I saw the angel in the marble
and carved until I set him free.
My cousin, Jennie, was having her first baby. She was everything a first-time mother is, excited, nervous, and anxiously awaiting the face-to-face introduction with her precious baby. She was also having a hard time deciding exactly how she wanted to decorate the nursery. When she called me with a decision, I was ready to jump in.
Jennie had graduated and was now officially a veterinarian. She had come up with the idea of a Charlotte's Web nursery. I loved that! I get the most excited about childrens' rooms. There is no holding back, I get to go all out with the imagination and creativity. Oh but there was one small problem, the budget. She wanted only to spend $400 - $500. Wow, I wasn't so sure I was going to be able to pull that off. But, once I get a creative spark going, there is NO turning back. Nothing is more frustrating than being inspired and having all these ideas and then not being able to follow through. It's the frustration of an artist with a vision and no canvas to be found. I had to have the canvas.
Once I had a plan in place and we were able to clear our schedule for a weekend, we loaded up the truck with tools and the car with my purchases and headed to the exciting country town of Shelby, NC. I might be from Tennessee, but I am not a country girl. I can appreciate the beauty and the calm for a bit, but then I'm ready to go.
Jennie and her husband had decided that they wanted to be surprised by the sex of the baby. Of course that does not make my job any easier. The type-A planning sort of person I am did not relate to this at all. Do I dare mention the baby name fiasco? Jennie shared with me that if they had a girl they wanted to name her Madeline and if it was a boy they wanted to name him Harry. She wasn't so sure about the name Harry but it was a family name and it was special. They also liked the name Peter. So they were thinking of Harry for the first name and Peter for the middle name. Now, maybe I'm just terrible or maybe it has been too many years in the construction business around all those men, but I was pretty sure Harry Peter would have a few issues growing up with that name and I was shocked that Jennie or her husband didn't understand this. Needless to say, that was an interesting conversation I had not planned on having.
Before we left for Shelby I spent some time watching a few different versions of Charlotte's Web and even as an adult, I still love that movie. After feeling inspired by the movie, I was able to come up with a neutral plan that I was anxious to get started on.
When I design a child's room I never bring in the cartoon side of the theme. That's just my preference. I think it might be fun to do a classic cartoon themed room, but I usually stick to a realistic application of whatever the theme might be.
Now, with the tiniest budget I've ever worked with, I had to decide what materials would be the most inexpensive, and of course the answer is standard building lumber. It just so happens that it was perfect for this. I was going to build my soft interpretation of an indoor barn in neutral colors.
If this was going to be a Charlotte's Web nursery then Charlotte was going to have to make a permanent appearance. I mean, who can watch Charlotte's Web and not fall in love with that spider? And just so we're clear, if it were real life and Charlotte was the real deal, I would be screaming and squishing.
On a Saturday afternoon as I was leaving construction class, I decided to run through the Habitat ReStore and see if there were any goodies. There are always some fun items, but this time I found Charlotte. She was upside-down and a little too brassy, but I had a plan for this old chandelier. No worries Charlotte, I will have you turned over, painted, and feeling like yourself in no time. And the best part...she was only $10 and she was in the car headed to her new home.
It ended up taking two weekends to finish this nursery. We built the toy trough, barn shutters, ceiling and wall details, and made some frames. We rewired Charlotte upside-down, painted her and made her web, sewed the bedskirt and pillows and painted the room.
I even had time to take some photos of the expectant couple to use in the room
and left one frame blank to add a photo of the newest family member.
Jennie learned that sewing is not at all like suturing an animal (information I'm pretty sure I didn't need to know), taping stripes feels like a prison sentence, and why exactly it's a bad idea to name your child Harry Peter.
I will admit that I did a little fundraising within the family to make sure I could get the last of what I needed to finish the nursery. I got paid with home-cooked meals, and for those of you that know me and my seriously deficient cooking skills that was a pretty good deal. All in all we still only spent around $600 and I happen to think it turned out pretty fabulous.
So as we packed up and pulled out I felt good knowing that Jennie could continue to add her own touches to this room as her budget allowed. "I love you Jennie. Thanks for the food and the good times! I can't wait to see the baby!"
But wait....We had barely pulled out of the neighborhood when we came up on a road block. Really? A road block? In Shelby on a two lane road... a road that was a dirt road less than a mile back. You're kidding me right?! Sadly, no. Deputy Fife took his job very seriously and Jonathan got a ticket for having an expired license. We headed back to Tennessee and I would love to say that I then considered the project cost to be $750 ($600 for the room and $150 for the ticket) however, it seems that we overlooked paying for that ticket. Jennie called some months later to give us an update on beautiful baby boy Preston (he will thank me when he gets older) and to also tell us that Jonathan had made the local newspaper. Jonathan was officially named Shelby's most wanted out of state offender for a traffic violation. I always knew he was an overachiever and, of course, he was rather proud of his new title and even requested a copy of the newspaper.