Ideas for Creating the Perfect Nursery for Your New Baby
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You’re expecting a new baby – congratulations! This is such an exciting time in your life.
As you prepare for your new arrival, one thing that may be taking up a lot of your energy is thinking about setting up a nursery for your baby. You want it to be functional for you as a parent, so you know you’ll need places to put diaper-changing supplies and clothes, and a comfortable place to sit. You want it to be safe for your baby.
Those aren’t the only things you want, though. You also want your nursery to be beautiful. You and your baby will be spending a lot of time in that room, so it’s natural to want it to be a peaceful and inspiring place – a room that makes you feel good, and that will stimulate your baby.
This article will walk you through some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when you are designing and decorating your new nursery. Because safety is important, we’ll talk about guidelines for buying a crib that will be safe and comfortable for your baby. The first chapter contains tips on how to make your baby’s nursery safe.
We’ll talk about some of the design challenges you may face as a new parent. Perhaps you are working with a tight budget as you prepare for all of the new expenses that will arrive with your baby. Decorating a nursery does not have to be an expensive endeavor. A few simple tips can give you the tools you need to make a beautiful nursery without breaking the bank.
Another common design challenge is space. If the room that will be your nursery is very small, it can be difficult to imagine how you will fit all of the things your baby needs into the room. There’s a whole chapter of ideas about how you can maximize the space you have and create a nursery that doesn’t feel cluttered.
Finally, we’ll talk about some specific design ideas for nurseries, whether you’re having a boy or a girl. We’ll also talk about some themes, including ideas on how to choose a theme, or build a theme around something you love.
Let’s get started.
The very first thing to consider when preparing your nursery for your new baby is safety. Decorations and themes are great fun, but they all take a back seat to making sure that your baby has a comfortable and safe place to sleep.
The first and arguably most important safety concern is buying a sturdy and hazard-proof crib. Here are some of the things to look for – it’s always best to view a fully-assembled crib in a store than to buy one online.
- A tight-fitting mattress. The crib mattress should fit snugly into the crib. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib’s frame, the mattress is too small. A tight-fitting mattress will prevent your baby from being trapped between the mattress and the crib.
- Slats no more than 2 3/8” apart. You want the slats to be close enough to one another that your baby’s body or head cannot fit between them.
- Corner posts no more than 1/16” tall. Taller posts (unless they’re more than 16” tall to support a canopy) can pose a choking risk if your baby’s clothes get caught on them.
- Stability. Give the assembled crib a shake in the store to make sure that it is sturdy. Do the same after you’ve assembled the crib at home.
- Adjustable mattress height. You want to be able to lower the mattress once your baby is able to sit up to make sure she can’t fall out of the crib.
- Don’t use a crib bumper. They come with many cribs, but they can pose a safety hazard.
When picking out a changing table, look for:
- A two-inch guardrail on all sides
- A safety belt
- A surface that’s lower in the middle to keep your baby from rolling
- Sturdy construction – give it a shake
- Drawers or shelves to keep changing supplies nearby – it’s safer for baby if everything you need is within reach
Stay away from hinged chest adaptors and get a stand-alone table. As your baby grows, his weight on the hinged table could be enough to tip the chest.
Here are some other safety tips to keep in mind:
- Finish all painting and wallpapering at least 8 weeks before your due date. When you’re done, open the windows to let all fumes escape.
- Keep comforters and pillows out of the crib. It doesn’t matter how cute they are, they pose a suffocation risk. You can always display a cute quilt on a wall, or use the pillow on your rocking chair.
- Use area rugs or cork flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpet. It will be easier to clean, and installed carpet tends to harbor a lot of dust and other allergens.
- Use double sided tape to secure any area rugs to the floor. No need to worry about slipping when your baby is in your arms.
- Make sure curtains or blind cords are out of reach
- Put in window guards and socket protectors
- Speaking of chairs, get yourself a really comfortable one with good back support. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the nursery, and your safety matters too!
