The Velveteen Nursery: How we turned our junk room into our baby's haven

Photos by Elisheva Golani.

I remember how envious and anxious I felt when I was pregnant with Selma and photos of beautiful nurseries in pristine, new-construction houses filled my Instagram feed. We planned on putting Selma's crib in our room and had no intention of building a nursery for her because our house didn't have room for one, or so we thought.

When my husband and I started dating, we'd walk around our favorite neighborhood in Houston every weekend and daydream about the life we would build there. It was slightly out of our price range, but we wouldn't let that stop us: when it came time to move in together, we started hunting for rentals that could tide us over until we were ready to buy.

Ben found two duplexes in our now-neighborhood, and one of them went off the market the day it went on. That left us with only one option, and there was very little that could be wrong with this house that would stop us from wanting it. Still, we thought we'd better take a look inside before offering up our organs to the landlord in hopes he would choose us as his new renters. 

We walked into our white brick house with an old red door and looked around for about 30 seconds before my husband turned to the realtor and said: "We'll take it!" 

"Sweetheart," I whispered. "We haven't even seen the bedrooms yet, and the bathrooms don't have outlets. Should we give it another 15 seconds before we put in our bid?"

I would be moving into our new home from one of those boxy, new-construction apartments with marble countertops and an oversized tub - you know, the ones that go up by the thousands every day and drive everyone in Houston nuts. They lack character, but mine sure did make my post-grad dreams come true when I realized I could have one of my very own. Prior to moving into that apartment, I'd lived in Boston, and I knew what it was like to live in an old, un-refurbished space without outlets in the bathroom. Still, I looked around this old house with a few dead cockroaches hanging out behind each open door and couldn't turn it down.

"Okay, we'll make it work!" I said to Ben. We both started jumping up and down.

Right after committing myself to the place, I wandered into the kitchen only to discover it hadn't been updated since 1952 (at best.) The Pepto Bismol pink bathroom with an exposed radiator made my grandmother's decades-old bathroom look modern, and the only shower in the house with water pressure that would actually get the shampoo out of your hair was so small, you'd better hope you didn't gain any weight lest you find yourself unable to fit into it. I was nervous, but upon further thought, there was something magical about that house. We would put our furniture into it and make it feel like ours for as long as we were meant to stay there, and that's what we did.

A few normal move-in disagreements later - Ben tried to hang an American flag in the living room, I said "no", there were resentments - we found ourselves at home. We had a bedroom, a spacious living room with only a few buckles in the hardwoods, a guest room, a home office, and a kitchen. Life was good.

And then somewhere in that first year, our guest room became less of a guest room and more of a live application for "Hoarders: Buried Alive." We'd put so many jackets on the bed that they practically piled up to the ceiling, and the bed itself was too big for the bedroom so you could hardly move when you were in there. Both closets in the house were roughly the size of the trunk of a miniature sedan, so we'd stuffed two extra clothing racks into the spare room as well. I'd given up on ever cleaning up the mess, but then when I was about 5 months pregnant, I got a second wind. It took weeks, but with a few great friends alongside us, we went through every trinket in that room, moved the bed into storage and turned it into our nursery.

Ben was campaigning for public office while all of this was taking place, and needless to say, every penny we had was being saved to make up for the ones we weren't making while he was out knocking on every door from here to kingdom come and asking for votes. I was overwhelmed with the idea of putting a whole new room together - a changing table, a crib, a bookshelf, curtains - which is probably why I was so hesitant to turn that room into a nursery in the first place. But once we cleaned it out, everything fell into place. My mother in law called and insisted on getting us the most beautiful crib I've ever seen, our friends were moving out of their space and dropped off a bookshelf and a changing table, my mom had saved all the artwork from my childhood bedroom which matched Selma's room perfectly, and when all was said and done, nearly everything we ended up putting in the nursery was given to us by the people in our lives that love us. No, it's not new construction, but every time I walk into our daughter's little haven I feel all the love that made it beautiful. And somehow, this God forsaken room (which I don't have "before" photos of, thank goodness...) was loved so very, very much, that it became real.