Welcome! I’m so glad you discovered this in-depth yet easily-digestible guide. I honestly think that this is the best (free) nursery design guide you’ll find online.
Get ready for lots of practical, actionable, and fun information to help you design the perfect nursery.
In the following 14 bite-size chapters, we will cover every aspect of design, from initial inspiration to bringing everything together at the end.
Each chapter will help get you one step closer to your ideal nursery.
Check the “Table of Contents” to review all the topics we’re going to cover.
I know, it seems like a lot but don’t worry! I’ve made sure each chapter gives you the most relevant information in the quickest way possible.
Every chapter/lesson adds up to the bigger picture, so try not to miss a puzzle piece. You shouldn’t need more than a few minutes for each lesson!
By the end, you’ll have an excellent grasp of the most important design elements and how to implement them.
You’ll also gain confidence in your ability to create a cozy, beautiful, and safe nursery for you and your little one.
Ready? In the first chapter, we’ll jump right in and learn how to find, manage, and narrow down inspiration that will transform into your ideal nursery.
Table of Contents
Chapter #1: How to Find Inspiration
It’s time to dive right into the first lesson!
And this lesson is a fun one… It’s all about Inspiration!
From my experience, I’ve learned that most new parents fall into two categories: under-inspired or over-inspired. A.K.A. lost or overwhelmed.
Under-inspired parents don’t know where to start and have a hard time envisioning anything beyond a crib and the basic pinks and blues.
Over-inspired parents are attracted to too many ideas and don’t know how to narrow them down.
No matter which category you fall under, don’t worry! I’m going to teach you how to find and how to narrow down your inspiration.
How to Find Inspiration
Every parent needs to start their nursery design by gathering inspiration. Note that I said gathering inspiration not finding inspiration.
Discovering inspiration is usually more of a process than a lightning-bolt “eureka” moment.
1. Save What Speaks to You
The process begins by saving pictures, magazine clippings, and whatever else you find that “speaks to you.” Even if you don’t know what it is that attracts you to it, keep it.
It can be pictures of entire nurseries, specific products, artwork, or anything that catches your eye.
Store everything you gather in a folder, whether it’s on your phone, your computer, or in an actual folder.
DO NOT worry about your budget in this step. DO NOT go back and forth on whether or not you should save it. If you like it, save it!
Where to Find Inspiration:
- Pregnancy & Baby Magazines
- Google image searches
- Window shopping (or aisle browsing)
2. Narrow Down Your Inspiration
Now that you’ve compiled a bunch of things that you like, it’s time to determine what you’re most drawn to and narrow down the pickings.
First, flip through all of the images rather quickly and take notes if you notice similarities across the board.
For instance, maybe pale blue and yellow come up a lot. Or sleek furniture and textured pillows. Or perhaps floral prints or nautical items keep popping up.
Once you’ve done this overview, it’s time to take a closer look at each image. Sometimes you don’t like everything about it, but it caught your attention for a reason!
Try to figure out what it is. You can even cover parts of the image with your hand to help you identify what exactly it is you like and don’t like about it.
Make notes on what you notice about the following:
- Themes (i.e. nautical, bohemian, elephants)
- Metallics (i.e. gold, silver, rose gold)
- Wall treatments (i.e. wallpaper, paneling, decals)
- Furniture type (finishes and styles)
- Textiles (textures and fabric types)
- Scale (i.e. oversized rocking chair or focal art piece)
- Contrast (i.e. monochromatic, high contrast, subtle color palettes)
- Pattern (i.e. stripes, herringbone, geometric, floral)
3. Identify Your “Seed” Item
Chances are that while you were analyzing your saved items, a certain thing kept popping up more than any other.
Or perhaps there was one particular thing that you just love and can’t take your eyes off of.
It could be a certain pattern, pillow, rug, furniture piece, wall decal, or even a vintage toy.
Whatever made you think I gotta have this is what we in the industry like to call your “seed” item. It’s something that the rest of your design can stem from or grow from.
Bonus Note: Your inspiration doesn’t even have to be baby-related. I’ve had clients send me vacation photos and magazine layouts of living rooms before to serve as inspiration.
If it speaks to you, save it, analyze it, and grow your design from it!
Chapter #2: Define Your Design Style
In this chapter, I’m going to teach you how to translate your inspiration into a design style.
Why Do I Need to Know My Design Style?
