Nursery room – part 1
Setting Up a Nursery in a Small Home
Although Steve and I don’t have children, my experience with kids ranges from babysitting during my teenage years, to working as a live-in nanny, to being certified as a school teacher/tutor. I’ve also been an observant friend to many mothers of all ages who have graciously invited me into their lives and homes over the years. If there’s one thing I’m absolutely certain of, it’s this: when a baby is born, the organizational landscape of both the couple and the home undergoes dramatic change, especially if the family lives in a small space.
I’m also a firm believer that no matter how small the home a child is raised in, kids both need and deserve to have a room that fosters their maximum personal growth—physically, intellectually, and emotionally. It all starts with the nursery, and my observation is that parents who plan their baby’s room well in advance of the birth and work on it together as a couple or family, seem to have an easier transition with all the stuff that goes along with having a baby—from clothes, to diapers, to bottles, to strollers. Why not make it easy and fun for the whole family by being prepared?
As we get started on organizing your child’s nursery, right off the bat I’ll tell you my all-time best advice for a baby’s first space: hug and kiss your sweet little one, and also KISS their nursery! By KISS the nursery I mean “Keep It Super Simple.” And as you’re creating the room, always keep in mind that your child’s safety is paramount. (For that matter, be sure the rest of your home is safe for your children too, not just the nursery.)
KISS Nursery Example
With all the baby shower, friend, and grandma gifts your new little bundle of joy is likely to receive, is it really possible to KISS your baby’s nursery? Yes! Does that mean it has to be dull and drab? No! It’s simply a matter of making smart choices, as the following real-life stories clearly show.
Many years ago, I adventurously left the rural plains of the Midwest as a starry-eyed eighteen-year-old college girl, and I boarded a plane to exciting New York City to work as a live-in nanny for a summer. My first impression of the home in which I would be living was that the sweet toddler I took care of was indeed fortunate because her nursery was colorful, clutter-free, and soothing for a child’s spirit. (Not to mention their entire home was the most clutter-free home I think I have ever seen!)
I loved spending time in that sweet nursery with my young charge. The fresh white modern crib had a colorful mobile hanging over it, and there was a changing table with a matching chest of drawers. A small closet held just a few cute outfits and a couple pair of shoes in her current size. Big windows let in sunshine, the carpet was bright blue, and red wooden letters spelling her name charmingly hung over the changing table. Toys were well chosen but minimal and were stored in a laundry basket when not being used.
Contrast that cheerful and streamlined nursery with a nursery belonging to an acquaintance of mine who was a shopaholic. Her baby’s closet was stuffed with so many clothes, toys, and shoes that the door would barely close, and the floor was so strewn with toys it was nearly impossible to walk!
As for all those well-intentioned baby gifts I mentioned earlier? Before you set up your nursery, please realize that just because someone gives you a cute baby gift, if it’s not something you will use or if it doesn’t match your nursery décor, you’re better off exchanging it, giving it to another mom friend, or donating it to a shelter for abused children. They will be more than happy to receive the item and put it to use. Otherwise it becomes unused clutter that’s just taking up space in your small home. Of course, it’s also fine to ask for a baby shower where, in lieu of gifts, monetary donations are made to a favorite children’s charity or to your child’s college savings fund.
Your KISS Plan
As soon as you find out you’re expecting, look at magazine and internet photos of nurseries, take notes, clip pages, and make a budget and a shopping list. Sit down with your three-ring binder and your spouse and decide what room or area of the house will be the nursery and what items you need to purchase. Ideally, it’s practical to have the nursery located near your master bedroom if at all possible, with a bathroom nearby.
As you plan, tour some retail stores to get ideas before you purchase anything, and remember that every store would have you believe you just can’t live without every last piece of furniture and gadget they are marketing to you. And of course, since you want a happy life and room for your baby, it is indeed tempting. That’s why you’ll want to plan ahead and stick to your budget and the list in your notebook.
