How Designer Kate Smith Created a Cheerful, Nautical Nursery for Her Son

Corner of nursery with rocking chair and leather ottoman.

Design: Kate Smith

If there’s something we never get tired of seeing, it’s a great makeover. Whether it’s transforming a retro bathroom into a modern oasis or giving a lackluster bedroom a fresh look, pros perform these design miracles all the time.

To give designers a chance to showcase their favorite makeovers—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the best before and afters we’ve seen in our series, Makeover of the Week. Take notes for your next renovation.

“This room was actually a personal project, as it’s my son’s nursery,” interior designer Kate Smith shares. “A year and a half after purchasing our 1919 Dutch Colonial, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. I convinced myself I was having a girl, so I designed the nursery fittingly with beautiful floral chintz bedding and pink cushions. Then, I found out I was having a boy—and had to change course and start all over again.”

Meet the Expert

Kate Smith is an interior designer and owner of Kate Smith Interiors in Fairfield, Connecticut. Her style is rooted in New England with a focus on pattern, color, and texture.

Before:

An empty children's bedroom painted yellow.

Courtesy of Kate Smith

“At 12’ feet by 10 feet, the nursery is the smallest room in our home, so I had to get creative with the layout and choose finishes that would make the space feel bigger and brighter,” Smith says.

After:

Bassinet with blue and white chevron wallpaper behind it.

Design: Kate Smith

“I wanted a style that didn’t say cookie-cutter nursery and one that could grow with my son," Smith says. "I love blue and white as a base in a room, and this wallpaper is the perfect building block, which can be reinvented a million ways as George gets older. I used artwork as a roadmap for the rest of the color story, with my main inspiration being a framed vintage postcard of the Hotel St. Georges in Beirut. Its orangey-red and blue hues set the color inspiration for the whole room.”

What Changed:

  • Color theme: Various shades of blue, white, red, and orange add to the preppy, nautical feel.
  • Floor: A jute rug incorporates texture and warmth while grounding the more vibrant colors in the room.
  • Wallpaper: The herringbone, chevron pattern makes the space feel larger, while the white background keeps things bright. 
  • Window treatments: Sheer flax linen panels allow light in during the day, while blackout blinds keep the sun at bay in the morning.
  • Crib and bedding: A mix of gingham, shibori, and ikat prints on the bedding pop against a classic white crib. 
  • Orange dresser: The glossy finish on the vintage Henry Link dresser bounces light around the room. 
  • Changing table: The DIY changing table was made using a woven tray as the base and a pad covered in a whale print fabric. 
  • Light: The lamp is hand-painted so no two brushstrokes are exactly alike. 
  • Blue dresser: The brass accents give this dresser the look of a vintage trunk and provide storage for books and blankets. 
  • Chair: A toile-covered pillow and an ultra-soft French blue cotton blanket rest on the family’s rocker.
  • Pouf: The brown leather poof functions as a relaxing foot rest.
  • Wall art: A vintage Bermuda travel poster along with a family coat of arms and an heirloom needlepoint add personal touches to the space. 
  • Basket: A woven basket provides extra storage for stuffed animals and toys.

Shop the Look:

Bright orange dresser with vintage Bermuda poster hanging above.

Design: Kate Smith

Feather Wallpaper in Blue
Serena & Lily Feather Wallpaper $98
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“The chevron pattern in this wallpaper is a classic motif, yet the lines feel organic and painterly, making it feel new again,” Smith says.

Larkin 4-In-1 Convertible Crib, Simply White
Pottery Barn Kids Larkin 4-In-1 Convertible Crib $999
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“The crib was a smart investment, as it can go from a crib to a toddler bed to a full-sized bed,” Smith shares. 

Leather Moroccan Pouf
West Elm Leather Moroccan Pouf in Tan $300
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“Poufs are great in nurseries as they function as a soft surface for when kids are learning to crawl, stand, and walk,” Smith notes.

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