The most beautiful kid’s room in the word. With just one thing missing.

ohdeedoh nurseryWe are in organization mode Chez Mom101. I realize now, it’s as if this beautiful Brooklyn apartment somehow never totally gelled in 2005 (eep) after an office became a nursery, a hallway became a row of former office bookshelves, a corner of the living room became a play kitchen-slash-game storage area, a nursery became a children’s room for two, and the opposite living room corner became the world’s messiest desk.

(Not mine. Mine is second messiest.)

Cut to six years later. I’m miserable every time I walk into my home, see the mess, and think of the possibilities I once dreamed about.

I browse Ohdeedoh and the design blogs every day, looking for ideas and inspiration, swooning over the perfect rooms with their perfect walls and the perfect single stuffed animal propped perfectly on the one, single, perfectly distressed antique rocker.

Ah, things will be so perfect for those perfect children.

The perfect children WHO ARE NOT YET BORN.

Do those parents realize that one day there will actually be kids in those rooms? Living there? Doing stuff to that furniture and those sweet little ottomans? I’m pretty sure they don’t.

Because I didn’t.

I gaze at these pictures and notice the lovely children’s books (five? Perhaps six?) are all of uniform sizes, shapes, and color palates, never challenging the lightweight bookends on top of the (sticker-free) dresser. No doubt it’s all poetry. Some in French. Perhaps a lone Goodnight Moon or Boynton board book (provided the spine color is the right tone). There’s no Richard Scarry Biggest Book of Words Ever which fits absolutely nowhere; no mini Maisy’s birthday book with bent and broken pop-ups cramming out between the covers; no Disney movie tie-in books that are six times the width of any normal book, so that Kung Fu Panda: Master of Disaster is the most visible title on the once lovely little shelf.

In these perfect children’s rooms, there are never more than three stuffed animals, either beautiful antiques lovingly passed down from grannies and aunties, or ironic modern Ugly Dolls and Kid Robot figurines. Is there a humongous tiger from the day that Daddy wanted to prove he could buy the biggest doll in the whole store? Of course not. Is there a collection of  lead-coated plastic baby dolls procured from the streets of China Town by eager relatives, or Dora dolls hard-won at amusement parks that you will never be allowed to throw away ever? Haven’t seen one in one of those photos yet.

And there is rarely anything more on the dresser than one strategically placed tube of butt cream, in colors that coordinate with the Ralph Lauren paint. I know. I did it once too.

ohdeedoh nurserythe fantasy [via ohdeedoh]
dresser topthe reality [via Thalia and Sage]

The little throw rugs–white perhaps?–show no signs of foot traffic. Of diaper explosions gone awry. Of juice box drips, ground-in play doh, cray pas, or that half-eaten lollipop that got buried in the shag for weeks.

The mattresses are unstained, the sheets are pristine (possibly ironed?) and the walls are free of hand prints, chalk marks, paint splats, tape residue, and homemade growth charts scribbled on the wall in permanent ink without your permission.

Mind you, there’s a new mark every four days or so. They believe they just grow that fast.

growth chart

And oh, the color combinations of these dream nurseries. Persimmon and gold. Maybe  navy and cream. Not a neon Fisher Price exersaucer with an underwater motif, or a humongous lime green stuffed turtle to mar the exquisite palate. Not a giant crumpled preschool paint project for the walls, strands of mardi gras beads flung over bed corners, or plastic goody bag trinkets from the weekly birthday celebrations that serve absolutely no purpose except to keep the dust bunnies under the dresser company and perhaps keep the children of Bangladesh gainfully employed.

Oh, and just wait until these decorating mavens learn about the garbage–toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, bent pipe cleaners, used lip balm containers–that pass for treasures in a child’s world.

What beautiful rooms they are. Gorgeous. Spectacular. For now.

Maybe I’m bitter because we have so little room in New York. So little wall space. So little storage. And so so so much stuff.

I’ve read posts about how design blogs often make moms feel inadequate.

