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Karen Cleveland with her son, Simon, in his nursery.Michelle Siu

When Karen Cleveland and Daniel Langer-Hack moved into their home in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood on the city’s east end, they already had one of the four bedrooms earmarked for a nursery. “We picked the brighter one with more closet space for our first child,” Cleveland says. That was the easy part. Their son Simon arrived four months ago – about two years after their move ­– and the couple have happily settled into a new routine. “It’s a really calm and very cyclical day that involves breastfeeding and napping,” says Cleveland, who works in journalism and communications. “And then when he naps I’m frantically trying to squeeze in the things that I want to do, like eat and maybe respond to some e-mails.”

But balancing the needs and nuances of a newborn’s schedule isn’t the only challenge they faced (Cleveland jokes that though she’s enjoying maternity leave, “the hours are terrible, the boss is a tyrant”). Styling a nursery can quickly become a mess of diaper pails and clichéd, gender-based colour schemes unless you approach the task with intention. “It’s very easy to just embrace kid-friendly decor. If you’re not careful, you can have giant letters all over the room,” says Langer-Hack, who’s a partner at an advertising agency. “It helps knowing that up front, and making that stuff the exception versus the rule.”

The couple embrace a minimalist, Scandinavian aesthetic in the rest of their home, and the nursery’s no different. They bought the basic, larger items such as the crib, change table and floor lamp first. For these, they opted for wood and natural materials, found easily on Wayfair and favoured brand Babyletto. “We make design decisions really quickly, so we found and ordered [them] straight away,” Cleveland says. The rug, which creates a soft and calming gray-blue zone, was also a Wayfair purchase. “It takes some patience to sort through all the options, but we found it’s a goldmine,” Langer-Hack says of the online shop. The rocking chair, which Cleveland uses often, is from Article, another online seller. The couple is big on online purchases, especially for the small essentials and for the sake of convenience. “We have diapers on auto order,” Langer-Hack says.

While the soothing back-and-forth of the rocking chair may remind them of ocean waves in distant climes, the couple chose to punctuate the space with mementoes and items that evidence their love of travel. A trip to Hawaii inspired the “Aloha” theme for the room, revealed through a pineapple paper mobile, retro travel posters and quirky prints by Hawaii-based artists Nick Kuchar and Kris Goto, and the “ceramic pineapple and quintessential Hawaiian dashboard doll,” Cleveland says. “We wanted it to feel kid appropriate, but not too juvenile or babyish. It’s the perfect amount of kitsch.” Even the whale-embellished toy chest from West Coast Kids and shark decals above the change table (which, due to their high-contrast, are a point of interest for Simon) are on-theme, though not island-specific.

“We picked the theme and just tried to build around it,” says Langer-Hack, including the general colour scheme of soft pastels, drawn from the posters and applied to the “silly stuff, like diaper pails.” The result is a unified and contemporary space, with a fair dose of childlike wonder. “And I think it’ll be nice in terms of Simon growing up into that look as well,” he says. “We won’t have to redecorate the room a zillion times, he can just make it his own as he goes. Hopefully he likes the way we’ve done it.”

Get the Look

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Lolly 3-in-1 convertible crib by babyletto, $569 at Wayfair.

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Embrace chair (coconut white and walnut), $899 at Article.

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See Oahu’s North Shore Retro Hawaii travel print and frame, US$24 and US$90 at Nick Kuchar Art & Design Co..

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Teterboro modern tripod floor lamp by Wade Logan, $375.99 at Wayfair.

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3 Sprouts toy chest, $24.99 at West Coast Kids.

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