Baby Nursery Ideas: How to Design a Nursery You’ll Love
Newborns and infants need lots of special attention, which is why it’s important to design a baby nursery that you adore: a space where you and your family’s newest addition feel relaxed and calm. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time there in the early years. When it comes to nursery design, one of the most common questions we are asked by our clients is how to design a nursery that feels serene and soothing, but also one that feels personal and unique. In this article, we’ll discuss our favorite nursery design ideas, from gender neutral nursery design to more traditional baby girl and baby boy nursery ideas to help you envision a space to snuggle up to all day (and all night).
How to Design a Baby Nursery
With your bundle of joy on the way, it’s time to start envisioning what your baby nursery will look like. But, where should you start? “First, think about the general feeling you want out of your space,” says Corinne Acampora, founder of Boston-based interior design firm Acampora Interiors. “When designing a baby nursery for our clients, we tend to lean into soft, soothing palettes because most of our clients want a relaxing, serene feel in their space. A light, muted palette helps to evoke that sense of calm and peace.”
Essential Elements of Baby Nursery Design
Regardless of size or scale, there are several key elements that every baby nursery should include. While some are more utilitarian than decorative, this checklist should offer a good place to start.
1. Color Palette
Once you’ve determined the general feeling you want to achieve when you’re in the room, you can begin to develop a color palette to complement that mood. Are you looking for a calm, soothing space? If so, you’ll want to opt for soft, muted colors. Perhaps you’re looking for an energetic, stimulating experience for your newest addition? In that case, you’ll want to seek out bolder, more saturated colors. In choosing a color palette, one of our favorite tips is to look to natural elements for inspiration. “If you’ve ever looked at a seashell or a flower, for example, they’re not just one color,” Acampora says. “There are dozens of colors contained within a single object. Look closely, and draw from color combinations that occur naturally.”
2. Window Treatments
With your color palette determined, it’s time to move on to the practical elements of a baby nursery. For light-blocking qualities, blackout shades are generally recommended for any nursery that we design. From there, layer in other window treatments like roman shades to shore up any gaps that let trace lighting in around the edge of the window frame. Also consider adding a layer that filters in sunlight for a more gradual waking in the morning.
3. Sturdy Crib
To get as much mileage as possible, invest in a sturdy crib for your baby nursery that transitions into a toddler bed. Opt for a high-quality model that will withstand the transition and — perhaps — multiple children. For a crib mattress, select a soft, organic cotton option. Top off with a sweet baby mobile to lull your little one to sleep. (Mom tip: make sure everything around the crib is carefully secured and that nothing can be grabbed by your infant once he or she starts sitting up and exploring).
4. Glider and Footstool
Between late-night feedings and bedtime stories, you are likely to spend a lot of time in this critical piece, so make sure it’s one you’ll be comfortable in. For a rocking chair or glider, remember the high/low rule: Seek out a comfortable chair with a high back (so you can rest your head comfortably during feedings) coupled with a low footstool or ottoman to help you push off and rock your little one.
5. Dimmable Lighting
Consider your light sources carefully when creating your baby nursery design. You’re likely to need low lighting options to help foster a sleep-encouraging environment or middle-of-the-night diaper changes. For client spaces, consider dimmer switches with a hands-free option for new parents — there are many great models available to choose from. If your dimmer switch can’t be by the door, make sure there is a light source that is.
6. Anchored Bookcase
Between family and friends, chances are good that you’ll amass a solid collection of children’s books over the years, so be sure to select a sturdy bookcase for your baby nursery. The biggest consideration here is to ensure it’s anchored securely to the wall. Safety — above all else — should be the priority in baby nursery design.
7. Changing Table
For this baby nursery essential, we recommend approaching your selection similarly to your crib selection: invest in a quality piece that’s built to last, and let the piece transition into a functional dresser when your child is older.
8. Soft Storage Bins
One organizational tip we turn to for rooms of all size, scope, and function is using storage bins and baskets to keep clutter contained. Baskets and soft bins are wonderful choices for containing baby toys and stuffed animals, and are gentle enough for babies to rummage through independently when they’re old enough to reach for items of interest.
9. Soft Nursery Rug
From tummy time to the crawling stage, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your baby nursery rug, so be sure to choose one that’s soft enough to snuggle up to and is constructed of a durable material. For the occasion, opt for a wool rug — they’re both durable and stain-resistant. Seek out a nursery area rug with a little color variation, too, as patterns tend to hide imperfections better than solid colors.
10. Stain Protection
In the world of parenting, only one thing is certain: accidents happen. We recommend pre-treating upholstery and rugs to safeguard against spit-up, spills, and many other messy mishaps.
Additional Baby Nursery Ideas
Other baby nursery considerations you may want to take a second look at are less about design choices. These are simply mom-approved baby nursery ideas from our design team.
