Group 6 6 minutes Read

boxes + nursery updates

Lauren Zerbey

The northwest corner of Avery’s nursery has been sad and lonely for the last twelve months…waiting, patiently, for this:



You see, the trouble with being an architect and being married to an architect is that you set the bar pretty high for even the simplest of projects. For over a year now I’ve had the idea that we would design and build Avery some type of toy and book storage for her room. Originally, we were going to build a bench/cubby that would sit under the window. Well, it didn’t happen before Avery entered the world so we considered just buying the similar (and very pricey) Offi version ($$$) and calling it good. But then I started seeing modular storage boxes well, everywhere and thought this could be a quick and easy project. (Ha!) Thinking I might be able to find some inexpensive pre-made boxes (that we could then finish/paint), I scoured the interwebs but no luck. (Seriously, I’m sure this would be a lucrative business model. Someone should get on that.)

So, DIY it was.


The four boxes are made from a single 4’x 8′ sheet of 3/4″ maple plywood. In lieu of exposed fasteners, we opted for biscuited joints. Our clamp collection came in handy.

We did consider installing backs but the boxes were plenty rigid without them and their omission simplified the construction and overall project costs.


After the boxes were assembled, Kyle applied a coat of benite and a couple of coats of clear polyurethane to the outside faces.


I wanted to do something playful for the inside faces, so we chose four of our house colors (“lakeside cabin”, “thuderbird”, “luminous days” and “birds of paradise”, all Benjamin Moore). Also, this photo was taken the day before her birthday party. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through the whole remodel process it’s this: PARTIES = FINISHED PROJECTS. Seriously, trust us.


Thankfully, the littlest Zerbey approves.

(Side note because I know someone will ask – all of our outlets are tamper-resistant which means they have a plastic “shutter” behind the holes to keep kiddos from sticking objects in them.)


Mid-way through construction we wondered if we should have spent more money on a nicer plywood with more ply’s (since the end grain is so prominent) but now that they’re finished and in the space we’re really pleased with how it all turned out (and realistically, she’s going to eventually give them her own “patina”). The individual box dimensions are as follows (all are 15″ deep): 15″x30″, 15″x15″, 12″x12″ and 15″x9″.


Aside from basic toy and book storage, we like the idea that the boxes could also be used to encourage creative play for years to come. (My sisters and I used to spend hours making “doll houses” from cardboard boxes and I like to think Avery might use these in a similar way someday.)


Of course, safety was a concern so we bought these clips from DWR to attach the boxes to each other. They’re metal with a rubber lining so they fit snugly and can’t be removed by little hands. At first we attached them to the front faces but then decided it looked too busy and instead attached them to the back. We have five clips, which should be plenty for the various configurations we come up with.


(Since Avery’s still in the paperback destruction phase, I love that so many classic children’s books now come in board books.)


Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel was Kyle’s all-time favorite book as a kid. In fact, he checked it out of the library so many times that his teacher had to stage a mini-intervention.


The heights of the boxes are perfect for Avery at this age and encourages more independent standing (she’s not walking yet, but I know it won’t be long!). Although we haven’t reconfigured the boxes yet, we have discovered that by pulling them away from the wall by a few feet we can create a cozy little nook for her.

Aside from the boxes, we’ve made a few other tweaks to the nursery over the last several months:


We bought the IKEA PAX wardrobe with the intention that it could be rearranged and added to as Avery’s needs changed. At first, I just bought four shelves and stacked everything inside. That worked fine for the first 9 months or so but it wasn’t the most efficient set-up. As she started playing with more toys I pulled out all the newborn gear that we no longer needed and packed it away in the crawl space. I then bought three plastic drawers and rearranged the existing shelves. The bottom two drawers are for toys and I use the top one for blankets, sheets and extra diapers. We’ve had this configuration in place for a few months now and it works really well. She can only reach the two bottom drawers, but because they’re so wide she can’t pull them open far enough to create a ladder. Moving the laundry basket up keeps her from constantly emptying her dirty laundry. (Behind the laundry basket and diaper bag is our stash of non-board books.)


Having three areas for toy storage (these drawers, the plywood boxes and the felt bins in the living room) also allows us to rotate through different toys so she doesn’t get bored or overwhelmed with too much to choose from.


Toys, what toys? Actually, we usually have some toys strewn about but since the living area also doubles as a place to meet with clients it was important to have a system in place for quick and easy clean-up.

Also, I’m finally calling this room DONE! So, a few overall shots to commemorate!


Confession, this is the third set of air plants I’ve bought. The first ones got neglected in those first six months and then the second set quickly died when we put up temporary blankets over the windows to make the room darker. (Apparently plants need sunlight?)


Speaking of, I procrastinated so long on curtains because I really did not want to make blackout shades for the windows (those chevron curtains took way too long as it is!). So, imagine my surprise and happiness when I discovered that IKEA sells both blackout curtain liners and roller shades (and in a dark gray color)! At the larger window I used the liner with a pair of IKEA curtains in a dark gray-blue (the curtain rod is from West Elm). We hung them near the ceiling to compose with the wardrobe curtains but stuck with a color similar to the walls so that they wouldn’t compete visually. At the smaller window above the crib we installed a surface-mounted roller shade (we wanted to keep the existing recessed shade for diffuse natural light). The exposed hardware on the roller shades leaves something to be desired but we figured we could build a custom valence of sorts if it bothered us too much (it hasn’t).


The 3 Sprouts canvas bin (which used to hold all of her toys!) now houses our collection of baby quilts (thanks Mom!) plus a few stuffed animals.


Aside from these few modifications and additions, the overall layout hasn’t changed in the past year. It’s simple but continues to work really well for our needs. We still use the dresser to store most of her clothes, diapers, wipes and a few regularly used odds and ends. Bonus, I think it finally lost that Craigslist smell!



The only thing we might swap out in the near future is the rug. I love the design and feel (we bought it from West Elm a few years ago), but it does show dirt and the looped design is not conducive to giant golden retriever paws. It would be nice to replace it with something more easily cleanable too, so we’ll see.


I’d also like to design/incorporate a growth chart into the nursery – maybe something on the backside of the sliding doors? My mom did this on the back of our closet door (my sister and I shared a room) growing up and I want to continue the tradition.



The nursery is starting to feel more and more like a kid’s room and we love it. (In fact, it’s Kyle’s favorite room in the house!) I know there will be more items to accommodate as she expands her interests and abilities (art supplies! a mini kitchen!) but I’ve got some ideas for that.