Knowing your design style will make it easier for you to search for more specific design ideas and products.
For example, instead of googling “blue bedding”, you can search for “blue bohemian bedding.”
It also makes it easier to convey your ideas to an interior designer if you choose to use one.
My client design questionnaire, for instance, includes a list of styles to select from depending on your tastes. This helps set the foundation for a designers to work with.
Of course, I’m more than happy to help my clients figure out what their design style is, but it’s just easier to have an idea of it in advance. The same is true for you if you’re designing on your own.
What If I Like More Than One Style?
Then you’re not alone! In fact, it’s unlikely that all of your inspirational items fit snugly into one style “box.”
Just like your wardrobe, you’ll most likely have multiple styles on your inspiration board.
The important thing to remember is that the overall style you want to achieve doesn’t have to come down to one style.
You might like traditional furniture and bohemian decor or a mix of modern and mid-century styles.
Whatever you like is your style! You don’t have to squish yourself into a box.
However, you can (and should) use the styles that you are drawn to as a guide in your design process.
This will also help you more easily identify why something “isn’t working” or is clashing in your design.
So, it helps to know the terminology…
9 Most Common Design Styles Explained
Here are the 9 most popular design styles to help guide your design and make it easier for you to keep things balanced and cohesive.
1. Traditional: classic lines and shapes, moderate ornamentation, and focus on craftsmanship. Usually has architectural elements, like crown moldings and paneling, and lots of fabrics and upholstery.
2. Transitional: mostly traditional elements blended with simpler fabrics and patterns. Easiest to think of this as “toned-down traditional.” Ex: traditional wingbacked chair upholstered in a neutral solid.
3. Modern: clean lines, simple, refined, and high quality. Can be minimalist but doesn’t have to be. Typically acrylic, lacquer, and natural materials.
4. Mid-Century: clean lines, warm wood tones, and retro colors like orange and avocado green. Reminiscent of 1950s and 1960s style, popularized further by the tv series Mad Men.
5. Scandinavian: minimalistic, clean lines, and some organic curves and shapes. Typically uses light and unfinished woods with subdued and soft neutrals.
6. Contemporary: has a modern feel but relies more on current trends than clean lines. This style is always changing and is defined by whatever is popular at the moment.
7. Coastal: blue hues, light woods, and casual feel. Often integrates beachy items like shells and anchors. A popular style in coastal areas but can be used anywhere!
8. Bohemian: very colorful with lots of texture and layering. Has an eclectic, “world-traveler” feel with pieces that have a lot of character.
9. Farmhouse Rustic: mix of rustic decor, natural materials and weathered finished. Popularized by Joanna Gaines, often uses shiplap, recycled wood, and warm colors.
Do you have a better understanding of what your design style is now? If not, take a look at your inspirational items and compare them to the design style descriptions above.
Make a hashmark by the design style each item falls under, and then count up the hashmarks when you’re done. That should help you narrow it down!
Chapter #3: Design a SAFE Nursery
Now that you have your inspiration and an idea of your design style, it’s time to move on to the most important aspect of nursery design: SAFETY!
No matter how much we like a design element, it has to pass the safety check to make it into the final design.
We’re going to review the most critical safety concerns when it comes to design.
- Finish painting and wallpapering in time to allow the fumes in the room to completely air out. Depending on the paint or glue you use, this can be a few days to several weeks.
- Place furniture away from windows to ensure your child can’t climb up and fall out. A window screen will not work as a barrier to keep your child safely inside.
- Anchor all heavy furniture to the wall so it won’t fall over if bumped or climbed on.
- Use cordless window coverings whenever possible or tightly secure cords well out of reach since they pose a strangulation hazard.
- Secure rugs to the floor with double-sided tape to ensure they don’t slip underfoot or trip you when you have your baby in your arms.
- Look for lid-less toy storage bins or make sure they have safe hinges that won’t slam down on or pinch your baby’s fingers. Make sure it has gaps or air holes, too, in case your baby gets trapped inside.
- Ensure curtains are properly hung to ensure the baby can’t pull the rod down. Also, make sure no curtain fabric pools on the floor, which is a suffocation hazard.
- Do not place any pillows, blankets, bumpers, or toys in the crib since they pose a suffocation hazard. Your crib should only have a tightly fitted sheet.
- Do not place crib within reach of curtains or drapes as it is a suffocation hazard.
