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Jocelyn’s Gender Neutral Nursery Renovation

Posted Sunday, April 17, 2016 in: Obsessed With Before & After

Sooo... a little confession from me. Little Nerd is now ten months old, I’m starting to think about the logistics of organising a small party for his first birthday (“If I let him loose on a chocolate cake, will he not sleep for the next three days?” etc) I write a blog called House Nerd AND I haven’t finished my baby’s nursery. Mmmm. Yes, I am aware of the irony. I am the blogger equivalent of the painter with the house that needs painting. But I totally feel like I am a minority, because I know a LOT of new parents who have totally finished perfectly styling their baby’s room, and their baby is younger than mine – or not even born yet.

Recently I came across an incredible new mother who really puts me and my unfinished nursery to shame. Not only did this mum design and renovate the whole nursery before her little girl was even born, she is a quadriplegic who is paralysed from the torso down and can’t use her fingers - yet she managed to design and coordinate the entire renovation from her wheelchair using her mobile phone!

Jos Franciscus, Cord director and mum to cute baby Myla. Photography by Soul of Shu

BOOK NOOK: Myla busy reading in one of my favourite features in her nursery, the book corner. The custom-built cloud shelves were by Rainey Woodworks. The sleepy eyelashes were from Pretty in Pine. Photography by Soul of Shu

Her name is Jos Franciscus, and she is nothing short of inspiring. Some of you guys will already be familiar with her name or her work. Jos is the director of Cord, a massive fundraiser that raises awareness and funds for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and technology by auctioning off the artwork of both emerging and established local and international artists. (Cord is coming up this year on Saturday May 28 at Perth City Farm and you can check out their Facebook page and get your ticket here. It's an awesome cause).

I pretty much began hyperventilating when it came to just organising my own wedding, so I look at people who pull off massive public fundraisers with awe - and perhaps none more so than Jos. Jos, an occupational therapist, was 29 when a vehicle accident in Queensland broke her neck in two places. “It means I have a spinal cord injury, quadriplegia to be exact,” she says. “I can move my arms but have no ability to grasp things.”



A SPECIAL GIFT: “My favourite item in the room wasn't anything I purchased, it was the blanket that our surrogate Beth hand crocheted for Myla,” says Jos. And just look at Myla! What a gorgeous face! Photography by Soul of Shu

When it came to both having a baby and looking after her, Jos says the challenges have been huge. “We went down the path of surrogacy and have a lot of live-in assistance by our family. But life is good, there's a lot I can do and there's some nifty designs by companies like Stokke which bring the baby up to seat height so we can interact. Not changing a nappy isn't the end of the world either!”

Jos and her husband Michael bought their house in Mt Lawley three years ago. “Following an accident we had in Queensland we wanted to return to Perth,” says Jos. “We had always envisaged returning to our beloved neighbourhood of Mt Lawley and so began the search to find a house that would be wheelchair accessible as well as be our 'forever' home.”

But finding a heritage house that fitted the bill of being wheelchair accessible was no mean feat. Jos and Michael finally found it in the form of a beautiful Arts and Craft-style home called Ardon Fern (yes it has a name!) that they spotted online. They fell in love with it. “It was built in 1919 by a fairly well-to-do Jewish family,” says Jos. “That's about the extent of what we know about its history.” Jos and Michael loved the fact that although it is a one level home, it was elevated so it felt like two storeys. “Honestly, the fact that it also had a ramp and an accessible ensuite were really the things that sealed the deal,” says Jos. “It meant we didn't need to do significant renovations straight away, which is highly unusual when you have specific disability requirements like I do.”

The house was a classic Californian bungalow in the Arts and Craft style with a few hints of the emerging Art Deco influence and also references other different historical periods, including Tudor. In the 1970s the house underwent a series of additions and renovations, including a children's wing and an ensuite off the main bedroom, but luckily they weren't the usual terrible extensions seen in the ’70s, so the bones of the house are still in great condition. At 450sqm, it’s big – what Jos and Michael needed. “We often have both sets of parents/in-laws rotating and staying with us to raise our daughter,” says Jos. “It's a full house!” 

Michael and Jos with a younger Myla.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The new robe and Myla's reading nook (in future to be turned into a study corner) taking shape. 

GREAT TRADIES:  A ceiling rose was added to give the character feel Michael and Jos wanted the room to have. Jos says she had a great time doing the room with her tradespeople. “I had a great working relationship with all of my tradies, in particular Lorraine from Rainey Woodworks who handcrafted the book nook cloud shelves, TS Building Co who painstakingly added the cornices and ceiling rose and of course Robert Jenkins who created the mural." 


Michael and Jos knew the house would be wonderful for growing their future family, and now they have a stunning nursery for their absolutely gorgeous little girl Myla, six months. But the room they chose to be the nursery initially wasn’t quite right and needed a few changes before Myla arrived. “We wanted to restore some of the heritage elements so we replaced the aluminum windows with sash windows, matched the cornice with the original ceiling in the lounge and put up a ceiling rose,” says Jos. “Next was storage. Old houses usually have limited built-in storage and our house was no exception. So we created lots of storage.”