Follow these guidelines to make your nursery safe and functional. Once you’ve taken care of these basics, you can start to think about how to design a nursery that it beautiful as well.
Nursery Design on a Budget
Having a baby is an expensive endeavor. If this is your first child, you need everything and it’s probably a bit overwhelming to think about. There are certain areas where it’s not a good idea to skimp – things like the crib and changing table are important to your baby’s safety, so you’ll want to get good sturdy ones.
Being on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a mundane-looking nursery. A little ingenuity can go a long way toward saving you money. This is a great time to think creatively.
Here are some ideas that can help you create a beautiful nursery that won’t break the bank:
- Make a budget. If you know exactly how much you want to spend decorating your new nursery, you’ll be more likely not to overspend. Don’t worry too much about setting spending limits for individual items. Instead, think about your overall budget.
- Start shopping early. The sooner you start, the more time you will have to be creative and hunt for bargains. It can also help if you know you don’t have to lay out money for your entire nursery at once.
- Look for a crib that can convert to a toddler bed when your child is ready. Just make sure it meets all of the safety standards listed in the first chapter. You’ll also want to read some reviews to make sure that the conversion process is easy.
- Shop thrift stores and garage sales. Not everything in your nursery needs to be brand new. You might be able to find a gently used dresser, for example, or a glider rocker for yourself. Other things you can find used include bedding, artwork, books and toys. (This tip is also great for baby clothes.)
- When you start shopping, look for used items first. Scoring a great deal on a dresser, shelves or a rocking chair may free up more money for you to spend on fun design elements.
- Look online. A lot of times you can find inexpensive and unique items on websites like Amazon. You may also be able to find used items in good condition on Craig’s List.
- Sign up for email lists from your favorite retailers. This will keep you informed about sales and coupon codes.
- Choose inexpensive design elements. If you don’t have the budget for expensive artwork, consider hanging family photos in the nursery to surround your baby with the faces of people who love her. You can also use removable wall decals. They’re inexpensive, cute and can be removed without damaging the paint or wallpaper.
- Think ahead. You want this room to be able to grow with your baby, so use colors and a theme that are appropriate for a toddler or preschooler as well as a newborn. Using design elements that are easy to switch up can help with this as well. Some examples include wall decals, neutral-colored furniture, and plain curtains.
- Be gender neutral. If you plan on having more children, think about using a gender-neutral color like yellow or green instead of making an all-pink princess themed room for your baby. If you have a boy next time, you’ll have to redo the whole thing.
- Spice up a used piece of furniture by painting it and adding cute new knobs to the drawers. It’s easy to take a dinged-up dresser and turn it into something fun and unique, and it will only cost you a few dollars’ worth of paint and accessories.
- Area rugs (in addition to being a safer option, as stated in the first chapter) are also less expensive to buy or replace than wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Look for inexpensive storage options. You can find cute baskets or organizers online or even at the dollar store. You can think about building shelves or mounting them on the wall to maximize the space you have and not clutter the floor.
- Get creative and make your own artwork. Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, you can do things like get a beautifully illustrated story book and frame some pages from it. Surf the internet and find pictures you like, and frame those or trace them onto canvas and paint them.
- Use chalkboard paint to turn a wall (or part of one) into a chalkboard. The paint comes in different colors, and once it’s on you’ll be able to draw pictures and change them up easily.
- Let toys do double duty as design elements. Chances are you’ll receive plenty of cute toys as gifts, so why not make them part of the decorating process? You can set stuffed animals on shelves or on top of a dresser.
- Design the room around a focal point. Instead of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to create a themed room, think about finding a beautiful crib or a single piece of artwork and then build the room around it. Another thing to keep in mind is that making a themed room doesn’t have to be expensive. If you have a beautiful storybook print, for example, you can pick up colors from the print and use those in the rest of the nursery. The room will be inspired by the print, but not everything in it needs to have the same storybook design.
The main thing if you are concerned about the cost of your nursery is to let your budget constraints inspire you. Sometimes the best and most creative designs come from having limitations. You don’t need to have top-of-the-line designer everything to create a warm and beautiful nursery that you’ll love.
