Before and After: A Bright, Eclectic San Diego Nursery
When Summer Meza started designing a nursery for her friends Julia Wheeler and Dusty Rael, she knew that their creative, casual styles would jive. Rael is a woodworker, builder, musician, surfer, and skater, and Wheeler is the owner of Gunn & Swain, a popular online shop for Southwest-inspired clothes, accessories, and home goods. “We all grew up in California and share the same reference points artistically and musically,” shares Meza. “We basically harvested our collective memories for all the great things we grew up around!”
At the start of the project, the nursery did not feel cohesive with the warm, open feel of the rest of Wheeler and Rael’s midcentury San Diego home. The trio started by completely remodeling the room, putting Rael’s woodworking skills to use on new floors and built-in cabinets and shelves. After the remodel, Meza completed the project on a modest budget by thinking outside the box. “We pooled things from our own shops and collections,” notes Meza. “IKEA, the hardware store, thrift stores, and plants from the local nursery provided the rest.”
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Meza approached designing the nursery by conceptualizing the room as… well, not a nursery. “We all wanted the room to feel like an extension of their existing house,” says Meza. “I accomplished this by asking, ‘Would you put this in your living room?’ If the answer was no, we didn’t use it in the baby’s room.”
Meza incorporated artwork from Wheeler and Rael’s friends into the space, as well as instruments that were made especially for their son. Incorporating these elements, according to Meza, helps the room to feel “very well traveled and collected, which is unusual for a nursery.”
Meza, a Southern California–based designer and furniture dealer, describes her approach as “holistic un-design.” She says, “The goal is to improve the mood and quality of life inside a space, and then I work out a design that supports that goal.”
A California desert mural is Meza’s favorite part of the nursery. “There was a big, blank wall and a vaulted ceiling, and the space felt cavernous,” remembers Meza. Her solution? Create a mural from a Taryn Kent photo taken at Wheeler’s maternity shoot in Joshua Tree. Meza painted the IKEA crib slats neon yellow so they would stand out against the mural. “It’s a great moment in the room.”
To create a unique changing table, Meza chose a mechanic’s cart. “I wanted something that would have a second life after the baby didn't need it,” she says. “It fits the changing pad perfectly and has shelving for storage.”
“My inspirations were ’70s rock, the high desert, Salvation Mountain, the surf art and photography of the couple’s friends, and a little Big Sur thrown in for good measure,” says Meza. One of her favorite pieces in the room is a triangle that she made with Rael out of a brass rod and vintage yarn. “It’s my accidental ode to Pink Floyd!” Meza laughs.
Did this nontraditional nursery inspire you to design outside the box? Tell us in the comments below!