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Cassie Kreitner
Senior Editor

Exclusive: Tour HGTV Designer Sabrina Soto’s Colorful Modern Nursery

For first time mom-to-be Sabrina Soto, the key to decorating her daughter’s room was culture, color and concealed storage.

For an interior design pro who’s worked on hundreds of rooms for both her own clients as well as on HGTV shows like The High/Low Project, nothing compared to decorating the nursery for her first child. This spring, Soto relocated back to Los Angeles after eight years on the east coast and bought her 1930s-era house with the intention to transform a small white room into a cozy, colorful space for her daughter. We talked with the mom-to-be about her inspiration for the room, mixing and matching colors and prints and why this room was her easiest project ever.

How did you come up with the vision for the nursery?
I felt like I was having a boy, so I had already put together a design board for a nursery. When I found out I was having a girl, I was so excited, because I'm such a girl’s girl. So I started a new design board from scratch. One of the first items I found was the Otomi chandelier from Stray Dog Designs, a brand I first came across when I helped design the 2009 HGTV Green Home. I was deciding between a few of their chandeliers, but chose this one because it brings some Latin flair into the room. It’s hand-embroidered by artists in Mexico, so each one is slightly different.

You often caption your home decor or nursery photos on Instagram with #Latin or #LatinModern. Was it really important to you to incorporate your Cuban heritage into the room?
Absolutely. I’m very proud to be first-generation American, and I’m going to make it a priority that my daughter knows where her grandparents are from. As much as I appreciate traditional decor and nurseries that have more subdued colors, I love bright colors. I think I created a perfect balance of having a lot of white and pops of color and infusing my Latin culture with bright hues throughout the room.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

There are lots of animals in the room. Was that intentional?
Not necessarily. I already had the big Marimekko elephant print that’s on the wall. I bought the fabric and wrapped it around a canvas for my sister’s fourth child but now that he’s outgrown it, she re-gifted it back to me. So it’s like a second-hand piece from my family. Since the print and chandelier both have animals and bright colors, the rest of the room came together naturally. But although the nursery has a few animal accessories and I love having them in the decor, I didn’t want to create a room where you walk in and say, ‘This is an elephant-themed room.’ I wanted it to be more modern and colorful, rather than carry a specific theme, although I’ve seen many that are beautiful.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

Besides the chandelier and Marimekko print, what’s another favorite piece in the room?
I really like the Babyletto convertible crib, and it was the first item to arrive that I ordered for the room. The front is clear acrylic and the sides are white wood, so it’s very modern and I’ll be able to easily see through it to see when baby is sleeping. The sheet is from my upcoming line, Sabrina Soto Baby that will be out in 2016.

You use a lot of colors and patterns when you’re decorating that don’t necessarily match, but still go together. What’s your advice on creating a cohesive look?
It’s all about playing with the right scale and making sure the prints are balanced. Take the pillows and bedding in the crib. The sheet has a tight, small scale print, while the winks are medium and the mouse is large. You want to play around with balance so that not all of the prints are the same scale. If you find everything in the same color palette and scale, it becomes too matchy-matchy, and I’m not about that at all.

With every room, whether a nursery or living room or outdoor space, you have to start somewhere. And it doesn’t need to be something substantial, like a piece of art or a huge duvet. It could be something as small as a toss pillow. For me, it was the chandelier, which, fortunately, does have a lot of color. But even if you have a small item with a few colors, that could be your foundation for an entire space. Look for that one must-have item to serve as inspiration for the space.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

Have you received any advice on designing the nursery?
For the most part, my family knows not to give me decorating advice. But I kept putting more and more color in room and my sister told me it was starting to look like a Crayola crayon box. To me, my philosophy is the more color, the better, but I understand you don’t want to overwhelm your baby. My sister and mom were also adamant that I won’t need a changing table, so I created this cubby area to keep all of those supplies stored away. They said they never used one, and just opened a mat on the floor, sofa or whatever was nearby. But now, everyone else is telling me I’m crazy. So while I don’t yet have a changing table, I’m considering adding one.