Jos and Michael wanted to infuse the room with an air of fun and learning while also creating a space that grew with Myla. So they designed a book nook that Myla can use now that can later become a built-in desk – very clever! “The room also needed to be fairly gender neutral as my husband was the one spending a lot of time caring for Myla due to my limitations,” says Jos. “I didn't want to torture him with a bright pink room! Plus I'm a big believer that nurseries shouldn't be pigeonholed into male or female stereotypes.”

The room makeover, from building in the storage to hanging the final pieces on the walls, took two months all up – and Jos, who is clearly a master organiser, appears to think that it probably could have taken less. (I have not been game enough to tell her how long our nursery has taken. Er, is taking). “Despite having a clear vision for the room, most of that time was juggling schedules between tradespeople,” says Jos. “That was one of the biggest challenges - coordinating tradespeople. I've never had to coordinate tradies before. They were all great but timing them all so it flowed well was a challenge at times. The other issue was physical access to the shops to decorate the room. I dropped into LuLu & I in Cottesloe for a few cushions and a side table, and the rest was almost entirely found online, including the cot I found on Gumtree. Love Gumtree! It’s the best – it’s the ultimate trash and treasure plus it's environmentally friendly to repurpose.”

MOUNTAIN SCENE: Jos’ favourite part of the room is the beautiful mural. It is one of my favourite elements too. “My friend Robert Jenkins (The Blackmountains) is a really popular Perth street artist as well as a painter decorator,” says Jos. “He created the mural based on a general concept I had and created a beautiful backdrop for the room that I centered the design of the room around.” The cot was from Gumtree. The star garland was by Essi & Co. Photography by Soul of Shu.

DETAILS: The bone inlay chest and rug both were from Fenton & Fenton. Above it are Bloomingville house shadow boxes. The feather garland was from Zilvi. “I have too many favourite shops to name them all when it comes to my fave stores for children’s décor!” says Jos. “Some include Homely Creatures, Leo & Bella, Bloomingville, Muuto, Pretty in Pine, Oh Eight Oh Nine, Zilvi, Fenton & Fenton. Etsy stores like Elske, Stefcollections, Alphabet Monkey and Laura Frisk are unique.”

PAPER FLOWERS: My friend Jess Richardson of The Paper Posy created paper blooms that will last years, her life-like blooms are incredible,” says Jos. Photography Soul of Shu.

BUNNY LOVE: The Miffy Lamp was by Leo & Bella.

GENDER-NEUTRAL GREY: Jos chose the walls to be painted Solver July Sky and Opera Grey. 

SUPER COMFY: The nursing chair was by Bubkess. “My husband loves this item the most,” says Jos. (I may not have finished my own nursery but I also think, even if you go budget with the rest of your nursery, if there’s one thing you splash out on make it a really good nursing chair!) The chair in Myla’s room is a perfect fit for the style of the room. The leather strap wood shelf was by Interior Motives. Photography by Soul of Shu

In keeping with the goal of creating a gender neutral room, Jos chose a palette of soft greys with strong pops of colours and rose gold. “I wanted to create a dreamy room that invites both sleep and imagination,” she reveals. “It also had to be practical and not too fussy. There's quite a strong modern Scandinavian and Moroccan influence in there – a weird combo that kind of works!”

Jos now consults for children’s interiors and is more than happy to give her advice. “If you're doing a nursery, have fun with it,” she says. “This doesn't mean it can't be sophisticated as you will no doubt be spending a lot of time there too. Consider how the room will purpose the child as he/she gets older and include that in the layout. With a bit of forethought and preparation, a nursery can become a haven that grows with them for many years to come. Follow children's interior instagram accounts for inspiration and links to where to buy products.”

With their old Californian bungalow gradually becoming more and more just the way they want it, Jos and Michael don’t plan on ever leaving. “We knew with a bit of work it was something that we could mold to my needs as well as grow a future family,” says Jos. “We also wanted to restore it to its former glory as a grand old home and it's been in a constant state of renovation ever since we bought it. No plans of leaving now we're here!” Maya x

Cord's art auction and live music fundraiser, 'Take a Seat', takes place this year on Saturday, May 28 2016 at Perth City Farm. You can like them on Facebook here or follow them on Instagram @cordfundraiser to see some of the awesome artworks that will be going to auction. Tickets can be purchased here.

Like this story? You can see other inspiring home renovations by following House Nerd on FacebookInstagram @housenerdPinterestTwitter @HouseNerd_ or Bloglovin.


Jos Franciscus and Myla.


Jos Franciscus, director of Cord, and her husband Michael, who live with their daughter Myla, six months and dog, Darnell


A 1919-built Californian bungalow 


Mt Lawley, Western Australia


Jos consults for children’s interiors. To get in touch, email her at [email protected]


Soul of Shu, You can follow her on Facebook here 

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