So when Lake and her husband, David Sternberg, found out they were expecting their first child, she was excited to get one more room to redo.
With an orange-and-teal fabric spotted online as inspiration, Lake turned what she called “an empty box with two windows” into a bright, budget-friendly nursery for now-5-month-old Vida. That room was chosen as the judges’ favorite in our 2013 Kid’s Room Contest, with a $300 prize.
To keep costs down, Lake turned to Wal-Mart, Target and Etsy for much of the decor. The white furniture — including a $250 bookshelf from Wal-Mart — is embellished with colorful accents, including custom animal-themed prints Lake ordered from Etsy and framed herself, and little birdhouses she spotted at a craft store for $1.
“It is possible to find inexpensive things that look high-end,” Lake said.
The piece Lake is most proud of? A mobile that hangs above Vida’s crib, which Lake made with small, white bird figurines, red plastic flowers and wire.
Lake, 41, a lecturer for the department of biology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said she has loved art and design from a young age but also felt the pull of science and academia. When she is not teaching or taking care of Vida, she paints and attends Glen Echo Park art classes.
“I think even when I was a kid, I arranged my stuffed animals on my bed to look a certain way,” Lake said. “I feel like art and design are this whole other part of me that is separate from the science.”
Lake said she chose the room’s color scheme and furniture to grow with Vida. The changing table, which is tucked away in the closet, converts into a dresser, and the crib converts into a toddler bed.
“It’s clear the homeowner went for it and had fun with the design,” said contest judge Regan Billingsley, a local interior designer. “They mixed bright colors and patterns but did it in a purposeful manner. The space feels organized and polished. It just works.”
When asked what advice she’d give to do-it-yourselfers, Lake said stick to two colors to anchor a color scheme, don’t be afraid of mixing prints and focus heavily on storage space.
“I have clutter like anyone else, but I hide it away,” Lake said. “Make sure to have furniture with lots of drawers.”
Chat Thursday at 11 a.m. D.C. designer David Mitchell joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice. Submit questions at