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This Safari-Themed Nursery Persisted Every Design Setback

This nursery project overcame many design setbacks, but you’d never suspect hurdles based on how polished it looks. Learn how Joelle made her colorful, safari-themed nursery come to life in this interview.

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Designer Name: Joelle Cullimore

Instagram Handle: @thecullimoreclan

Project Name: Julian’s Safari Nursery

Type of Project: Residential

Project Location: Rapidan, Virginia

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Design projects aren’t always a walk in the park, but sometimes (if you get lucky), the hurdles and setbacks you come across are all worth the result. That holds to be true in Joelle’s situation. Unexpected hiccups led to timeline delays and many frustrating moments. Still, for Joelle, there was no better feeling than finally completing the project and seeing all the vibrant colors and decorations together.

Let’s hear from Joelle about how her safari nursery came to life, how she’s feeling about the space now, and what advice she wished she had given herself before tackling this project.

Hi, Joelle! Tell us about yourself and how you got into design.

I got into design by accident. I was raised by a single mother, and growing up, we didn’t have much. That meant we always had to be crafty and think outside the box when doing things to our home. That natural creative tendency to think outside the box led me to find Spoak. I was initially trying to do mood boards on Canva when we bought our new mountain home, but I kept coming up frustrated. I’m a visualist. I need to see something to put it into action. I discovered Spoak through an Instagram ad and fell in love with how I could visually drag and drop things into an existing photo of my room and play around with my space without learning something complicated like Adobe Illustrator.

What was the goal of this design project?

I wanted to design a playful but sophisticated nursery for our son. The entire project took about nine months because we kept having setbacks.

Oh, the setbacks. What ended up happening during the design process?

We first started the project when I was about five months pregnant. At the time, we had just wrapped up another project we finished, our primary bedroom redesign. We were ready to hit the ground running, but our A/C went out. When the guy went to replace the A/C unit, he fell through the ceiling in the nursery room we were about to start working on — this meant we had to put everything on hold until we worked with his insurance company to fix and repaint the ceiling.

As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, our well ran out of water shortly after the ceiling incident. I was six months pregnant, lugging dishes to my neighbors to wash. We had to stay at a friend's house for several weeks to try and let the well refill, so we weren’t home to work on the house. The list goes on: After that, there was a stall on the flooring we were getting installed, and my husband didn’t anticipate how much time the remaining nursery projects would take.

We didn’t end up finishing the nursery until my son was three months old. So, this project was definitely a labor of love. 

Can you describe the "before" photos of the space?

When we bought the house, the room was neon green and had nasty carpet. We got the room repainted before we found out we were pregnant, and then we did more painting on the cubbies in the room to make them stand out.

Before photos of a boring nursery room with green walls and carpeting

What do you love about the "after" photos?

I love how sophisticated yet still full of color the room is. I’ve noticed many people on Instagram and social media shy away from using colors in their homes. This white or “sad beige” vibe is everywhere, and it just isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, neutrals can be great, but they just aren’t me. I want my home to be a fun place where my kids and family can feel like they can express themselves vibrantly. To me, that means layering in color where I can. 

After photos of safari-themed nursery with green walls

What was your total project cost? Any specific product resources or links you want to share? 

Oh gosh, I’d have to think about this one. We didn’t pay for the flooring or the ceiling repair because, well, the guy fell through it (🤯), and we bought the furniture all used on Facebook Marketplace, so the most expensive parts were the curtains and rugs. I’d say we spent around $1,500, not including the flooring. The sconces and rainbow rug are my favorites, and I often get asked about them, so those feel worth calling out.

How did Spoak’s software help you bring your design vision to life?

It literally brought the vision to life  — the nursery looks just like the mock-up I created. Spoak’s tooling helped me lay out what I wanted the room to look like. I also like that the mock-up is shoppable; I can import a product into my design, and Spoak saves all the product information (cost, brand, etc.), so I have all the info when I’m ready to purchase. It avoids the headache of having to scavenge through my phone or a Pinterest board to find stuff because everything is all in one place. 

What was your favorite part about working on this project?

When it was over (you have to laugh!). In all reality, this project taught me a thing or two about my marriage. I was so exasperated when everything was happening that I just wanted to hit the ground running and finish when we finally got back into the house. My husband had been overworked at his job, and I just didn’t see how stressful it was for him to drive 2+ hours every day and then come home and spend his time doing DIY stuff. I originally had signed up for the One Room Challenge with this project, and while we finished it in the timeframe, I got upset thinking we weren’t going to. This project taught me that things don’t always need a definitive timeline. Stuff happens, and it’s easier to have patience with those around you and go with the flow.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of encouragement or advice for people tackling a home project?

Tackle one thing at a time and focus on your critical element, which brings all of your colors and decor together. I always pick the colors I want in a room and then find my critical element after the fact during my designing phase. For example, my critical element in Julian’s nursery is the rainbow photo that hangs above his crib. It has all of the colors spread throughout his nursery.

Also, always over-budget and come in under. Things happen, and it’s better if you project higher than expected initially. Have patience with those around you when you’re DIYing. You might not be the easiest person to deal with during a project, either. 

What’s next on your design project radar?

We’re designing an entryway/playroom as we speak, and I’m super excited about how it turns out. It looks just like the Spoak design. However, the ceiling wallpaper wasn’t the easiest thing ever. I may never do that again. 

Children playroom navy blue walls and colorful decor
A sneak peek of the entryway playroom that Joelle is designing

Photo Credit (Left): Kimberly Nicole PhotographyInstagram

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Date Posted
October 4, 2023




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Carrara Marble Regency Style Fireplace Mantel by 1stDibs, $6,090

My husband and I find great deals on Regency-style furniture pieces on Facebook Marketplace and do a little work to bring them back to life. You can find stuff like this on 1stDibs or Chairish, but I find it’s more pricey than doing local area searches (point in case: this dreamy mantel!).

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Black and White Zebra Rug by Rugs USA, $224

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