Is it inadequate that I feel? A litttle. Or maybe, I’m just a few years ahead.

[photos that are not mine via ohdeedoh which is still the most awesome site for browsing and/or feeling inadequate depending on your level of security and tolerance for mess. While you’re there, you should also vote for this contest. If you can handle it.]


69 thoughts on “The most beautiful kid’s room in the word. With just one thing missing.”

  1. amen. my two kids are currently stuffed in an 9×9 room that resembles nothing so much as a daycare that exploded.

    we are moving in February – the kids will still share, but a much bigger room. and i admit, i have ohdeedoh fantasies.

    i think i may as well shred those now, weep a little, and plan a nice garish dirty colour for the new room.

  2. My best hope for a nicer looking house is that I get a couple of hours warning to get out some pictures and a few things. Then someone comes and tips the house on its side and shakes until all the stuff smaller than furniture falls out.

    Like a reboot for a house.

  3. I ‘get’ it… so sad… kids have also ruined my once nice house… when they are teenagers they are really destructive.
    we do our best don’t we? 🙂 LOL

    My ‘side’ columns explain the chaos but ‘Going Rogue’ is still important for the times.

  4. I always love to see the pretty clothes hanging as a display on the walls. In my house, those would be the ONLY clothes on hangers!

  5. I remember the days when I actually had vases on my end tables. Now I live in 800 square feet with every piece of furniture is toy storage. My “coffee table” is a princess themed table and chairs. I’m ok with all this for now because I’m going to save my money and when my daughter is out of the house ill buy all new non-kid friendly furniture designed by one of those chic design bloggers. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane while I try to clean pen off my new kitchen table. Until then ill just stare at my multi colored IKEA toy storage bins that I use as my tv console.

  6. I’ll take the reality of a happy, full, lived-in home any time. Really.

  7. THANK YOU for sharing that reality photo–that is what every flat surface (often including the floor) looks like in each of my children’s rooms. We have plenty of space and storage containers in our suburban house, and they don’t even have to share rooms, but OMG, the “treasures”! Notes scribbled on crumpled bits of paper, empty Kleenex boxes (“I like the pattern!”), broken plastic jewelry, every craft supply ever invented, Legos, origami Star Wars figures, sandwich bags filled with rocks…

    I take comfort in the fact that my 8-yr-old at least keeps his books (those not being read–and scattered across the floor and in the bedsheets) neatly on the bookcase, alphabetized by author’s last name.

  8. Kids just come with stuff– like a plastic crap dowry. The only way my house would look like that is if children didn’t live here. And someday, after they’ve moved out, I can arrange my books by color and cry…

  9. Every couple of years I spend two consecutive weeks redecorating my children’s bedrooms for their birthdays. I rip everything apart, kick my kids out of their bedrooms and force them to sleep in the bath tub or the floor of their sibling’s room as I tear apart and start all over.

    And every time, it looks spectacular. I am so proud of my design job and my hard work.

    And it lasts a week. Maybe less. This last time I did it, the boys room didn’t even last a few days because Knox had casts on his feet and kicked at his freshly painted walls and scuffed them so badly he actually chipped the drywall.

    No design blog or magazine tells you how to deal with that. Or where to put the wheel chair or the standing frame or the walker. No one tells you that those carefully selected airplane pictures you purchased which are artsy and inspirational will soon be plastered over by posters of half naked women on bikinis because your beloved son became a teenaged horn dog. (I’m so grateful the little brother he shares a room with is blind I tell ya.)

    Decorating is a myth. And not for children. I’m still weeping.

    1. Oh my gosh. If nothing else, I’m so happy that I will not be a mother to any teenaged boy horn dogs. I guess it’s just Bieber posters I’ll have to grapple with, heh.

  10. Oh. I so hear you. My kid’s room is a disaster zone 99% of the time, until I crack and spend hours sorting doll clothes and rocks and books and stuffed animals and dress-ups and sticks.

