What Instagrammer @BurtsBrisPlease Learned From Decorating a Nursery

A first-time mom shares her lessons learned after a year of decorating—and redecorating—her son's nursery.
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By Cassie Kreitner, Senior Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
Image: Bri Heiligenthal
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Image: Bri Heiligenthal


When Bri Heiligenthal, her husband Pete and then-8-month-old-Leo moved into their first house in March 2015, it was a sizeable upgrade from the 400-square-foot apartment they left behind. Heiligenthal knew she wanted each room in their Minneapolis-area home to feel “comfortable and inviting,” but beyond that, was overwhelmed with design possibilities. “When we moved in, I didn’t have a super-clear aesthetic of how I wanted to decorate,” she says. “And since then, my taste has changed a lot.”

Rather than sticking with pieces that no longer reflect her style, Heiligenthal views decorating as an evolving work-in-progress, especially when it comes to now 22-month-old Leo’s room. We talked with the avid Instagrammer to find out what she’s discovered from a year of decorating—and redecorating.

Image: Bri Heiligenthal

Be flexible and have fun with it

Once you’ve designed your nursery don’t feel like things are set in stone. Heiligenthal regularly moves furniture in and out of Leo’s room from other areas of the house, and more recently has been tackling some fun DIY projects to help transform the former nursery into a more toddler-friendly zone. Case in point: the school-house green chalkboard wall. “When we started, it wrapped around the entire room only on the bottom half of the wall and we originally intended to keep it that way,” she says. “But Leo’s a bit young to understand the concept of coloring within the lines, so we painted it to the ceiling to prevent any potential mishaps.”

Image: Bri Heiligenthal

Look for items with longevity

Although Leo’s walls had some artwork above the chalkboard paint, Heiligenthal wanted to add an interesting accent wall. She came across this neutral animal-patterned wallpaper from Chasing Paper and knew it was something Leo would be able to appreciate now and into childhood. “I’ve tried to choose stuff that I think he might like until he’s 9 or 10, but if not this also makes sense because it’s easily removable,” she says. “Plus, I love that it helps him learn his animals!”

Image: Bri Heiligenthal

DIY doesn’t have to be daunting

Heiligenthal regularly scours Instagram for design inspiration, then switches over to Pinterest to find step-by-step instructions, which is how Leo’s pegboard came to be. Two panels, a can of spray paint, some wire baskets and shelving later, and she created a new storage solution for diaper essentials and toys. “It’s nice to be able to move things around on it as Leo’s needs and our tastes change,” she points out.

Image: Bri Heiligenthal

Mix and match the old with the new

Leo’s room is filled with wood furniture, but rather than buying a multi-piece matching set, Heiligenthal prefers to combine finishes and styles, placing inexpensive ready-to-assemble pieces alongside family heirlooms and second-hand finds. “If I see something I like in a thrift store or garage sale, I’ll find a way to incorporate it,” she says. And that includes hand-me-downs too. “My grandfather made the toy chest for my twin sister and me, and it’s engraved with our names. But it’s more meaningful than one from a store, even if that would have matched better.”

Image: Bri Heiligenthal

Create separate spaces for sleep and play

This green and white chest for toy storage was the first item the Heiligenthals bought for Leo’s room, which came in handy when his bedroom doubled as his playroom. But once Leo was able to open the low cabinet doors on his own, “things got chaotic pretty quickly,” she says. “We moved a lot of the toys to a different part of the house. I want his room to be fun, but also encourage him to sleep in it and not just play. That’s the transition we’re in now, making it a calm space that still has a kid feel.”

Shop the look:
Chalkboard paint: Rust- Oleum Specialty Chalkboard Paint, Home Depot
Crib: Graco Lauren Convertible Crib, ToysRUs
Explorer banner: Personalized Flag Bunting,
Farm set: 1995 Fisher Price Little People, Ebay
Framed birth print: The Birth Poster, The Birth Poster
Green and white chest: IKEA
Hanging child silhouette, Etsy
Kitchen: Duktig Kitchen, IKEA
Teepee: Inhabit Teepees, Etsy
Toy Car Mat: Lekplats Rug, IKEA
Wallpaper: Wild Thing, Chasing Paper

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