This nursery design shines with reversible, rainbow-like panels

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When photographer Alpha Smoot and her husband, Zach, bought their Bronx townhome in 2020, their first brief was to create a blank canvas. “The whole top floor was electric blue and the whole first floor was yellow,” Smoot says with a laugh. “We had to use special color block paint to go over the blue because it was so intense.” Since it was the early days of the pandemic and easiest to buy 5-gallon buckets of white paint, they opted for neutral walls throughout. But in returning their home to a simpler state, Smoot longed for color — even if she was hesitant to embrace saturated surfaces again anytime soon, especially in her now 3-year-old son Harlow’s room.

With a crib and little else, the nursery was decidedly minimalist. Smoot hoped to create the ideal toddler space that could transition into a large nursery, one that Harlow could navigate herself to foster independence. She wanted vibrancy and a distinct design, but not yet tied to a wall color or pattern. So she turned to her stylist friend Cecilia Elguero, who moonlights as an interior designer, for help brainstorming decor solutions.

wooden cot with orange arched panels behind it

Elguero often designs sets for her work and soon realized they could introduce color in the same way they would in a photo studio: with movable, painted wall panels made of plywood – a concept she successfully used when decorating a room for her sister. “We liked the idea that it could be modular and provide opportunities for change over time as Harlow grew,” says Elguero. She and Smoot thought bows would be especially cute since they subtly suggest rainbows.

Wooden shelf in the shape of a house above a wooden bar in the children's room

The shape led to the direction for the rest of the interior: Archways are now strung throughout the room, including a rainbow wall, a rounded bookcase from Crate & Kids, and even a rainbow stacking toy.

toddler crawling into bedroom with wooden bookcase and bean bag

Then the women worked together on mood boards for the palette and smaller details. “I really liked the sunset hues that showed up in our inspiration images,” says Smoot. “I liked the idea that it could be quite monochromatic, but still gave us a lot of options to play with.” She also chose a low-slung Kalon Studios daybed for easy climbing in and out, and Elguero curated a selection of cozy sheepskins and playful throw pillows for a reading nook. Both the bed and book corner are defined by the arches, creating rooms within the room.

floor reading nook with orange curved panels and sheepskins

Elguero cut the panels in her workshop with a CNC machine (you could do the same with a jigsaw). “You can see the layers of the plywood on the edges — I love that detail,” says the stylist, who chose a furniture type for its super-smooth surface, though regular plywood or even medium-density fiberboard would be a budget-friendly option. alternative. Then she painted only one side of each piece in case Smoot later wanted to use the other side for a more neutral look. Once the arches were finished, Smoot and Elguero played with them around the room, sliding different pieces together until they had a just right composition, and used heavy-duty self-adhesive Velcro to attach the panels to the wall.

toddler on wooden bed with sunset color bedding reading a book

Perhaps the best result of their collaboration? “Harlow still spends most mornings flipping through books in the reading nook before we wake up!” says Smith. Talk about a pot of gold.

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