    And then I admire the curtains and the chair and the carpet and the bed and the bedspread, and feel pleased that it looks kind of put together (though not in an ohdeedoh way), until the next day it looks like a bomb went off. Again.

  11. For Mom 101 readers: I have two very gently used white matelasse coverlets from PBK that have been deemed too “babyish.” Free to good home. Slightly tear-stained courtesy of mother who realizes her design sense doesn’t mesh with that of her kids.

  12. As an expectant mom, you’re crushing my dreams and fantasies, Liz! 🙂

    But yeah, you’re right. I’ve been pining over the pristine white and cream colored nurseries only to remember that babies – and more importantly children! – are messy. What will be purchased in white will only turn yellow and/or multi-colored with stains.

    But…it’s still fun to look, right?

  13. Liz,

    You did it again – nailed it with a child-proofed, satin nickel finish tack carefully embedded in the wall, matched with precisely the right tone of Libby Langdon’s favorite paint pick, Revere Pewter.

    Your post just made me feel that much more comforted that I am indeed a somewhat sane, fairly typical work-mostly-from-home mompreneur who just can’t juggle it all and maintain a “Real Simple” level interior.

    Ironically, what you wrote is a related theme to what I just posted for this week’s blog. Though that piece is more about my needs for clean/sacred spaces, I wasn’t prepared to cover the topic of kids’ rooms. I dare not – it’s just too horrific for words. My son is currently using a large trash bag to hold his collection of beloved nerf guns, ammo wheels and attachment pieces. ‘Nuff said.

    1. Excited to read it. My sacred space right now is a single bookshelf across from my bed where I actually color-coordinated my books. It gives me joy.

      It’s just one shelf, but it’s mine.

      And the kids can’t reach it.

  14. Clean, designed and organized is my impossible dream. Impossible, because every time I lift a finger to clear a path, trying to sneak today’s scribble into the trash, the next thing I know, I have my very own personal dumpster diver, crying and mad at me for throwing away their masterpiece.

    So, I dream. I also put blinders on, like horses pulling carriages – just look straight ahead.

  15. I have to confess: I have, at times, been jealous of apartment dwellers with children. Having a house just means that much more space for kids to cram all their toys and accompanying junk in. It’s that much more cubic feet of crap you have to shuffle around and clean up when guests come over. I feel like my house is just serving as an enabler for me and my kids’ hoarding tendencies.

    1. I hear you. And actually chose to move to a smaller house recently. We do keep in check the “Plastic crap dowry (from one of the above replies)”. And that is helping. But the best thing I did was getting storage shelf from discount school supply that is meant for classrooms. Ah, it is the best thing ever to cram all the itsy bitsy stuff in.
      I got a project monster. The room looks decent after the girl leaves the house in the morning, because her mom is on her knees cleaning up glitter glue from the rented home carpet before it is too dry.

  16. To the mom that wanted a dingy color on the walls… I painted an entire wall of my daughter’s room in chalkboard paint. So yes, it’s black. Shelves high on the wall (actually, photo ledges from Ikea) hold her art and the scribbling is all below.

    She is 16 and her friends think this is the coolest thing ever!


  17. Suspect we are as much at issue as the kids, but yes, do wish for the simple clean soft colors of those dreamy matching spaces, while living in kids world with bright blue walls and planets or Star Wars things every which way… Want to blame the stuff, but admit a lot of the “stuff” we bought so such a cycle. About to shift to kids sharing a room before the new baby arrives and hard to imagine how all of their Stuff will merge without an epic explosion of pink and blue everywhere. Wish me luck.

  18. Never mind organized and color coordinated, I would just like to live with stuff that wasn’t broken!

    I have two boys and I figured out the other day that if we threw out everything from their room that wasn’t some form of broken from their roughhousing, we’d have a single bed, piles of clothes, and a bucket of Matchbox cars.

    Their 10th and 11th birthdays are in March. I’m prepping to redo their room and hope for the best.

