How We Made a Steampunk Adventurer Nursery

by - Tuesday, September 01, 2015


 I absolutely love our bub's nursery. I know some people feel they spent too much time, energy, or money on their nursery once the baby arrives, but I love that we had this large and fun project to take on before he got here (and let's be honest, for quite a bit afterward).

We picked a theme that sounded like it would be very loud or overstated, but it actually turned out pretty subtle.  I really loved the idea of a travel theme, and I showed some more antique looking nurseries to my husband (because I wanted something where our decor could mostly be re-use, not brand new), and it reminded him of steampunk designs. I love that it combines travel with something more fantastic and otherworldly, and it was a really fun theme to play with.

Our theme needed a few key touchpoints- Maps and globes, mechanical gears, Victorian elements, patchwork, and flying machines.  We chose a relatively simple color scheme- muted teal and gold, then all metallic colors- greys and bronzes.

Once we picked the basic ideas, we spent months looking in antique stores and flea markets, as well as regular baby stores, for details we liked, then transformed furniture we mostly already owned into the key pieces in the room . We looked everywhere for a globe we liked, bought grown up looking frames we can reuse, and turned our diaper cake into our favorite art.

Our regular style is a little bit retro and colorful. We want things to feel comfortable, and everything is a balance between my more bohemian, busy style and The Boy's clean, minimalist taste. This room is the only one we have ever done from start to finish at the same time, so it made it especially fun.

These are some of our favorite parts.


We received a few Authentic Models hot air balloons from our baby registry, and they hang like a chandelier in the center of the room from the skylight. These models are super pretty and basically tie everything together. They are just hung with fishing line from hooks.


The room has pretty low walls, so we knew we would have to bring the decor in other ways as well. We moved our old futon into the nursery and covered some spare pillows with map covers off of Etsy. We picked a mix of blues and neutrals to bring all the colors in. Also on the futon, we have a fox from his Uncle Thomas and Aunt Bry, the teddy bear we made two days before the Bub was born, and one of his Uncle's old tiggers. The rocking goldendoodle was a gift from the Bubba's Uncle Carlo, and it is basically the prettiest thing in the whole house. It fits in with the colors perfectly.


The art in the room makes a huge statement, but it didn't take up too much of our budget. We bought frames one at a time, and then bought prints off of Etsy, one map off of Minted, a one dollar map of our hometown from Debence Music Museum, and a 25 cent map page at the Fremont flea market. My favorite thing we did was lovingly cut the animals my amazing Aunt Rene made for my baby shower cake and frame them in front of leftover scrapbook paper in simple white frames. Thank you Cricut and thank you Rene, because those little critters totally make the room. The suitcase shelf was just from Modcloth.



I moved all of my clothes into the Boy's wardrobe, and we took my old dresser and turned it into the Baby's changing table. We sprayed the black dresser a bronze color, and The Boy replaced the knobs with nozzles, to play into the steampunk mechanical feel. I think it turned out great, and when the theme changes, we will just change its look again.



We did buy two pieces of furniture- the bookshelves (bought first for their height since the room's proportion was weird) and a crib from Pottery Barn (in retrospect, I would have chosen something Made in America). We picked it for its low profile, because we are short and the room is short, and the wood matched the futon. I am not sure I would pick it again, but it works fine. On the other hand, the shelves have really grown on me, and I love that the bottom shelf is a toychest. The Bub already uses it.

We also bought vinyl copper-colored gear vinyls to use here and there in the room to highlight the theme and add a little interest. The walls in our house are so textured that this is the only one that lasted, but I think they could have added a lot in a different circumstance.


My absolute favorite part of the room is the mobile, lovingly made by The Bub's dad for him. He wanted a mobile of flying machines, but he couldn't find it, so we bought felt in the room's colors and he worked on them until they were perfect. It is so gorgeous from the little metal details to the big gear they hang on to the clouds covered in buttons. He probably made it over months while I made all the Christmas ornaments. If we can do it, you can do it. Learn a blanket stitch, make some testers, and take your time.


I love the goggles we bought in an antique store and the bears- one is from my Mom and the other was made by his Aunt Shelly. The Tinker Toys are a gift from his grandma from her trip antiquing.

Our advice for making your nursery:


- Get a big head start on things. Pick a theme you are excited about early. We had picked the theme way before we knew the gender, and I think we would have only changed a few things if the bub was a girl. It gives you time to play, find things in consignment or on Buy Nothing, and to get a look out for deals. In the best case scenario, your shower might have the same theme, and that can help a lot with decorating.

- Don't pick a theme that is too constricting- You don't want what you choose to be so set that you can't play off it in fun ways or have something in the room that doesn't match without it being bizarre. Don't pick a color scheme that is all black and white- you will get colorful toys and blankets! Don't go super modernist/minimalist unless you have a good plan for clutter. It will be a room that works harder than most the others, so it can't live as a showroom.

-It's for you, but that is ok. Before you know your spawn, your life is about them, but in this sort of theoretical way where you can't do anything about it. Planning a room can be a fun way to speculate about who they will be or what you want your family to be. When they show up, they will mess with everything they can reach, and their favorite thing will be a fan or curtain or something totally banal.

-Make stuff and use stuff you already have. Having a nursery with a theme doesn't have to be expensive. Think about how to put things you already own to use in a new way. Also, think about how the things you buy could have life in your house beyond the nursery. A bunch of clown themed stuff won't translate into other spaces, but if you like modern and bright, maybe a bunch of clean white frames, or a biomorphic set of wall hangers, or a pillow case will. It doesn't all have to work that way, but it's nice if some of it does.

-Think about storage- the first year of baby's life is a constant transition from size to size and holder to holder. Nothing seems to last that long, so you need a place for objects to wait in the wings.

-Take on projects, but not too many- Projects can be fun and keep things interesting, but you don't want to be so ambitious you can't finish it all. We still have a cool steamer chest sitting in our basement waiting to be finished. The Bub has never complained, but it's sad to have spent the money (cheap, because it was a mess) and the time (way more of that) and never use it. Plus, it taunts The Boy.

-Think about Future Babies- Again, this is just about choosing what hits the theme, and what stays neutral. It's tempting to get bedding that is exactly on point, but something more neutral that can graduate to more babies might make more sense if that is your plan.

-Have Fun! This is true for all adult stuff you are "supposed" to do (except paying your bills and taxes and the REALLY not fun things). If it isn't interesting to you, just don't do it. Your baby will not care. Whatever seems fun, do. Otherwise, don't.


Want more of my ideas about how to make baby's life awesome? Check out my Baby Registry lists, which feature all eco-friendly and made in America stuff, that just happens to also be awesome.


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