — even in a tiny house — we can still have six adults come and stay with us, and everyone will have a bed and a cozy spot to eat breakfast in the morning.” –Sabrina

Photography by Brooke Christen

"I knew I wanted to do something fun to the room," Brooke shares. "I had thought about painting the floors but went against that idea knowing I wanted large rugs and they would cover up the painted floor." In the end, Brooke layered this cream rug from Wayfair atop of a black geometric rug to bring some lightness and softness to the space, contrasting the ceiling (wallpapered in Aimee Wilder's Astrobots) nicely.
Before Finn's arrival, guests had complete reign of the space with a large bed and a TV at the foot of it, so Brooke's goal through the re-design was to keep the space as comfortable as possible for guests while making sacrifices and compromises. The TV had to go, but in its place came extra bed cushions, luxurious linens, and a soft, large rocker and ottoman for enjoying a good book. The rocker is from Bed, Bath & Beyond and the ottoman is from Wayfair.
Making room for a baby and guests meant adding lots of storage. The Hokku cube unit from Wayfair made the perfect addition -- not only for the hidden storage, but for its two-toned wood which really warms up the otherwise black, grey and white space. Above the unit are tin letters spelling "Finn" from Olde Farm Creek. On the neighboring wall, the "To The Moon and Back" poster from Sugarboo and Co. offers a subtle nod to the astronaut wallpaper without being overly theme-y.
In the nooks you can see, Brooke put all of Finn's books. They're conveniently at arm's reach for storytime and simultaneously act as colorful decor.
As with many spaces that require reinvention, a lot of the decor was moved in from other rooms, or onto different walls within the same room. And the reinvention didn't stop there -- Brooke converted this media chest into a changing table to save costs, and installed inexpensive IKEA shelves higher up for added storage.
To the dresser, Brooke swapped out the top row of cabinet knobs with a safari-inspired zebra set from Anthropologie and added casters to the bottom so she can wheel the table around the room as needed. On the walls are more hints of the animal-meets-space theme, a moon and giraffe print from Minted.
Opposite the crib wall is the guest bed space. "I really wanted a fabric day bed," Brooke explains, "They are the coziest -- and I also wanted one that had a trundle." This Baxton Studio daybed gave her both, while perfectly complementing the color scheme of the room. To make her guests more comfortable, she invested in good-quality linen pillows with down filling, such as this elephant number.
Echoing the elephant pillow is this adorable handmade felt "taxidermy" from Heart Felt Creations, which hangs below a pennant flag from For The Love Shop reading "BRAVE." "One of my biggest hopes and desires for my children is that they are brave," Brooke explains, "Brave to stand up for what they believe in, to try new things and to never be afraid to be themselves."
This gold tea cart is the perfect dual-purpose nightstand. It gives guests a surface for water glasses, a phone, or a book, and the lower tier offers the perfect spot for a big basket. This tall striped Wayfair basket is filled with extra diapers and wipes. The telescope lamp is also from Wayfair.
Neutrals and wood tones dominate the space, but a careful look around will reveal some pops of green. This original artwork from Kate Jury was a big inspiration piece for Brooke. "I love the contemporary style in his room and the pops of green," she shares. "I knew I wanted to add touches of that into his nursery."

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