Where to Start When Preparing and Decorating a Nursery

Designing a nursery takes time, so get started early.

Bringing home your baby is an amazing moment, and the last thing you want to do is ruin that happiness by opening the door to a half-empty nursery. Designing this room takes a lot of time and forethought, so you’ll want to get started as early as possible. Otherwise, you might find yourself painting walls and assembling cribs right past your due date.

Choosing your nursery room decor seems like it should be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget essential items if you don’t go in with a plan. Here are the ins-and-outs of preparing your child’s first room, including necessary items, extras and decorating tips:

The nursery room essentials

You’re probably eager to start decorating, but it’s important to get the basics out of the way first. Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you and your baby need:

  • Crib, cradle or bassinet: You only need one of these, and since they’re all made according to federal regulations, you’ll have no problem finding a safe option that fits your budget. When it comes to your baby’s health, there’s little difference between the three options.
  • Crib mattress: Use the two-finger test to make sure you get the right size. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and crib, the mattress is too small.
  • Bedding and sheets: Make sure these are tight enough to fit snuggly around the mattress. Loose sheets – and a loose waterproof cover – can suffocate your baby.
  • Waterproof cover: Have at least two on hand so you can swap them in case one gets soiled. Again, choose one that fits the mattress tightly.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Make sure you get both. Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless.
  • Baby monitor: Choose one with at least two receivers so you can check on your baby from multiple locations. Also, keep in mind that cell phones and other wireless signals can interfere with these monitors. Keep your receipt and warranty on hand and exchange for a new model if you have any issues.
A nursery with a blue and dark brown color scheme.Make sure you have the essentials before buying the extras and nursery decor.

The above items are absolutely necessary, but there are a few other things that can make your life as a new parent easier:

  • Dresser:  If you want to reserve closet space for other storage, a dresser is a great place to keep your baby’s clothes. Plus, it also provides a flat surface for changing diapers, saving you money on a changing table. You may want to bolt this to the wall for extra security.
  • Rocker: If you plan to feed your baby in the comfort of your nursery, a rocking chair provides a soothing experience for you and your newborn.
  • Shelves, bookcases and closet organizers: Staying organized keeps your stress levels from going out of control. Have enough storage to give everything in the nursery its proper place. Again, consider bolting these to the wall.
  • Electric outlet covers: These aren’t necessary until your child starts crawling around, but they’re cheap enough that your budget shouldn’t suffer if you get them ahead of time.
  • Thick curtains: These will keep out the light while your baby naps during the day.
  • Diaper bins: Again, you won’t need this until your baby gets older – around the time he or she starts eating solid foods. Until that point, dirty diapers usually don’t produce enough odor to warrant their own bin.
  • Night light: This is great for providing visibility for late-night check-ins without waking your baby.

Decorating tips

Now that you’ve got the necessary items out of the way, it’s time for the fun part: decorating! This is your chance to create a comfortable space that’s perfect for you and your baby. There’s no single right way to decorate, but the following nursery room ideas can serve as a place to start:

Start with a theme or color palette

Having a vision in mind makes it so much easier to design a room harmoniously. Choose a motif that will grow with your baby. The more versatile the room is, the less you’ll have to spend to redecorate it in the future.

If you need help picking colors that don’t clash, use the Coolors tool. This free resource generates a seemingly unlimited number of harmonious color schemes that you can use to guide your nursery room decor choices.

Otherwise, you can choose a specific theme to guide your decorations. Some examples include:

  • Baby animals: This classic choice has been a favorite for decades. To turn this trend modern, choose decorations that make the animals look more realistic rather than cartoonized.
  • Plants: Emulate the current house plant craze by choosing plant-themed bedding and wall decals.
  • Skies: Soft clouds and twinkling stars are beautify without being ostentatious.

A couple painting walls a sunny yellow.Start with a theme or color scheme.

Add some unique touches

While copying nursery room ideas straight from a magazine will certainly make your baby’s room look nice, it’ll lack originality. Adding some personal touches will really make the space feel like home. Have a local artist create a fun family portrait, or take a page out of Ryan Dalton’s book. In a series of viral Twitter posts, Dalton showed how he and his wife gave their daughter a few canvases and tempera paints, then sat back and let her create her own artwork. The results were stunning, and little Maya seemed to have a great time exploring the paint.

You’ll have to wait a while for your newborn to be able to hold a paintbrush, of course, but this is a fun activity for when the nursery needs a little redecoration. Also, if you have an older child, you can let them make a painting specifically for their sibling’s room.

About Autumn Green

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.
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