One of the first things I Googled after discovering I was pregnant was “how to decorate a nursery.” I couldn’t wait to design a space for our soon-to-arrive tiny roommate, but I was quickly overwhelmed.
Are there different types of cribs? What exactly is a changing table? How do those Pintrest people make everything so dang perfect? Where do I start?
If you’re also easily intimidated by how and where to begin, I hope my five simple steps for decorating a nursery help you prepare for the arrival of your little one.
First: Brainstorm a Theme
I think it’s best to start with a theme because you’ll make all of your choices on furniture, bedding, pictures, and design based on this concept. I had no idea where to start, so I called my best friend and started brainstorming. She and I originally bonded over a love of travel, so I guess it’s not that surprising I chose “baby world traveler” as a theme.
If you don’t know what theme you want, just write down the things you like, think are cute, or inspire you in some way. It doesn’t have to be a “baby” idea initially—you can turn it into one later. Do you have a favorite city, color, or animal? Do you love music or camping? Any of these ideas can become a unifying motif for the nursery.
Second: Decide on a Color Palette
From there, I decided on colors. I know bright primaries are common, but I wanted a baby “sanctuary.” I was seeing a lot of cream and gray furniture in catalogs, and I thought it would be nice for a baby. Tranquil setting equals no need to cry, right?
My thinking was that white furniture, while sweet for any baby, would be quickly outgrown by a boy. This is how I settled on the gray crib and changing table. I used ivory for W’s bookcase and end table because it is next to impossible to exactly match faded grays. As for wall color, I thought sage green would complete the gender-neutral look.
Rest assured, you can get baby furniture in nearly any palette, so don’t limit yourself. Another consideration is what you can get for free. If someone hands you down all that you need, the smart bet is to plan from there.
Third: Choose Furniture
I got a nursery “set” online that included the crib and changing table/dresser. There are a variety of brands sold at major distributors, like Babies R’ Us, Target, Wal-Mart, etc. You can get nicer quality furniture at Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn, but I went a cheaper route since I figured any baby furniture, no matter how much it “converts,” is probably short-term furniture. Together, my stuff was about $600. You can go way less or way more.
I bought a convertible crib, which means the sides will one day become foot- and headboards. (There are non-convertible types too.) You’ll have to purchase the mattress separately.
The “changing table” is actually a dresser with an attachment on top that holds a soft mat where you actually change the baby. Once your child is potty-trained, you can remove that part and use it as a regular dresser. And in the meantime, it’s still a dresser. Believe me, you need one. You’ve got to stash all of those tiny clothes, blankets, and diapers somewhere.
Other recommended furniture includes a bookshelf because you’ll have to house your child’s “library.” Buy books early and read them often. Also, get a rocking chair (aka, glider)—that reclines. You will thank me when you’re there in the middle of the night with a crying/nursing baby. It’s nice to have a lamp within an arm’s reach, so a nightstand is helpful.
Note: be careful with really old hand-me-down furniture. I don’t know if your kid will do this, but mine used his crib as a chew toy when he was teething. He literally ate off the paint. Sigh. At least it (supposedly) was lead-free.
Fourth: Find Bedding
You’ll need crib sheets and blankets. I got a water (pee) proof cover for the mattress as well. You might also want a crib skirt and crib bumpers to complete the look (though some experts advise against bumpers).
If you don’t see what you like in the selection from regular outlets (like Pottery Barn, Target, wherever), there are a number of websites that make somewhat custom bedding. I say “somewhat” because they offer a limited choice of fabrics that you choose from. One I looked at was called Carousel Designs. It was pricey, but they give out free swatches, so you can be sure of the fabric before you purchase. There are others companies that offer a similar service, just Google it.
However, don’t discount friends, family members, church members, office co-workers, etc, who might know how to sew and would do it as a shower gift (or at a discounted price). My mother-in-law made the bumpers and bed skirt from what I picked out from a fabric store.
Fifth: Make It Special with Unique Décor
I spent a lot of time searching for world traveler themed “stuff” for the nursery, and I was pretty successful—especially with online retailers like Joss & Main and One Kings Lane. However, I wanted an even more personal touch, so I had some of my own photographs printed on canvas. Obviously a professional photo would have been higher quality, but I thought it would be fun to tell little W about these particular places one day. It was also pretty reasonable as there are many retailers that offer this service. It’s a good way to create custom décor, no matter what the theme. It will also connect your baby to her family history.
There you have it! That’s how I decided on decorating W’s nursery. People come at it from many angles, but it was fun to make a special space for the baby. It helped me mentally prepare for this new person we’d be living with for 18 years. It’s a process, though, so don’t worry if it doesn’t come together immediately.
Q: How did you decide to decorate the nursery? Any tips or places you found great stuff?