Nursery design: 10 dos and don’ts

Are you with child? Congratulations!

I’m not, but six of my friends are, and they asked me to write a post on baby room design. I’m happy to oblige, since designing your baby’s digs sounds like one of the best things about being knocked up.

Nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust
Design by Morgan Satterfield; photo by Laure Joliet

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

1. Please, no faux taxidermy, like a giraffe (zebra/rhino) head jutting glumly over the crib:

Nursery design: 10 dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust

2. Please do install dimmers in your baby room, or at least use lamps with three-way bulbs. Bonus points for blackout shades, which don’t have to be black (check out the cloud shade below – instructions here). 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.

Nursery design 10 dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust
Little Green Notebook
Tara Seawright
Artistic Designs for Living

Please, however, completely avoid this:

Nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust

3. Do consider airflow in your baby’s room. Surely you’re already familiar with the research that shows putting a fan in the nursery dramatically reduces a baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you have or can install a ceiling fan, great; an oscillating upright fan is fine, too.

Nursery design: 10 dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust
Photo by Lisa Petrole

4. Please do have a comfy chair in your baby’s room. Eames rocker, you say? Cute, but so uncomfortable. Also make sure you can stand up from this chair without using your hands (which will be cradling your cherubic babe). And said chair shouldn’t make noise, if possible. A creaky rocker might wake up baby just when you’ve lulled her to sleep.

Nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust
A Lovely Lark

I find Saarinen’s (aptly named) Womb Chair incredibly comfortable, like when I sit in one I risk slipping into unconsciousness, but the chair’s low, pitched seat can make getting up hands-free difficult, unless you have the knees of a 12-year-old.

Colorful modern nursery, via #RoomLust
Neutral baby room, via #RoomLust

However, if you have stellar knees, you like Scandinavian modern and can afford to invest in a classic, a beautiful chair like le Womb will last well beyond the nursery. You can also grab a knock-off, like this one:

Nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust
Design by Morgan Satterfield; photo by Laure Joliet

5. Please do have an ottoman or some other perch to rest your feet. This will also come in handy for your spouse, partner, mother, best friend, etc., who should alight there and rub your feet.

6. Please do consider storage. Diapers, wipes, swaddling blankets, burping textiles — baby’s equipage needs to be close at hand. The mid-century dresser has become ubiquitous in the nursery but it really does look nice, 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 the baby years; maybe your kid will even haul it off to her apartment one day (if you let her).

Pink lacquered dresser, via #RoomLust
Design by Emily Henderson; photo by Kelsey Tucker

The amazing chinoiserie wallpaper above is de Gournay.

Modern nursery, via #RoomLust
Surf themed nursery, via #RoomLust

(The wallpaper above is Seascape by Abigail Edwards.)

Mid-century nursery, via #RoomLust
Paige Budde

7. When picking a color palette, consider subverting the hegemony and painting your boy’s room lavender or your girl’s room orange. If you’re not one to question the dominant paradigm THAT much and you want to use pink in your little girl’s room, because after all pink is a really nice color, please avoid this:

And bypass this:

10 nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust

And aim more for balancing pink with neutrals or other colors. The room below is painted Benjamin Moore Champion Cobalt and looks great with pink:

Blue and pink nursery, via #RoomLust
Design by Beth Berry, via Project Nursery

Here we have some really pretty pink blockprint bedding combined with non-pink paint/accessories:

Pink and white baby room, via #RoomLust
Rickshaw Design

This is a weensy bit much for me but I do like the pink and orange:

Pink and orange nursery, via #RoomLust
Design by Daun Curry

Neutral nurseries are also lovely. Baby’s toys/books/clothes will provide plenty of color:

Modern neutral nursery design, via #RoomLust

(Tip: If you’re going to put anything heavy in your nursery, like a huge Arco lamp, bookcase, etc. please make sure to secure it to a wall.)

8. If you’re going to use wallpaper in your baby’s room, consider giving yourself the biggest gift of your pregnancy and hiring a professional to do it, i.e., a wallpaper hanger and not a painter. If you’re on a budget you can just buy one or two rolls and paper one wall, which often looks great, anyway! Score.

Nursery wallpaper ideas, via #RoomLust
J & J Design Group

The wallpaper above is Julia Rothman’s Daydream; here it is again, below, in a different colorway:

Nursery wallpaper ideas, via #RoomLust
Ashley Goldberg

This wallpaper, below, is Shadows of the Paranormal by Geoff McFetridge:

Wallpaper one wall in the nursery, via #RoomLust
Rachel Thurston

In lieu of wallpaper, you can paint one wall and add decals, like in this nursery, below. The accent wall is painted Benjamin Moore Hudson Bay and the decals are from Land of Nod:

Nursery design ideas, via #RoomLust
SuzAnn Kletzien

9. Let’s talk rugs and fabrics, which should be easily cleanable. I love this nursery, below, and if I were the baby who lived there I’d stare at the starry ceiling every night as I lay in my crib, one finger gently stroking the grasscloth wallpaper, but the pretty Ben Ourain-style rug might not be the most practical choice. On the other hand, practical can be boring and if you love something you should just put it in your nursery, as long as it’s not endangering your baby’s life. Um, things just took a serious turn.

Neutral baby room + star wallpaper, via #RoomLust
Design by Jamie Meares

Back to carpet. Flor carpet tiles are easily cleanable and replaceable, making them great for a baby’s room. Look how nice they look here:

10 nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust
Nursery design ideas, via #RoomLust

In terms of fabrics, outdoor options are great because they’re easily washable/bleachable when splashed with baby mess or red wine (not like you drink in the nursery, haha), but you might not want outdoor fabrics 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 a sturdy upholstery and keep a throw over the chair that can be tossed in the wash.

Neutral nursery, via #RoomLust
Living Beautifully DIY

10. Lastly, if you’re going to put your baby’s name on the wall in your nursery, please go for cute and sweet and not gauche and weird. A baby needs many things; a Cinderella complex isn’t one of them. Ugh:

Nursery design dos and don'ts, via #RoomLust

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