Did you DIY any of the projects in the room?
I put in the temporary print wallpaper in the storage cubby and then added embroidered pom poms on the window treatments so that once she gets a little older and becomes sick of them, it’s not something that’s permanent.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

The room is on the smaller size. What’s your secret to decorating a small space?
Concealed storage! Those bookcases are going to be key for stashing lotions, bibs, swaddles and toys. The chest (under the Marimekko print) has two drawers in it to keep toys off the floor, and opposite the crib is a wall of built-in storage and closets that’s original to the house.

We love that light-up ‘G’ on the bookshelf. Does that mean you’ve chosen a baby name?
We did choose a baby name. I didn’t want to tell people since everyone has an opinion, but Steve did talk to someone, who made him second-guess whether it’s the right name or not. So now we’re on the fence. But the good news is that Steve’s last name starts with a G, so we’re good either way. I just may need to add another letter on the bookshelf. I want to incorporate a name with a little Latin flair, but nothing has seemed to stick yet. My mom tells me that as soon as I meet her, I’ll know what her name is, so hopefully that is true.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

Did you run into any challenges or have trouble finding anything you felt like you just had to have in the nursery?
I’ve been looking for a piece of art like the plus signs forever. The ones I’d seen that were already framed were hundreds of dollars, but I finally found this one on Society 6 for less than 40 dollars. Other than that, it was actually the easiest room I’ve designed in my entire career. Most designers say how hard it is to design their own house, that they could do it easily for other people but not themselves. I feel the complete opposite. I didn’t have to wonder if someone is going to like something, or go back-and-forth on colors. I know what I like. Everything just came together seamlessly, and my partner Steve was so helpful in putting everything together.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

Now that you’ve finished your own nursery, what’s your advice for parents-to-be? Anything worth splurging on or ways that you could cut back and do things cheaper?
Don’t splurge on things that you won’t use as baby gets older, like a bassinet or non-convertible crib. And take your time. When you’re pregnant, you want to nest and get everything done, but don’t worry about having all of the small accessories and decorations perfect before baby arrives. I was also gifted a few items at my baby shower that I plan on adding to the room, like a piggy bank and a few dolls.

Photo: Tessa Neustadt

What was the most fun part about working on the space?
I know it sounds corny and weird, but I still can’t believe I’m having a baby. I’ve wanted to have kids for a long time now, and I started to think it wasn’t going to be possible. The thought that, in a few months, I’m going to have a baby sleeping in this room is the most exciting thing I could ever think of.

Shop the look:
Chandelier: Paulina Otomi Pendant, Stray Dog Designs
Large animal print: Rulla cotton fabric (similar), Marimekko
Glider: Olio Studio Cohen Glider, Olio Studio
Crib: Harlow 3-in-1 convertible crib with toddler rail, Babyletto
Accent table: Tulip Table in Stray Dog Pink, Stray Dog Designs
Bookshelves: Modular bookshelf, Joss & Main
Marquee Light Letter 'G': Hedi Swapp Love Letter Kit (similar), Michaels
Bedding: Sabrina Soto Baby, coming soon
Elephant: Eames Style Elephant Chair, Amazon
Rug: Flokati Rug, Home Decorators
Woven basket: Venice Basket in Sunset, Eliza Gran Studio
Hamper: Charming Hamper in Pink Herringbone, Land of Nod
Pillows: Bloomingville Sleeping Mouse Cushion, Amara; ‘Oh so sleepy’ pink pillow, Blabla Kids
Artwork: Plus sign print (similar), Society6; The World is Your Oyster print, Girl Friday Paper Arts
Wallpaper: Speckle print removable wallpaper, Chasing Paper
Storage cubby bins: Aw Snap Cube bins, Land of Nod
Bookshelf bins: Tjena box with lid, Ikea

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PHOTO: Tessa Neustadt