Designing Your Dream Nursery

Disclaimer: This isn’t a humble brag- it’s a legit, real brag.

My daughter’s nursery is amazeballs. Like, for real. It blew up on Instagram last year and has been pinned a bunch of times and is my favorite place in the world. Pay no mind to the fact that she doesn’t even sleep in there (because then she wouldn’t be able to kick me in the face all night!); this place is gorgeous. I’m smack-dab in the middle of putting together my son’s nursery, and realized I was using the same guiding principles to design a completely different space as I did for my daughter’s, so I wrote it all down for you, in case you’re struggling to conceptualize a space that isn’t one of the three themes Babies R Us is shoving down your throat. Without further ado, I present to you: 9 Simple Steps for Designing Your Dream Nursery!

No theme!

I know, I know. This goes against everything you’ve ever been told about designing a space for kids. BUT! Themes are restrictive and also? Literally everything has been done. Sure you can put a new spin on it if you have a really amazing idea, but it’s just going to be one more woodland nursery in a sea of a million woodland nurseries.

For my kids’ nurseries I tried to think of a few key words and colors I wanted to incorporate. My daughter’s began with floral, cream, blush, natural wood, and gold. Which sounds just like every other baby girl’s nursery, right? The secret is to come up with those words and then mostly forget them. Seriously!

I started with her floral name mount, bought that white wool rug everyone told me I’d regret (BTW, still love it. Sorry not sorry.), and some swanky taffeta pink and cream striped curtains on tacky brassy-gold rods that I’m obsessed with. After that? I was pretty much done with the theme. The primary building blocks were there and as long as the majority of the rest of the crap I filled the room with didn’t compete with it, the “vibe” I was going for was established, which freed me up to just get things I liked, not only the things that went with “ballerina mouse” or some other super-specific theme.

Very loose color scheme.

With the colors cream, blush, and gold in the centerpieces of the room, I was free to take a few liberties with the rest of it. Derivatives of each of those colors were a-okay, with a few outliers packed in. We picked out a bright white crib with natural wood railings and a brass-nailhead-studded rocking chair. I bought whatever art made me smile, regardless of color, added a few darker-colored sentimental pieces (like the paintings of the teddy bears that hung above my bed growing up), and over time also added a hot pink laundry playset. Without too much of one specific color, it will feel like everything fits.

Art doesn’t have to be cutesy.

I’ve talked before about how the art in your nursery can be art you enjoy, too. I have prints from some of my favorite artists (many of which incorporate the florals- like Happiness by Clare Elsaesser and the series of girls with flowers in their hair by Emily Winfield Martin), those prints from my childhood, things I’ve DIY-ed, a much-loved embroidery hoop that was a gift from Amy Kavs, and a faux taxidermy swan from my fav, Whimsy Wonderland Co. It’s a whimsical, eclectic mix and the vide is magical enough for a little girl’s room without being cutesy or infantile.

Try not to use characters or logos that will date the room.

I know, this is a hard one when you have a toddler obsessed with Frozen. But what happens when she moves on to Moana and you have to ditch those Elsa Fatheads, Olaf cardboard cutouts, and the four foot tall plush Sven ride-on toy? Try to think of a more generic vibe you can distill that favorite movie, show, or toy down into. Frozen becomes a winter wonderland (with no Disney logos in sight!), Moana becomes a beach paradise, and Hotel Transylvania (what- no one else’s kid is a tiny creep? Just me?) becomes a moody-colored, occult-dusted, richly textured den of crystals and moon phase charts. Moana may fall out of favor when the newest princess rolls into town, but the beach is forever.

Buy stuff for adults, not nurseries!

Left / Center / Right

Really! Nursery stuff sucks. It just does. Choose a rug with colors reminiscent of your design vibe, but with more grown-up patterns. It’s amazing the differences between two otherwise-identical rooms when one has a kiddy rug and one has a similarly-colored rug with an intricate, grown-up Turkish kilim pattern. The goal of pulling color schemes through is still accomplished, but without limiting how long you can use it.

DIY it when you can’t find what you want.

Even if you’re not a Pinterest Mom, there are lots of little projects you can take on to make your nursery one of a kind. When I couldn’t find a pop art heart print series with the colors I wanted, I bought a variety pack of floral cardstock and went to town. I made ice cream cone wall planters (tutorial coming next week!), name blocks, unicorn garlands, and cotton candy wall sconce nightlights (again, that she doesn’t use…because she doesn’t sleep in her room). Yes, it’s time-consuming, but the payoff is big if you want a pretty, cohesive space you like to be in as much as your kid. Plus, there’s the added bonus of your children knowing that mom made that piece just for them.

Retrofit the stuff your kids already want to fit in with the aesthetic you’ve created.

My daughter was dying for an ice cream cart toy, but the one she was gravitating toward was mass-produced, weirdly colored, and didn’t fit with the rest of her room. I got it for her anyway. But once I was able to add my own touches, it became the centerpiece of her room. I made a customized awning out of felt that included her name, covered the bottoms of the drawers with ice cream wrapping paper, spray painted the bell gold, and cut up a Target placemat for the banner on the front, and suddenly it fit right in with the rest of her room.

I did the same thing with her play kitchen and her laundry playset. She still got what she wanted, just a hacked version that made us both happy.

Turn the pieces that are easy to overlook into statement pieces.

Things that you need in a bedroom, like a clock, can become focal points if you put thought into sourcing them and don’t grab one at random off the shelf at Target. Same with light fixtures; the standard ceiling fan is great, but if you’re trying to put together an outer space oasis, a Sputnik chandelier is going to evoke the constellations way better than that flush-mount boob light. Wanna get real crazy? The Land of Nod balloon lamp is a scene-stealer!

Mint clock / Bunny clock

Display things in interesting ways.

Kids need a lot of stuff, and most of the time it needs to be easily accessible, which really means super visible. But that doesn’t have to mean cluttered or tacky, either! For example, I hate hate hate those ribbon hangers you’re supposed to organize hair bows with. Instead I bought some apothecary jars (which stay up high on her changing table, so she can’t pull them down and break them or hurt herself) and filled those. Instead of an eyesore, her bows look like sweet treats waiting to be plucked up and enjoyed each morning. Likewise, swaddles and baby blankets get piled into a wire basket where they are easily visible, but look neat, and the visual of all of them together gives a feeling of abundance. People love shit when it's grouped together. 

Any tips I missed? What does your mini person's nursery look like? Tell us in the comments!

Leave a comment