November 18, 2013

Nursery design: 10 dos and don'ts

Are you with child? Congratulations! I'm not (thanks, IUD!), but my dear old friend J is, and she asked me to do a post on nursery design. I'm happy to oblige, especially since designing a room for your darling offspring sounds like one of the best things about being knocked up.

Credit: Fawn and Forest

So here's my bossy list of nursery design dos and don'ts: 

1. Your nursery need not have a "theme."

2. Please, no faux stuffed taxidermy on the wall, like a giraffe head jutting glumly over the crib. 

3. Please do install dimmers, or at least use lamps with three-way bulbs. Blackout shades are awesome and you can make them look swell (check out these instructions for making the cloud shade below). Adding curtains gives you more options for controlling light, and heavy ones can help block street noise and peripheral light when the shade is down.

Credit: little green notebook

Credit: Artistic Designs for Living

4. Please do have a comfy chair in your baby's room, preferably an upholstered rocker or glider. Eames rocker? Cute, but so uncomfortable. 
Also, make sure you can stand up from this chair without using your hands (which will be cradling your offspring). And said chair shouldn't make noise. A creaky rocker can wake up baby just when you've lulled her to sleep.

Credit: a lovely lark

Credit: West Elm

5. Please do have an ottoman or some other perch nearby. It can match the rocker or not, but make sure it's at a comfortable height to rest your feet. This object will also come in handy for your spouse, partner, mother, best friend, etc., who will (should) alight there and offer foot rubs.

6. Please do consider storage. Diapers, bottles, wipes, tissues, burping textiles — the baby's equipage needs to be within hand's reach, and open shelves and baskets can help get the job done. The mid-century dresser or credenza has become ubiquitous in the nursery, but it really does look awesome, offer plenty of storage, and you can throw a changing pad on top and call it a day. Its life will also extend well beyond that of the nursery; maybe your kid will even haul it off to her first apartment (if you let her). 

Credit: apartment therapy

Credit: apartment therapy

7. When picking a color palette, consider subverting the hegemony and painting your boy's room purple or your girl's room dark green. Or use pink and blue together (the room below is painted Benjamin Moore Champion Cobalt): 

Credit: project nursery

Credit: project nursery

Straight-up blue is always lovely, especially with white and pale green. The dark wood (on the chest and crib) keeps this look grounded:

Credit: Tara Seawright

The room below is simple, darling and "gender neutral" (and receives bonus points because it's in Madison):

Credit: apartment therapy

If you're dead-set on pink, please avoid this: 

And this:

And aim more for balancing the pink with neutrals and other colors:

Credit: Domino

Credit: Dawn Curry

Not a nursery, but you get the idea:

Credit: Elle Decor

Or go saturated and balance it with a lot of white:

Speaking of color — since baby doesn't care what shade the curtains are, go with a color scheme that you'll be happy to see all hours of the day. A calm, restful palette can be nice for this reason:

Credit: Lonny; design by Jamie Meares, Furbish Studio

(Tip: If you're going to use a huge Arco lamp, a tall bookcase or anything else that can topple over, please make sure to secure it to a wall.)

But if bright colors and patterns make you want to get up at 4 a.m., by all means, go for it. However, if you're going to do it up, please aim more for this (Hygge and West Daydream bird wallpaper here):

Credit: J & J Design Group

And less for this:

8. Rugs and fabrics should be easily cleanable. Flor carpet tiles are pretty awesome for this reason:

Credit: Flor

This gray rug is super-practical and enlivened by the other details in the room:

In terms of fabrics, outdoor options are great because they repel baby mess and red wine like nobody's business (not like you'd be drinking in the nursery, ha ha ha), but you might not want them in your baby's room, given they've been chemically treated. Slipcovers are handy, but if you're not a slipcover person, just go with cotton or linen and keep a throw over the chair that can be tossed in the wash. 

Credit: living beautifully diy

9. Please do not paint or post your child's name on the wall. This is personal preference, obviously, but it strikes me as gauche and weird.

10. Lastly, please don't put anything in your nursery that you couldn't bear being drawn on, puked on, or smeared with something vile.

What do you think, J? What would you add?



  1. Yay! I love it. So inspiring, and nice use of alight and equipage and gauche. Did you notice how many nurseries have sheepskin rugs? Why, do you think? I love and will abide by your rules.


  2. Love the BM cobalt paint and the burping textiles!