Good Things Come in Small Packages
Fitting everything you need for your new baby into a small nursery space is a design challenge. After all, you want your baby’s nursery to be beautiful and functional, and you don’t want it to feel crowded.
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to maximize the space you have. They key here is focusing on components that can do double duty, and not wasting any of the space you have.
Here are some suggestions:
- Instead of buying a separate changing table, buy a table-top changer that you can put on top of the dresser. Just make sure that it has a rim to keep your baby from falling and that it’s lower in the middle to stop your baby from rolling or turning.
- Open up the closet. When space is at a premium, this is a terrific way to make the most of what you have. Take the door off the closet and use the recessed space to hold a dresser, changing table or even the crib. If you still want to be able to hang clothes, raise the bar in the closet so you can maximize the space underneath. You can also frame the closet opening with curtains to make it a focal point of the room.
- Shelves are your friends. You can you use floating shelves for storage – they don’t have to be hung at the same height, you can have fun with them. Experiment with cubes, buckets – put your wall space to work for you. Another great option is to find a vintage shelf with hooks beneath it. You can use the shelf for books or toys, and the hooks to hang clothes.
- Don’t waste the space under the crib. Take measurements and find storage baskets or boxes that will fit into that space. You can even buy plain boxes and decorate them yourself by painting them or decoupaging them with pretty paper or fabric. Or you can look for a crib that has built-in storage underneath it, like this one:
- If you’re buying a night stand or small table to put a lamp on, get one that has shelves or drawers so that you can use the storage space.
- Alternatively, instead of a floor or table lamp, thinking about getting a chandelier. It can be a beautiful design element and a space-saver.
The main thing to keep in mind if you have a very small nursery space is that you don’t want to waste the space you do have. Get as many things off the floor as you can by installing shelves and hooks. If you have space underneath or beside a piece of furniture, find a way to use that for storage. You can fit everything you need into a very small space if you look at it as an opportunity to be creative.
It’s a Boy
If you know that your new baby will be a boy, you may want to decorate your nursery in a way that will reflect his gender and be adaptable enough to grow with him. Here are a few ideas to help you do with that.
- Choose a masculine but sophisticated color palette. Instead of hosing the room down in baby blue, think about going with accents in a deeper blue. Navy blue might lend itself to a nautical theme, for example. Other colors that might work well for a baby boy as he grows are gray (you can add pops of color) or greens and browns if you want something more earthy. Another option is to pair light blue with white, like in this cute cloud wallpaper:
- Get furniture with rustic appeal. Unfinished wood or timber opens up a wide array of style choices. Rustic furniture might lend itself to a western theme, for example, but would also work with animal or safari accents.
- If mom and dad are sports fans, you might want to think about letting your team’s logo be part of the nursery décor. For example, if your team’s colors are red and white, you might think about doing white walls with one red accent wall. Baseball fans might think about painting or stenciling a baseball on the walls, or even making a mobile out of brightly-colored baseballs.
- Graphic designs. You can find a wide variety of decals that will allow you to create something bold on the walls. Some examples include putting trees on the wall for an animal or forest theme, or schools of fish for a nautical or marine theme. This can be a great way to dress up a neutral wall color, and since decals can be removed and replaced easily, redecorating can be a snap.
It’s a Girl
When you’re expecting a new baby girl, it’s natural to turn your thoughts to a pink nursery with lots of feminine accents. You probably already think of your daughter as a princess, so if you want your design to reflect that – go for it! If you want to try for something a little different, though, here are some ideas to get you started.
- Instead of painting the walls pink, think about painting (or getting someone else to paint) a beautiful mural next to the crib. You might consider a blossoming tree or a field of flowers, for example. If you’ve got a theme picked out, that can help you choose what mural to paint. If not, maybe consider some things that are pretty without being overtly feminine – butterflies, birds, or even a pretty beach scene could all work.
