See How Ajai TRANSFORMED Her Client’s Builder Grade Guest Room -Get Ready For A Ton Of Cozy Design Ideas & Working-Mom Real Talk



I can’t believe it’s been ten months since my sweet baby boy (Jack) was born. Ten months of diaper changing, breastfeeding, and little-to-no-sleep. Though there have been so many beautiful moments with my baby boy, there have also been rough ones. I’ve experienced so many emotions during this mamahood-entrepreneur journey, and the thought of going back to work after living as a new mama in the pandemic, was a bit frightening. Nonetheless, I am finally in a place where I feel I can take on a couple of design projects, be a good mama, and maintain my sanity. That said, I chose to take on a project (a guest bedroom) for clients I’ve worked with in the past, and who have become very good friends. I should also mention this project was in Seattle, so I would be traveling with my little one on the airplane for the very first time…quite the experience.

Jack has always been a very chill baby, but for some reason, I imagined he’d be crying and unsettled on the plane, with clogged little ears, and constantly reaching to grab the person’s hat sitting in front of us. I was very much expecting to have the worst flight ever. I’d heard from so many other moms, who warned me of just how badly this could go. I was told to make sure I was breastfeeding him as the plane took off into the sky, have plenty of bottles on hand during the flight so I could help his ears pop, hold him tight throughout the flight, and try to schedule the flight times with his naps. Panic set in quickly as I began to think about having to nurse in such close proximity to a complete stranger (I like to sit in the middle seat because my husband sits in the aisle seat, as he’s 6’4” and needs the extra legroom). I was also afraid of being so close to people after practicing social distancing for such a long time (and with my little one). All that to say, I used my travel reward points to upgrade us to first class and I summonsed dad and Grandma to come along.

Children require a ton of attention, especially during the infancy stages. My husband and I were able to juggle our little guy before he was mobile. However, when the crawling began, the working stopped. How nice would it be if I was able to look at Jack and say, “hey little guy, take a 2-hour nap because mommy has to conceptualize a space for her client,” and he actually did it? Wishful thinking… Anyhow, we call Jack “king-baby,” and for good reason – it’s his world, my husband and I just live in it. This meant, someone else would have to endure his reign while mommy and daddy worked. Dad and I (I call my husband dad now, and he calls me mom, which tickles me because my Grandma would do the same with my Grandpa) immediately began looking for nannies and daycares, so we could transition into a normal workweek. We decided on the daycare route, as I’ve watched far too many lifetime movies about nannies (scary ones). Seriously though, since we wanted to socialize Jack at a younger age, we thought it would be good for all of us to get out of the house more often, and this daycare just so happened to offer a co-working space for Dad and I. This made the transition much easier, as I was not very fond of handing over my baby boy to someone else for hours on end. I liked that I could be close by and still stop in to nurse him throughout the day.

Finally, the first day of daycare was upon us. This was such a big day for all three of us, it was Jack’s first day of school, and Dad and my first day of actually being able to focus on work only. We were so nervous, but excited at the same time. We handed Jack over to his new teacher and sat down to our individual desks. We spent the next five hours wondering what Jack was doing and checking our phones for updates. We got little-to-no-work done, but we did get through the first day. We spent the next couple of days getting better at working while Jack was learning and making friends. By week two, my creative energies began flowing, and by week three, I’d solidified the design concept for the guest bedroom. Like many, social distancing really had me reflecting on my time spent traveling. I missed the adventures my husband and I had in Germany and France. I began pulling inspiration from these bed and breakfast stays and adventures, and in chatting with my clients, I learned they too missed the time they spent traveling internationally.

My clients mentioned how they would be having guests come over to stay with them during the holidays, and how they wanted their guest room to feel cozy and bnb-like. The current state of the room was builder-grade, and being used for storage. There wasn’t much character, and everything was stark white (including the carpet). The room was also a bit on the small side, and the current mattress was a queen, so it was important for me to cozy the space but also make sure the guests did not feel as if the walls were closing in on them.

Window Treatment

Wallpaper | Paint

REWIND – I would like to mention that at the start of every project, I have my clients choose a single object, one that inspires them and influences the feel of the room. Through my design process, I like to revisit this item to make sure the room reflects this item and incites the same feeling. The item behind this room’s design is a marble abstract brush. It’s sophisticated, fun, and textured. Along with those aspects, I wanted the room to feel magical, so I went on the hunt for a wallpaper that would embody all of the above. I found the most exquisite floral wallpaper called Coquette from Wallpaperie. I love how elegant the design is, and I was able to have it applied to all the walls without shrinking the space. The room still felt open and spacious while we were in it. It was the perfect contrast to the muted sage lower half of the room. Along with painting the bottom portion of the wall, I had wainscotting added to the lower half of it, as I wanted the space to have more texture.

