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A neutral nursery – this was our desire to both (a) keep us surrounding by calming colors when wrestling a screaming infant, and (b) to avoid repainting if the gender specified by Doc was actually wrong. We had a long way to go when tackling this room.
Today we once again bring you a room rooted in, “What were we thinking (when we bought this house)?” Behold, the pride and joy of the former owners, the one-roller job, the glossy, the shiny, the infamous…
Yes, that is indeed high gloss paint on the walls, as evidence by the reflection of the camera’s flash on the right. And… yes, that is a steam pipe painted to match. Oh, and yes, if you look closely, you will see that blue painter’s tape was left behind on the right of the window. And yes, as back when The Honeymooners just made its debut, there is indeed a ceiling light that turns on… if you pull the chain.
All this room needs is a green belly and a few children’s songs, and it’ll be a hit on PBS in a flash!
I kid, I kid. And I digress.
This sweet 10 x 11 room is the headquarters we picked out for our neutral nursery. Note: in the four years before we were expecting a baby, we painted it yellow, made it an office, and then a guest room. We barely squeezed a queen bed in there, but it gave our far away family a place to crash when visiting.
Thankfully, even when going from way-too-bright yellow, this was really a cosmetic fix. We decided that between Noreen being five months pregnant, our kitchen and bath still finishing up, and the two of us still working, it was NOT the time to rip down more plaster and do a big overhaul. Sorry little babe, you’re getting the “lipstick on a pig” approach. You’ll be okay, at least until you hit middle school.
We found 5 things to troubleshoot in creating the neutral nursery.
Table of Contents
1. Ancient Light Fixture
First, we hired an electrician to replace the light fixture and bring it past the year 1950. (See the string hanging down? Not good. Not safe. Not updated). We chose to keep it simple with a basic ceiling mount fixture. Then, we added a light switch by the door, like normal people – like lights should be in the year 2020.
We did choose to hire this out – sometimes it’s worth it to point and pay – and tacked it on to our kitchen/bath reno tab. In hindsight, I wish we had added one more wall outlet (can we ever have enough outlets these days?) but we will have to make do for now.
2. That &*(%ing closet
…Then we had a look at the closet.
You guessed it! The entire closet, ceiling included, was glossy purple. Every bedroom’s closet in our house boasted the same godawful color as its walls. Aside from the obnoxiously loud purple color, the glossy finish made this particularly annoying.
In general, high-gloss paint lives best on high-touch surfaces, like trim. The previous owners likely chose high-gloss for two reasons:
- It was a rental, and it’s easier to clean high-gloss in between tenants rather than properly repaint.
- They found it on the “oops” rack on sale at the store and saved a bunch of money.
You know what’s a pain in the ass?
Painting over high gloss purple in a closet that’s only 22” deep.
House lesson: Standard depth for a closet is 24” deep.
Alas, we did it (and I, at 5 months pregnant). 22” is not a lot of space to rotate, turn around, reach up and down, etc., but we did it. Some joint compound over the roughest plaster spots, a dash of caulk where the trim had pulled away, two THICK coats of primer and two thick coats of flat white (it’s a closet, after all), and that pupper was passable. The white really brightens things up, making it easier to see what’s in the closet.
In addition, we had to address the shelf. Why yes, it WAS a purple shelf! How did you know? To be honest, it’s a pretty crappy shelf – just two boards resting on some mounted 1×3. But given the shallow depth of the closet and the fact that all we planned to store there were extra diapers and wipes…. we painted the boards white, put them back, and shut the door on it. Sometimes you just have to give yourself a pass, amiright? 😉
3. Overbearing Paint
We wanted a neutral nursery and settled on a trendy gray color scheme. This is a nice one called “Morning Fog.” We couldn’t decide whether to paint the whole room gray or to just paint one wall. After priming, we painted one wall gray and took a step back.
Since this little room only gets sunlight after about 3pm from one singular window, we concluded that we would keep the rest of the walls white, so as to make the room feel bigger. White reflects more light – this is how colors work, apparently – and we felt that one gray wall was enough, nicely framing the crib on that wall.