- Make sure the crib mattress is the correct size for your crib. There should not be any gaps wider than two fingers between the mattress and the sides of the crib.
- If you hang a mobile, make sure it’s securely attached and well out of reach of your baby’s grasp.
- After initial setup, periodically check all the bolts and screws to ensure they are still tight.
Changing Table Safety
- Make sure your changing table is sturdy and anchor it to the wall.
- Use a changing pad with raised sides to help prevent the baby from rolling. Secure the changing pad to the changing table with the provided straps or strong double-sided tape.
- Keep all diaper supplies within reach of the changing pad. You never want to step away or turn your back on your baby while they’re on the changing table.
- Keep diaper supplies out of reach from baby from both the changing pad, the ground, and nearby furniture they can climb on to get to it. Some baby oils, lotions, etc. are toxic if ingested.
As a new parent, danger can seem like it’s lurking everywhere. The above precautions will help keep your baby safe and your nerves at bay.
I’ll explain how to make a reasonable budget that you can maximize through smart design choices!
Chapter #4: How to Budget (& Make Your Dollars Stretch)
In this chapter, we’ll talk about security… financial security, that is. And nothing supports financial security more than a well-thought-out budget.
I know, I know. Budgeting is NOT a fun topic. However, I like looking at budgeting as guilt-free spending.
Budgeting = Guilt-Free Spending
Guilt-free spending?! That sounds much better than budgeting, but what do I mean by that?
Well, when you don’t have a budget, your strategy is most likely “spend as little as possible on each item.” And that sucks all of the fun out of design.
You end up making all of your design choices based on price tags and not what you really want.
But, when you determine how much money you have for your nursery design and how to allocate it, then you’re free to spend as planned.
Basically, budgeting helps you figure out how to prioritize your money. Splurging and saving where it matters most to you… guilt-free!
How to Create Your Design Budget
No matter how big or small your budget is, there are tricks and tips to help you create the safe and beautiful space you want for your baby…
1. Create Your Already-Have List
You should begin your budgeting process with what you already have. Note down all of the furniture and decor items you already own and want to use in your final design.
This may include everything from a rocking chair that was passed down to you to a teddy bear to a piece of wall art. Whatever it is that you have and want to use, write it down!
2. Create Your Must-Have List
The must-have list is a practical list. It’s things you need in your nursery, such as a crib, changing table, hamper, chair, etc.
This can include things you personally feel you need, too, like a bookshelf, rocking chair, side table, clock, etc.
Whatever it is that you must have to make your nursery functional and comfortable, put it on this list.
3. Create Your Ideal Wishlist
Don’t hold back on this list! Even if you think there’s no way your budget will allow for it, add whatever you want to this wishlist.
Just be sure to go into this process, knowing that you might have to make concessions to meet your budget. (But, don’t worry, I have advice for that, too, down below.)
When you compare your ideal wish list with your must-have list, you’ll see what you really want to work into your budget. Then, you can exclude or price-down other items on your lists.
While it’s quite possible your budget won’t allow for it all, you’d be surprised at how a well-designed nursery can create the same kind of atmosphere without every dream item.
This is where our nursery design service at MagnifiNest shine, but it’s also something you can achieve on your own if you have the time to really dig in.
4. Decide on a Budget You’re Comfortable With
The truth is, your budget doesn’t depend on what you want or even what you need. The truth is your budget depends on what you’re comfortable investing in your nursery.
Or, frankly, how much you can invest without building up unwanted credit card debt.
The reason I had you make your lists first is to help serve as a realistic guide for setting a comfortable amount.
You can’t just say “I only feel comfortable spending $100 but I need and want a crib, rocking chair, changing table, this adorable custom teddy bear…” That’s just not a realistic budget.
So, take a look at your bank account, talk with your significant other, look at your lists, and decide on which amount you’re comfortable with spending to achieve a nursery you’re happy with.
How to Maximize Your Design Budget
If that budget number looks a lot lower than the price of your wants and needs lists, do not despair! There are a few things you can do to relieve the stress on your wallet…
1. Consider What Items to Save On or Get Second-Hand
Consult your lists and consider which items you’re willing to save on or get second-hand.
For instance, you may be willing to save on a similar item to what you want that is more affordable. Or, you may be open to buying a gently-used item that you want or need.
By doing so, you create more room for items that you don’t want to compromise on. Perhaps you want a rocking chair that you’ll rock your babies AND your grandbabies to sleep in.