Bed  | Nightstand  | Remote Places to Stay by Gestalten, Debbie Pappyn, and David De Vleeschauwer | Rug | Sconce

The lead times for furnishings during the stay-home-order was horrid (and still is). I used the next coming weeks to source and solidify furniture. During the sourcing process, I came across a beautiful all black bed frame and nightstand with a cane detail by 31 chapters. This is my third time working with 31 Chapters, and I’m happy I did because they rushed the bed and nightstand for me (they were the first pieces of furniture that arrived on-site). Their pieces are some of my favorites. I love using black to cozy up a space, and the cane detail on the bed added to the texture I was working to achieve in the room (such a beautiful and organic detail). When it comes to bed frames, I’m a big fan of head and footboards because I never get to use them in my home (you know… because my husband is 6’4”). However, I still had to take into account that different people would be sleeping in this bed, so the fact that the footboard meets the top/surface of the mattress was a plus.

Euro Sham | Velvet Pillow | Duvet Cover Set | Charcoal Quilt

More and more, I craved for this space to embody cozy. I wanted my client’s guests to really feel at home during their stay. I wanted their guests to have a hard time getting out of bed because of how comfortable it was. This meant providing them with different blanket weights and a variety of pillows. I’m one of those people who likes my pillow thin. I basically want to feel like I’m sleeping on a piece of paper, and I only need one. My husband on the other hand, loves a large firm pillow, and he likes to have them all around him. Now when it comes to sheets and blankets, I’m quite the opposite of my husband. I love being bundled up in layers of sheets and duvets (linen to be exact), so a linen duvet cover set from Magic Linen was a no-brainer. I have a grey set at home, and we absolutely love it. They’re warm and cozy enough for me, and light enough for my husband. That said, during our travels, I can appreciate a place that gives us plenty of options, so I wanted my client’s guests to have options as well.

London Art (vintage) | Black Marble Brush | Matches (similar) | Brass Candle Holders (vintage) | Ladder (vintage) | Brass Cup (vintage) | Seaside Town

The more I sourced, the more I felt like I was in my element, and falling in love with design all over again. I remembered how special the designer and client relationship was, and how nice it was to be able to have someone trust me with their design dreams and wishes. This really motivates me to make sure I get it right and convey everything they envision. With that in mind, I began looking forward to the trip to Seattle. I packed the necessities and as lightly as I could, and decided that if Jack needed anything additional, I could purchase it once I was in the city. Dad had a carry-on, Jack and I shared a carry-on, and I brought a checked bag and box for the items I sourced in-person and wanted to add to the guest bedroom. All items made the trip, except for a round wooden stool I chose to act as another bedside table. Even though I bubbled and towel wrapped it, I found the wooden stool broken into several pieces when I opened the box (I was pretty bummed about this one). Nonetheless, we approached the checkpoint, and I began sweating bullets.

Black Vase Trio | Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur | Sconce

One of the TSA officers yelled for my husband and I to come over to his lane. We were instructed to remove Jack from his car seat and carry him through. Another officer checked the breast milk I’d packed for the plane, and another officer checked the stroller. The stroller base kept causing the alarm to trigger, which ended with us all having to go through an extensive search on all of our belongings and have additional pat-downs… we were in the checkpoint for quite some time. After finally making it through the checkpoint, it was time for me to pump. It was then I discovered the terminal didn’t really cater to this sort of situation. I ended up having to pump in the bathroom (not ideal). All of the previous had me terrified of flying with a baby.

We eventually made our way to our gate. This is where things started to look up. Turns out, parents with babies get to board the plane first and have extra time to settle in before the passenger-stampede. After settling in, I noticed how intrigued Jack was with everything going on around him. I even caught him smiling while he looked out of the window, as the airplane took off into the sky. Jack enjoyed a snack the first 20 minutes of the flight, I nursed him shortly after, and once we were cruising through the clouds, he fell asleep for the remainder of the time. It really was a lovely first flight.

When we arrived in Seattle, we headed to our hotel, and we rested. The next morning, my husband drove to collect my mom from the airplane, and I hit the ground running. I headed straight to my clients to get things ready for installation. With the help of some pretty amazing clients (they really were heaven-sent), wallpaper went up, sconces were mounted, and I added the finishing touches to the spaces. The next day, I met up with Ellie (the photographer) to photograph the space. It was nice to be able to work alongside another new mama, who too was navigating running a business after having a baby during the pandemic. We shared tips with one another, and enjoyed being in our element.

Becoming a mother has had an impact in how I design now. I always want to make sure there’s love in the space, instead of designing merely for aesthetic and functionality. Jack not only inspires me, but he helps to keep me grounded. I believe this translates in the way I create now. The love I have for designing a space, procuring the perfect items to tell a story, and learning about the journey’s of my clients and how they came to be in their home, means so much to me. In addition, traveling has always been a passion of mine and after completing my first successful on-site as a new mama, I have the confidence to take on even more projects while pursuing my passions. My husband and I made a pact before Jack was born, to always push him to pursue his dreams. This experience, and the feeling I felt after, is a memory I look forward to sharing with Jack as he gets older.

Re-entering the world as a new mother and learning how to navigate parenthood alongside running a business was tough, but I’ve loved every minute of it. Call me crazy, because I’m ready to do it again. I’m already looking forward to my next design project.

*Design by Ajai Guyot
**Photos by Ellie Lillstrom

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