- If you do want to use, consider contrasting it with another color that makes the room modern and better able to suit your baby as she grows. Pink can be very pretty with lime green, for example, and it really pops against gray or black.
- For a more sophisticated color palette, why not think about using yellow and gray together? Other colors that can be really beautiful in a little girl’s room include turquoise and orange.
- A crib with high posts to support a canopy can lend a real fairytale feel to a little girl’s room. This can also be a terrific way to bring a pop of color into the room if you’ve chosen a subdued color for the walls. Pick a gauzy romantic-looking fabric that drapes. You can even embellish it with applique flowers, butterflies or birds.
Variations on a Theme
A lot of parents love the idea of building a nursery around a particular theme. It can be fun to do, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy themed items like bedding and wallpaper at many different home design stores or department stores. However, if you want to get more creative and put together a theme of your own, here are some tips on how to do it.
- Pick a central image. For example, if you want to build a storybook room, pick a children’s book and use that as your starting point. For example, you could start with an image from Alice in Wonderland.
- With the classic story as your inspiration, you could frame a print and make it a focal point of the room. Color inspiration could come from Alice’s classic blue and white dress. Wall decals or stencils in the shape of rabbits, cats, teacups or caterpillars would work well with the theme. If you go with a storybook theme, pick a story you love that you think you will read to your child, and use the characters, plot and illustrations as your starting-off point to create a truly beautiful and unique room.
- Paint a mural. If you’re not a painter yourself, you can either hire someone to paint it for you, or you can create one from decals. For example, look at this cute zoo-themed mural:
With the mural as your centerpiece, you can build the rest of the room around it. You might want to leave the rest of the walls neutral, but you could pick up the colors in the mural in things like throw rugs or lampshades. Stuffed animals can be part of the décor if you arrange them on shelves, and you can either buy or make a mobile from small stuffed animals. Many zoos sell a wide variety of stuffed animals, so you can move beyond the traditional giraffes and lions and add some others like lemurs, flamingos or meerkats.
- Think about what you want your baby to learn. You can build a beautiful nursery around letters or numbers if you want your baby to become familiar with their shapes. Many craft stores sell plain wooden letters. Why not have guests at your baby shower decorate a letter so you have the full alphabet? You can mount the letters on the walls.
- Let a classic toy serve as your inspiration. If you grew up loving building blocks, Legos or teddy bears, let the color and shapes of your favorite toys be the basis of your décor. You could buy a big teddy bear and have that serve as the focal point, or paint a Lego mural on the wall. For a Lego theme, bright primary colors can be a way of enhancing the theme.
I hope that, having read the suggestions in this book, you have lots of ideas of how to get started decorating your baby’s nursery. The ideas here are only a jumping-off point.
The most important thing is to do when decorating your nursery is to have fun. This is an exciting time in your life, and it’s important to enjoy it. You can let your anticipation of your baby’s arrival and the things you love serve as inspiration as you start thinking about how to decorate.
Remember to look for cribs and changing tables that are safe and functional. Consumer reports has a detailed crib buying guide.
If you’re having a hard time getting started, one suggestion is to make a list of potential ideas. Think about your favorite children’s books, movies and television shows. List your favorite colors. Sometimes the simple act of writing down creative ideas can help you to narrow down your choices. Especially at the beginning, it’s important not to reign yourself in. Let your imagination lead the way – you can worry about budget and time constraints once you’ve chosen a basic direction for your nursery.
It’s important to remember to finish all painting and wallpapering as early as possible. If you are unsure of what theme you will use, it’s not a bad idea to choose a neutral color for the walls so you can get the painting finished now and give the fumes time to disappear. Some good neutral choices are white, gray, beige, and even gender-neutral colors like yellow or green. You can always use decals or artwork to build on your theme once you’ve settled on one.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can always ask friends and family for help decorating. You’ve probably got a lot of people in your life who are just as excited about your baby’s impending arrival as you are, so if you start to feel overwhelmed don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
Use your imagination, have fun, and congratulations on your new baby!