If that’s what you really want, then you could compromise on a less important item.
2. Don’t Forget About Your Baby Registry!
Don’t forget about family and friends! Family and friends want to shower you and your baby with love and gifts. So, let them!
Chances are, you’re already planning on creating a baby registry. You can add every item from your design (big and small) to your registry.
I actually have quite a few clients at MagnifiNest whose family and friends bought them one of our design service packages. So, if that’s something you’re interested in, you can always add it to your baby registry.
In many cases, at least a couple of items from every price bracket is gifted. So, don’t forget to factor in the likely gifts you’ll receive into your budget.
3. Buy Items in Stages
Don’t feel like you have to buy everything at once. If parenting teaches you anything, it’s patience!
You can always start by buying your must-haves and then progressively purchase the remaining needs and wants.
That’s one of the biggest reasons we give our clients a shopping list rather than purchase the items indirectly for them.
It gives them the freedom and flexibility to purchase when they’re able to or when it’s most convenient.
Plus, there are always birthdays, Christmases, and other occasions when friends and family can continue contributing.
Chapter #5: Find the Perfect Layout
In the last chapter, we learned how to maximize your budget. In this lesson, we will learn how to optimize your nursery with the perfect layout.
Creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing floor plan is a critical step in the design plan.
Without it, you’re going to end up repeatedly moving furniture and exchanging items that just don’t work well in the space.
With a good floor plan, however, you’ll have a clear idea of what to shop for and how to make the most of your space.
How to Figure Out the Perfect Layout for Your Nursery
First, I will explain how to draw and measure out your space. Then, I will explain some helpful information and good rules of thumb to remember as you start adding items to your floor plan.
Draw Your Space to Scale
There are some great floor planning and design tools available online. At MagnifiNest, we use this amazing software that even enables us to create 3D renderings.
As a professional design business, it makes sense to have those kinds of tools.
But, for you, it might not be worth the cost or the time trying to figure out how to use those tools. And that’s okay! All you really need is some graph paper, a ruler, and some scissors.
Be sure to draw “to scale”. For instance, 1 square in the graph paper equals 1 foot or perhaps 6” if you have enough room.
You’ll want to measure and draw the following on your graph paper (or on your digital medium, if you’re using one):
How to Draw the Floor Plan
- When measuring the room, measure on the floor from baseboard to baseboard, not wall to wall. Holding the measuring tape in the air is less accurate. Plus, you need to factor in the thickness of the baseboards.
- Draw the perimeter of the room, marking doors and windows with a thick line. Note which way any doors swing, too.
- Put an “X” wherever an electrical outlet is located.
How to Draw the Wall Plans
- When measuring walls, measure from floor to ceiling but also notate the height of baseboards and crown molding, if any.
- When measuring windows and doors, measure from the casing, not just the door or window itself.
- Draw each wall on a different sheet of graph paper and outline any windows or doors.
- Put an “X” wherever an electrical outlet or light switch is located.
How to Use the Drawings
Now that your floorplan and wall plans are drawn, you can start playing with different furniture placements. You can do this 1 of 2 ways…
One, you can make photocopies of your plans and then draw in various placements of furniture and decor.
Or two, you can cut out little shapes to represent different furniture and decor that you can move around. Either method you choose, make the furniture and decor to scale!
But before you start playing around with placement, there are some helpful things you should know to get you going in the right direction…
Layout Tips and Rules of Thumb
- Start with the largest and most important pieces of furniture (i.e. crib, rocker/glider, changing table/dresser)
- Use exact product measurements whenever possible, or google “standard size of …” in order to plan “to scale”.
- The crib should not be placed underneath a window or mirror since direct sunlight can disrupt sleep and breaking glass poses a safety hazard. Plus, a large crib in front of a window makes it difficult to escape through the window in case of fire, etc.
- Do not place any other furniture too close to the crib; the baby may eventually use it as a stepping stool to climb out.
- Try to place the crib where it can be seen from the entry door. This makes it easier for you to check in on your baby. Plus, the crib as a focal point when you first walk in tends to work very well design-wise.
- Try the glider or rocking chair in a corner first, noting that these take up quite a bit of space once you factor in the clearance they need to rock. Leave space for a small side table next to it.
- If your space does not accommodate a rocker or glider, don’t worry! You can opt for a comfy chair or put a rocker in a nearby room.