  19. I live in a 3,200 sq foot house and my house is still just like yours. Seriously. Those design blogs are a joke. No real children live like that. I just don’t believe.

    My reality is a zillion Toy Story, Cars and Littlest Pet Shop toys everywhere. There are books on every surface. Shoes that we can’t find the match to, scattered over four rooms. Enough dog hair that I could create two more dogs.

    But? My house, is a home. It’s lived in. It’s full of love. I’d rather have that, then magazine pristine.

  20. It’s the sheepskin throw rugs on the floor that get me every time! I die laughing.

    p.s. Brooklyn or SLC, there’s still never enough room for the kids crap. Never.

  21. So true! I see those changing tables with ornate mirrors sitting over them and worry for those children.

    Our changing table looked so pretty with a cute little basket and 2 or 3 cotton diapers sitting on there. Then Little Man came along to kick the basket onto the floor in mid-wriggle on a daily basis. The pretty diapers are faded and the tub of diaper cream lives up there.

  22. Liz – you now know that I love all your posts…
    This one resonates with me even deeper.
    Eleven years ago next week, I brought a beautiful baby boy home to the most gorgeous nursery EVER – antique white furniture, chenille bumpers, mackenzie childs knobs (yes, I went OVERBOARD and being the 1st grandchild so did the grandparents). The nursery then went on to be puked in, pooped all over, and basically destroyed by 2 little boys.

    Now my house is overrun with xbox, air hockey, DRUMS, and covered in marks from loose basketballs and footballs. I cannot even keep a cosmo mag out b/c it results in hours of tween boy fixating.

    I keep my antique white crib broken down in the far corner of the basement just to remind myself from time to time of my few days of pristine living.

  23. Love this…kids come with so much crap and it just gets overwhelming. I had murals painted on the walls in each kids’ bedroom and they are gorgeous–except now one is covered by bunkbeds, and the other is covered by storage for all the junk they never seem to have the desire to play with.

    Kids ruin things. I learned fast that while I have kids–I just won’t have all the nice things I want–because sharpie doesn’t come off of leather sofas or walls for that matter. Juice is sticky and milk gets spilled everywhere because the 2+ year-old forgets to not try to talk and drink at the same time.

    It’s frustrating to look at magazines and think–that room is great if you don’t have kids. I love my rooms that are lived in–but look forward to the day when a little less “living” happens.

  24. Totally. The staged images don’t harm my self-esteem, but they don’t help me know what to do with all the crap we bring home from school, birthday parties, and street fairs. I forced my kids to go through all of our stuffies recently and identify some to give up. Obviously they gave away three hand-made rag dolls by local artists and kept Minnie Mouse dressed as a princess. That’s reality.

    1. Oh, I hear you! Sage’s favorite dolls are the ones made by artists (or Corolle). Thalia is really attached to “Kitty Kitty” and “Puppy Puppy” who I think were both won at Wack-a-Mole at Universal Studios.

      This morning I learned about “Giraffe Giraffe.” I’m pretty sure I won that one at a carnival game at our office holiday party. I have to stop winning them crappy dolls!

  25. How about the mom who cleans up their tweens room every week just in case his friends come over – and it looks like a tornado hit it the next day.. And then he says “don’t move anything – I have my own way of organizing”.. So I decided not to worry about cleaning his room anymore!

  26. We just moved from a large house to a much smaller townhouse and OH THE STUFF we threw away! We are now learning how to live with less space and the same amount of people (5) and it is definitely, uhmm, interesting…learning that hips will be checked and elbows bruised if more than one of us does food prep in the kitchen. I remember well the toys and bits and garbage and McDonald’s treasures that took over every corner of our home when the kids were smaller. At least now that they’re older, I can mandate all of their junk to their own rooms and just close the door. The other thing I discovered is that, for the first time in ten years, I can buy new furniture and no one will pee on it in the first week! We’re only on the second week, so I can’t make any promises for the future…but the outlook is positive!