After deciding to keep the accent wall, we admitted to ourselves that the first coat looked rough. One of the joys of an old house is that plaster has “character” – aka the corners aren’t necessarily clean. Here’s a “DO NOT DO” TIP: Do not use caulk to seal the corners of a room. The previous owners did this, and it DOES NOT make for a clean edge. It’s not proper. It’s actually disgusting. And it’s essentially impossible to rip out unless you want to tear down the whole wall.
We decided to just make the most of it for now. We had used blue painter’s tape to cut in the accent wall very carefully. After removing the tape, we touched up with a teeny tiny crafting brush to fill in the bumps in the corners. Not bad.
After patching and painting the trim, the neutral nursery walls were set!
4. Pesky Steam Pipe
And now…. For that pesky pipe.
May I have a moment? Good. There is a special place in homeowner hell for people who use latex paint on a steam pipe. First of all, latex paint is inefficient for painting metal surfaces. It doesn’t stick. Second of all, WHO THE HELL PAINTS A STEAM PIPE? It gets hot. It will peel. It will smell. Yes, it’s ugly, but it keeps your 2nd floor warm in the wintertime, so live with it and leave it the hell alone. Whatsamatta with you?!
I shall now descend from my soapbox.
We concluded that trying to get the paint off this awful thing would be more trouble than it’s worth. But to leave it there in all of its ugly purple glory was also not an option for my aesthetically unpleased brain. My other concern was that this pipe gets HOT, and in a kid’s room, that’s practically inviting lil’ bub to burn themselves.
Thanks to the internet, we discovered an affordable fix…
What kind of rope? Well, I reached out to a lovely company called SGT Knots – owned and operated by a Marine Corps veteran and based in the USA. I was happy to support this fine business. One primary concern was that a rope on such a hot pipe would emit fumes, or even worse, pose a fire hazard. Thankfully, SGT Knots did not disappoint, and within 24 hours kindly responded that this sisal rope was best, and would not char until 300 degrees.
With 9 ft. ceilings, we went whole-hog and ordered 600 feet of this rope (yes…. there are more pipes like this in our house…). The last thing we wanted to do was to run out, so we bought more than enough.
Yes, it took an entire afternoon to wrap, and wrap, and wrap this rope around this pipe. But we think it was more than worth it! There was some slight odor when the heat first kicked on upstairs, I would say for about 2-3 days, but other than that, it has worked out perfectly. No more purple pipe, more neutral color in the nursery.
5. Old School Radiator
Finally, the last eye sore: the radiator.
Oh, fellow old-house owners, you know the radiator. Ohh, fellow New Yorkers who have lived in a pre-war building, you know the radiator. Ohhh, necessary cast iron heater of the blessed, you are ugly as all get-out in every home you grace. We need you, we love you, and you are still the most efficient manner of heating one’s home, even in your ancient, unattractive glory.
Much like its neighbor, the purple steam pipe, we felt the radiator posed a safety hazard for a child. Kiddo may not know to avoid it, we turn away for a moment, kiddo gets burned. Even an adult could bump into one of these fine fixtures and come out with a boo-boo. We decided that we needed to cover the radiator, too, to avoid any problem-os.
You know what’s expensive?
We bought one.
In our tri-state area, there are indeed companies that still manufacture brand-new radiator covers. They run at least $150+ per cover, and that doesn’t include the gas/mileage/tolls/frustration it requires to haul ass to Brooklyn or Queens to pick it up. So, like good millennials, we turned to social media…
We found this gem on Facebook Marketplace for $100. For a radiator cover, painted, right size, in decent condition, that’s a pretty good price. Best of all, pickup was on our side of the Hudson River, so we’d save $30 in travel costs.
It looks so much better! And now matches the rest of our home!
Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, who graciously gifted us fixings for the nursery (say yes to blackout curtains, an area rug, and hand-me-down furniture), this sweet little neutral nursery is ready for baby! If only we were, too! HA!
What do you think?