- Ideally, place the dresser &/or changing table on a wall in front of an electrical outlet. Keeping cords behind the dresser is good for both aesthetic and safety reasons.
- Leave space on the side of the dresser/changing table for a diaper pail &/or trash can
- Plan to store all diaper items within reach of dresser/changing table so you never step away from your baby while changing them.
- Counterintuitively, a large rug makes a space feel larger, not smaller. Plan for your rug to cover the center of the room and go underneath each/some major piece of furniture.
- Keep in mind the thickness of an area rug; swinging doors may get caught on thick rugs.
- Factor in the width of window treatments, too, since they usually extend past the window frame 3-6 inches on both sides. (It is recommended to go with a total panels width of at least 1.5x the window width)
- Refer to the previous lesson about safety to ensure your design is SAFE for the baby!
Chapter #6: Choose the Best Colors & Theme
Everything we’ve learned up to this point, from inspiration and design styles to budgeting and floorplans, will start coming together in this lesson.
We’re going to start making design decisions! Starting with colors and theme…
Choosing Colors for your Nursery
The best place to start choosing your nursery colors is with your inspiration folder and your seed item (if you have one) from Chapter #1.
After analyzing the inspirational images you gathered in that lesson, you may already know what colors you want.
Chances are, at least one color continuously popped up in your various images.
If you remember, your “seed item” is a central inspiration piece from which you want the rest of your design to grow (whether it’s a piece of artwork, a teddy bear, a piece of fabric, or even a vacation photo you took last year.)
Take a closer look at your seed item and see if there are multiple colors to pull from it or a main color to work from.
This is a good place to start, but you’re not done yet. You can’t stop with a single color choice or even two. You need to create an entire color palette.
How to Choose a Complete Color Palette
Here is a general breakdown of what your color palette should include:
- 2 neutrals (i.e. white, ivory, gray, wood tones)
- 1 main metallic (i.e. gold, silver, copper, rose gold)
- 2 or 3 colors
Now, some tips for choosing colors:
- Paint stores usually have a bunch of pre-designed paint palettes. You can choose one color and then look at their palettes to see what colors complement it well.
- Mixing neutrals and mixing metallics is perfectly acceptable! Using white and taupe, for instance, and having gold accents but silver door knobs is just fine.
- Be sure to look at paint samples in the actual room during daylight and with artificial lighting. Consider ordering peel & stick samples from samplize.com (no mess!)
- Remember, color isn’t just for walls! You can incorporate colors from your color palette anywhere in the room, whether it’s colored furniture, fabrics, or even toys.
And finally, some tips on balancing colors:
- Use whatever color you choose for the walls in at least two other spots in the room.
- Whenever you have a pop of color on one side of the room, add it somewhere on the opposite side of the room.
- When repeating a color, try using different shapes or textures. For instance, use a textured pink pillow on your rocking chair, a round piece of artwork with pink accents, and a pink crib sheet.
- Remember that neutrals and metallics are part of your color palette, too. So balance them in the same way.
How to Choose a Theme
The first thing you need to know about choosing a theme is that you don’t have to choose a theme at all! Nor does it have to be very specific.
You don’t have to pick something like “jungle” or “under the sea” unless that’s exactly what you want. If it is, that’s great!
But you can also go with a more abstract theme that’s based on a concept or a feeling. For instance, your theme could be vintage or cozy.
Instead of relying on thematic items like monkeys or mermaids, you’d rely on colors and patterns that evoke a vintage or cozy feeling.
What Do YOU Like?
Consider what you like more than what you think the baby will like. In truth, the baby will not remember what their nursery looked like and will develop their own preferences with time.
So, focus more on what you think you will enjoy with your baby as you spend countless hours rocking them to sleep and changing diapers.
In that same thought, however, it’s a good idea to add thematic elements in a way that you can easily change as your child grows.
Avoid thematic furniture or larger or expensive items that will be difficult to switch out as your child develops their own personality.
It’s much easier to switch out thematic artwork and pillows than a wall mural or furniture.
That said, if you have your heart set on a big beautiful wall mural, go for it! Sure, it may not be as practical as a painted wall, but design isn’t always practical!
Sometimes you just need to do what you want and let your future self worry about changing it later.
Chapter #7: Wallpaper & Paint
Now that your nursery’s color palette is ready to go, I bet you’re itching to throw some of that color on the walls! But there are some things you need to know first.