    Oh and my design boards on Pinterest are truly haute and chic and enviable. That’s where I keep all my best stuff. No one can pee on them, either.

  27. Liz, I live in suburbia and have more room than any reasonable person could want. And we all know how reasonable 3 and 5 year olds are. No matter how much space you have, the kids (and grandparents) find a way to fill it.

  28. ha! I share those sentiments. We just moved the home office to the living room so that we could move Sarah to the former home office – and so the girls each have their own room now, and ho exciting is that? FOR THEM.
    Meanwhile, I had to put the elliptical trainer in the bedroom and I have no place to store the iron and ironing board, nor any space to actually iron (luckily I don’t do that often – ha!) other than the hallway.
    This is so far from a decor blog scenario, it’s almost would. Almost.

  29. HA! Thank you for having the ability to always articulate whatever my subconscious is thinking. I too suffer from severe Ohdeedoh Inadequacy Issues….so glad to find this support group. I feel so much better now, and can finally accept the fact that I only painted some of the baseboards in my son’s bedroom. (it will make him stronger someday)
    Now can you write a post about the people who make me feel inadequte with their family holiday photo cards where everyone has their eyes open? Show offs.

    1. My favorite holiday cards are the imperfect ones–the kids crying on Santa’s lap always takes the cake.

  30. I love this post. I have an imaginary house as well, but when it comes down to it, much prefer the one with the bent pipe cleaner and noodle creations that my kid’s playdate tried to eat, the one with cracker crumb floors, and abandoned hair ties. My home is like the Velveteen Rabbit with all the fuzz rubbed off, and that’s what makes it feel real. Great post!

  31. What goes around comes around, eh? I remember the days when a mache couldn’t cut a space from the door to the bed. And yet…and yet, I still managed to find that diary.

    It’s Parkinson’s Law: the amount of space your children have will be filled up with the amount of stuff they have to fill up that space.

  32. I love the way you see the world.

    But you mentioned the children in Bangladesh … Liz you *know* that is shaky ground.

    1. Man, a girl can’t even get away with one bleeding-heart, plastic junk toy made illegally overseas by children joke anymore. Nothing gets past you, Eden! Nothing!

  33. HILARIOUS! Mine is 13 now but I so get it – and besides when they are small – they are never in their rooms except to sleep!

  34. I think I seriously love you. I shuddered when I saw the first image, thinking you were one of THOSE moms, and then I saw the pics and yep – you are just as real as the rest of us after all.

  35. I’ve accepted mess and clutter is my new reality (sort of new, my son is two and a half now). That goes for my entire house. I figure as long as the mess is a clean one, it’s okay.

  36. Let me echo the sentiment of several others above. I’ll take a home that’s “lived in” over a sterile designer house any time. Thanks for the post and pictures.

  37. Actually I’m gratefull for the toy explosion in the living room. It got my husband to realize that yes, it is a very good idea to put the girls to sleep in one room and let them have the other to play in. He is just as tired of stepping into duplo blocks barefoot as I am. So next year the baby room will be transformed into a play area and they girls will share a room. Please pray that all goes well.

  38. Thank you, just thank you. It’s like you read my mind and posted a post on the exact thing that I was just lamenting about. You do it alot, your timing and insight always amaze me.

  39. I love this post. Totally. I was never organized enough – and a tad superstitious too – to decorate a nursery to that extent before there was a baby to inhabit it. I also love browsing the design blogs and the following thoughts have crossed my mind: “When the baby comes and the amount of crap gets exponentially bigger, they will kiss those clean surfaces with one little antique doll and three books good-bye.” Also, “they will regret that lovely white rug the second the kid gets the first stomach virus.”

  40. I too have been on the design blogs looking for ideas for my son’s room and for 5 minutes I considered getting rid of all the plastic toys from our house, but I quickly realized that my children would revolt and pumble me with their Eco friendly wooden toys and ugly dolls.