As you decide what to buy for your nursery, also remember that babies stay babies for a very short time before they turn into toddlers and then school-age children. It’s wise to KISS the nursery—instead of buying a bunch of stuff that might just turn into clutter, put some of that money into your child’s college fund.
When you sit down with your mate and your planning binder, be sure to take and record measurements of the room to make sure all the furnishings you’re planning to buy will fit properly. And like the other rooms we’ve discussed in this book, it’s a good idea to draw out a plan for furniture arrangement, even if it’s just a rough sketch. You’ll also want to decide whether the room needs any fix-ups such as repainting, caulking, or new flooring, and then budget and plan accordingly.
Some space considerations before you purchase anything:
- Decide which furnishings you need immediately and which ones can wait. The basics are a crib, a dresser that can also act as a changing table, a rocking chair or glider with perhaps a matching ottoman, a small table near the rocker to set a baby bottle on, lighting or a lamp, a toy box, a diaper pail, and a laundry basket. Bassinets are quickly outgrown as are changing tables, so only you can decide if those are must-have purchases for you personally and if they fit into your budget.
- Look for furniture pieces that have built-in storage. Some changing tables have shelves underneath as do some cribs.
- Consider a furniture manufacturer or store that has been around a long time and has a reputation for high quality furnishings (e.g., Ethan Allen). These manufacturers will likely still be in business down the road, so you’ll be able to add pieces that will still match your original purchases as your child grows.
- Evaluate your closet and storage space. Do you need to install shelving in the closet or buy a ready-made shelving unit or storage cabinet? Can you store personal care items in stackable plastic bins and keep them under the crib ? Do you need baby clothes hangers? Take an inventory of your storage needs before you shop.
- Rolling plastic stackable drawers work well for storing clothes and toys and are a cost-effective alternative to a more expensive dresser. If you already have a small dresser, it’s possible it might fit in the closet to allow space in the room for a rocker and ottoman.
- Armoires work well to store clothes, toys, and personal items. Use lidded stackable plastic bins on the shelves to maximize the space. Label the bins.
- Do you have relatives or friends who would be willing to give or sell you their used baby furnishings? It never hurts to ask; moms usually love to share. However, be sure to check online for the latest safety regulations before using older furnishings.
- Consider keeping the wall colors in your nursery gender-neutral so the room can grow with your child. Good neutral colors are off-white or cream, pale yellow, light green, and soft gray-blue.
- Choosing a gender-neutral flooring color is also effective long-term, and it’s easier to decorate around. If you choose carpet, a multicolored Berber style won’t show stains or lint much and is easy to vacuum. Hardwood or bamboo floors are also neutral and easy to clean. Avoid pink and blue carpets that become dated, and also avoid solid light-colored carpets that readily show stains.
- Decide if you want to create a theme for the room before you buy any decorative items or toys. It’s more cost-effective to keep theme items to inexpensive accessories that can be replaced as your child matures. Opting for a wallpaper border, stenciling the wall, or using removable decals are all budget-friendly ways to implement a theme. It’s also fun to paint stripes on the wall, and a themed rug is inexpensive and fun as well.
- Arrange the crib so that it’s near the doorway. That way you don’t have to tiptoe across the room when you’ve finally put your baby to sleep. Likewise, position the crib so that it’s not in direct sunlight or near a draft.
- Arrange furniture around the perimeter of the room to keep the center of the space free for walking the baby and for future crawling and playing.
- One mother put her grandfather’s rocking chair in the nursery and loved the extended family feeling of doing so. Perhaps someone in your family is ready to pass down an heirloom piece of furniture for your nursery.
- A young mother told me she purchased a crib that converted into a toddler bed as a cost-effective crib/bed option.
As you read this article and look at the resources list at the end, I’m confident you’ll come up with solutions to your nursery furnishing and storage needs as you work through the planning process. Remember to think outside the box and get creative, always keeping your baby’s safety as your first priority whether you purchase new or used items.