Story and photography By Meridith De Avila Khan
For the past nine years and running, Jeff and Sally Schneider of Lynchburg host their grandchildren for “Mimi and Pop Camp,” a week full to the brim with adventures and day trips. But it’s the thoughtfully curated nursery in their historic home in Lynchburg’s Diamond Hill Historic District that sets the scene for this magic week each summer, and the room itself has become an enchanting project for the retirees.
The Schneiders spent two decades moving around the East Coast during Jeff’s Navy career, so they were excited to put down roots at last. They were drawn to Lynchburg’s historic homes, and purchased an 1886 Italianate brick in need of updating; they lived in a basement apartment while they set to work renovating the main living spaces.
They turned a side porch into more kitchen space. A private back patio, formerly overgrown and neglected, was neatly landscaped and pruned and now looks out past the roof of the downtown YMCA and over the entire city skyline, blue and purple mountains in the distance.
Sally, who recently retired after 15 years as the executive director of the Lynchburg Historical Foundation, says that at first, the two upstairs rooms at the front of the house were appointed as a guest room and sitting room. But, she says, “We always wanted our Grandma and Grandpa room.”
So that’s what they set out to create, turning the guest room into a nursery with lovingly curated details.
The nursery is a cozy room, with morning light filtered by shade trees. The house has only tiny closets, if any at all, so a wardrobe remains in the nursery for Sally’s storage. But otherwise, the space has been converted to an eclectic and playful space, heavily Victorian-influenced and thoroughly charming.
The nursery wall art is eclectic and personal, cross-stitch samplers mixed with the kids’ framed letters and artwork; with a subtle flash of modern life, the Schneiders printed and framed one of their daughter-in-law’s Facebook posts that captures a hilarious exchange between the kids.
Four twin beds fill the room; it’s snug, but not overwhelming. Each bed’s wrought-iron frame has been painted white. Jeff and Sally say this was the hardest part to put together; it was surprisingly difficult to find a vintage twin bed for each of them and they finally found the fourth at The Covesville Store in Nelson County.
On each child’s bed rests a plush character based on a beloved book; at the foot of the bed, a toy “treasure chest” all their own. A quilt is tucked at the end of each bed, some antique store finds and others family heirlooms.
In the corner, a coat rack holds dress-up clothes, tulle skirts and fedoras.
“Jeff’s saying is, ‘All we’re missing is the pixie dust.’ We call it our Peter Pan nursery,” says Sally.
Their son’s family blended and expanded in the years since the Schneiders started building their grandparent nursery, and now four grandkids come down each summer (another son just welcomed his first baby girl this year, and Sally looks forward to welcoming her to Mimi and Pop Camp when she’s older).
Each July, the Schneiders make the eight-hour drive to Ohio, resting for the night before driving back down with the kids.
The “Mimi and Pop Camp” week is packed with traditions: a dress-up dinner at Shoemakers, a trip to Amazement Square. But first, the kids scamper up the stairs to discover a new surprise waiting in each treasure chest.
Within a few minutes, Sally says, they’re running back downstairs in dress-up clothes, taking food orders for their imaginary restaurants.
Recently, Sally says, “One of the kids asked, ‘Mimi, how long are we gonna have camp?’ So I said, ‘We’ll have camp as long as you want to come.’ And Ashley, the 12-year-old, said, ‘Well, then, we’re gonna have it forever.’”
Ideas For Creating Your Own Grandparent Nursery
Even if you have space to dedicate a room to the grandchildren, you may still want to keep it flexible—kids grow so fast! The Schneiders’ wardrobe hides their needed storage; an antique secretary might tuck away important papers rather than sitting out on a desk.
A portable playpen can double as a crib at night. A twin bed can hold storage underneath, or a trundle bed for extra sleeping spaces.
If space won’t allow for a full changing table, add a changing pad on top of a small dresser, with a bin of diapers and wipes within reach.
Budget-friendly options abound at children’s consignment stores or pop-up sales. If you’re willing to scour a few sales, you could furnish the entire room for a fraction of the cost.
Think about the ages: If toddlers or small children will be visiting, glance over the bedroom with child safety in mind. Childproofing for things like power cords and outlets, and anchoring top-heavy items like dressers or bookshelves is important for safety. A removable bedrail can tuck under a bed when not in use.
Toys can be simple and a little goes a long way—a box of dress-up clothes can provide hours of entertainment. Storage can be simple, too: A pretty canvas bin can corral toys, and tucks away easily after the grandkids visit.