  41. This is pathetic but the rest of our apartment has become a total disaster area because I am bent on maintaining my perfect nursery. That can-be-seen-from-space Fisher Price exersaucer? It lived next to my dining room table. All Elmo, Dora, Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals? Piled high on a chair in my living room. My daughter’s room is still strictly reserved for Blabla dolls and Maileg bunnies.

    There’s something wrong with me, right?

  42. I’m amazed at how much effort it takes to put stuff away in an organized fashion and purge crap- like, a non-stop, every day, all the bloody time monumentous push. So, in lieu of staying up until 3am every day cleaning and throwing away my family’s junk every minute of my day- I sleep, spend a moment with my kids, and hell, just juggle everything else in my life. I might as well enjoy my kids and associated chaos. A clean house doesn’t give you the those wonderful kid-hugs when you walk in the door.

  43. This is my new favorite post ever. The love & hate I feel for home design sites & mags was (okay, sometimes still is) unhealthy. But I’ve got some insight. A couple of years ago, my house was photographed for a book. They made my bathroom look glorious by hiding all of the shitty, half eaten (and yes, they are made of foam and plastic) bath toys and strategically placed a colorful little boat (that the kids never touch) in a place where it would break my neck were I to keep it there. The focus was supposed to be on my kitchen, but while photos of the outside my cherished space made it into the book, NONE of the pics of the interiors of my drawers or cabinets made the cut. Mind you, I cook at home as part of my profession and, yet, the insides of my cabinets were not pretty enough to share (because, well, they are not).

    I’ve seen what has to happen to make a *real* home look like the ones in photos. Just like airbrushed models, it’s a sham. Most times, knowing this makes me feel better. But other times I just wish I was Gisele (well, really, JLo, but that’s another story) and I also put that damn boat in the middle of the shower floor and hope that nobody gets hurt!

  44. I was a huge Archie comic book fan as a kid. I remember an issue where a rather large, slovenly red-head, who sneezed when nervous, had a crush on Jughead. Betty & Veronica worked their magic, changed a color here, cinched super tight there and she took on the enviable va-va-va-voom appearance. It wasn’t long before she sneezed and undid it all.

    The room my girls share is like that. We can clean it up purty like, but inevitably is gets undone.

    I choose to look at it as an endless opportunity to be surprised by its potential.

  45. I found your blog on Babble’s top 100 mom blogs. That is quite a distinction, Congrats!I love your article. I hope you love my blog.

    Thanks so much Molly. I’m sorry to have edited your comment to remove keywords and links. You’re welcome to join the discussion any time, but spam links…not as welcome. -Liz

  46. I have managed to have 4 kids and NEVER see a parenting site like this. Why is it so refreshing that I’m not alone in my inadequacy here. I thought I simply lacked some magical decorating/parenting skill but no. I think you hit the nail on the head. Those are all pictures of rooms that no kid has ever lived in before. You described everything in my kids room to a T. Bless you.

  47. I just love this, Liz. Just love it. As I type this, Rapunzel with truly tangled hair is tied to a banister with a feather boa and Dracula is driving in a light-up princess dress up shoe to get her; the floor is strewn with broken crayons and stickers from a new play guitar are plastered on a decorative tray I bought at Pier One. Yeah…just love this…and your writing…and you!

  48. Oh, I know. I’m a designer and still, the day-to-day reality is clutter and chaos (and I only have one kid!) Best decision I ever made was painting his walls a muted grey-green. A great camoflauging color for boogies.

  49. I think the best item a new parent should invest in is a massive wall of shelving with DOORS. Or something that shuts so that you can hide all of the brick a brack. My kids have resorted to just climbing over the Halloween diorama, clean-but-unfolded laundry basket and hopping over the misc Lego pieces into bed.

  50. Every time I have to move, I think longingly of a fire which will sweep through after I’ve strategically removed kids/pets/pictures/books and relieve me of the decisions packing always entails!

  51. Kung Fu Panda is NOT Disney, but rather DreamWorks. Just giving credit where credit is due.

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