Baby nursery wall decor can run the gamut, from animal prints to abstract paintings to family portraits and more, but having some sort of visual stimulation for babies is generally a good idea. When framing and hanging for a baby nursery, always use plexiglass, not real glass, and be sure to affix to the wall carefully.
Babies love to look at themselves in the mirror, so including a lovely mirror in your baby nursery is a great idea for additional visual stimulation
Music Source & Sound Machine
While these two aren’t exactly design choices, they are some of our favorite mom-tips. Adding in a music box (perhaps your mobile already has a built-in device) helps keep babies soothed and entertained. A sound machine helps create just enough white noise to lull babies to a peaceful slumber. Ever wonder why you fall asleep in the car so easily?
Find a discrete corner near the changing table for this handy registry essential, but trust us, you’ll definitely want this in your baby space. There are a number of great models available from Playtex, Munchkin, Safety 1st brand, and Ubbi.
Naturally, you’ll want a way to keep eyes and ears on your little one while they sleep. Find an optimal angle that shows what’s happening in your crib, and mount the camera securely to the wall with the appropriate fasteners.
How to Make a Nursery in a Small Space
In smaller rooms — particularly those found in city spaces — designing a baby nursery is all about focusing on the essentials and letting singular pieces serve more than one purpose. These are the essential baby nursery ideas for small rooms.
1. Make Every Piece Serve Double-Duty
If you have limited space, focus on the essentials, and invest in multi-purpose pieces that can serve more than one purpose (more on small space design here).
2. Storage is Key
Consider bookshelves that attach directly to the wall and aren’t particularly deep. Pottery Barn Kids is one of our favorite sources for these. Or, look low for underutilized space. Under-the-crib storage can provide a lot of space, just be sure to use a dust ruffle to hide your storage solution and keep it looking tidy.
3. Dimmable Light & Blackout Shades
These two are must-haves for baby spaces of all size and scope.
While perhaps an unlikely choice on our list of must-haves, mirrors can bring a tremendous amount of joy as your little one starts to engage with his or her reflection. For the joy alone, we highly recommend adding this into your baby space, but mirrors can also help reflect light around a room and make the space feel less cramped (when the lights are on and your baby is awake).
Baby Nursery Themes
We are often asked by clients about choosing themes for a baby nursery. The truth is, themes can go well, or…not so well, depending on how long you want the theme to extend in your child’s room.
If you do choose a theme — animals, for example — make all other room staples or key elements remain fairly neutral. Then, bring in other accents that support the theme by way of blankets, pillows, bedding, wall decor, etc. This way, the items that are more difficult to change out, such as drapery and rugs, remain neutral, and the room doesn’t require a total overhaul once you child has aged out of the theme.
“Wall decals are a great way to do a theme in a child’s bedroom — they’re fun and easy to remove,” Acampora says. For wall decals, feel free to go big. Consider creating a statement wall to anchor the crib wall.
Girl Nursery Ideas
When it comes to baby nursery ideas, we’re seeing a definitive shift away from traditional logic that a baby girl nursery must solely consist of pink decor and a baby boy nursery must opt for blue. More and more, our clients are asking for gender neutral nursery designs for boys and girls alike. After all, why not go navy blue for a baby girl’s room?
“When thinking about girl nursery ideas, consider a gender neutral design with subtle, feminine details,” says Acampora. “We’re loving green baby nurseries at the moment. A palette of creamy white and minty green works beautifully as a base.” From there, Acampora folds in soft textures throughout the room design, like a thick, piled rug or cozy baby blanket that complements the larger palette.
While a more gender neutral approach to baby girl nursery themes is definitely on the rise, for clients who do want a more traditional feminine approach to girl nursery decor, Acampora says to look to more sophisticated colors on the spectrum. “Not so much a ‘bubblegum’ pink,” she says, “but perhaps a blush color or whisper pink. For a more saturated color, look to a mauve or peach color scheme.”
Baby Boy Nursery Ideas
Regarding color palette, theme and decor, consider a similar approach for boy nursery decor. Start with a neutral palette and weave in subtle, masculine elements as you see fit.
Some perennial favorites for boy nursery themes include forms of transportation (think planes, trains and automobiles) and nautical-inspired motifs like whales, anchors, sailboats, etc. But, as we’ve mentioned, all conventional wisdom when it comes to baby nursery design seems to be a thing of the past, so if you’re longing for a red, white and blue nautical theme or vibrant trains and planes in saturated greens for your baby girl, there is absolutely no reason not to.
If you’re not sure where to begin for either a baby boy or baby girl nursery, start with a gender neutral nursery that can transition and grow with your child. From there, work in elements that you feel most connected to and swap out as becomes age appropriate. After all, your little one is likely to lose interest in that elephant rocking horse by the time they’re running around. Building off a neutral base allows your room to remain versatile as your child grows, and gives you the flexibility to make small changes that don’t require a total overhaul of the space.