You can decide on paint colors at almost any point in the design if you’re going to simply paint your walls.
Some people prefer to select other design elements and then balance them with the wall color. Others prefer to select wall color and then go from there.
However, you need to decide early on when it comes to wallpaper or bolder paint designs.
The colors and patterns will make a real statement, so you’ll want to choose artwork and decor that coordinates with it after the fact.
What You Need to Know About Wallpaper
Wallpaper is a lot of fun and can really elevate a design, but it can be tricky and expensive to use. That’s why it helps to know the following before you make any decisions…
- It can be difficult to adhere the wallpaper to textured walls. If your nursery has medium or heavy textures, wallpaper may not be the best option unless you consult a professional installer.
- Humidity also presents a big problem for wallpaper. If you live near the ocean or in a humid area, adhering wallpaper (& keeping it adhered) will be more difficult. It’s best to consult a professional installer in this situation.
- All wallpaper is not created equal. Be mindful of different sizes, application methods, and quality (especially the quality of adhesive).
What You Need to Know About Paint
Painting can be a daunting task, whether or not you’re painting a wall mural, design, or simply the walls. Here are some things you need to know to make the task easier…
- Beware of “empty room syndrome.” When you finish painting a room, it may seem like the color or design is “too much.” Most likely, it only seems that way because you haven’t yet added in all of the furniture and other design elements that will balance it out.
- It’s always a good idea to freshen up the baseboards, casings, and other moldings when painting your walls. You can even paint them a contrasting or complementary color as part of the design scheme.
- Stay away from flat paint. It’s difficult to clean and you’ll need to repaint much sooner than if you use eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss. Semigloss is the easiest to clean but it does have a somewhat reflective sheen that some people don’t like. Personally, I prefer eggshell.
- Always use low or zero VOC paint. Volatile Organic Compounds are toxic chemicals that are released into the air. Almost all major paint brands have low VOC formulas, so they’re easy to find. Regardless, ensure you air out your nursery after painting it well before the baby arrives.
- If you want to skip the mess of testing, you can try peel & stick paint samples such as Samplize.com
- Keep any leftover paint as you’ll surely need to do touch-ups later on. I recommend putting some in a small, handheld container that you can easily grab and touch up instead of pulling out a big paint can every time.
Chapter #8: Select Nursery Furniture That’s Beautiful & Functional
As we learned in the last lesson about theme and colors, selecting furniture pieces that aren’t overly thematic but can rather grow with your child is generally a good idea.
And as we learned in our budgeting lesson, furniture is the area you want to focus on quality the most, allocating more of your budget to it, if possible.
As my parents always say, “It’s cheaper to buy right than to buy cheap” and that’s especially true for furniture that can last for years.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on brand new high-quality furniture.
A gently used high-quality piece will work just as well as a new piece (that’s what makes it high quality!).
Sometimes, it just needs a facelift to revive it to its former glory or to repurpose it to your design tastes.
How to Select a Crib
As the focal point of the nursery, I suggest you start with the crib for your furniture planning.
The crib is not only necessary to keep your baby safe, but it’s also critical to your design since it’s the room’s centerpiece.
First and foremost, a good-quality crib will keep your baby safe. That’s priority number one!
If you’re reviving an old crib, be sure you check current safety recommendations for rail height, bar spacing, and more.
Now, when it comes to design, try to think more long-term. Nowadays, many cribs convert into toddler beds and even headboards for a twin bed.
If you’re looking for the best investment, I suggest you go that route with a neutral design.
Another long-term factor to consider is if you plan to have any other children. You’ll likely want to use the same crib for all those to follow, which also means buying a more neutral design.
Another important thing to consider is height… not only the crib’s height but your height!
If you’re shorter than average, then an average-height crib might make it difficult to reach down and pick up your baby. You may want to look for shorter cribs.
Pro Tip: If it’s in your budget, consider opting for white glove delivery (meaning it will be delivered and assembled in your home).
If not, be sure to assemble the crib inside the nursery since it likely won’t fit through the door once assembled.
How to Select a Changing Table (Dresser)
As an advocate for long-lasting furniture, I recommend using a dresser as a changing table.
That way, all you need to do is remove the changing pad, and voilà! You have a dresser for any age.
The standard height for a changing table is around 34 inches, so you’ll want to pay attention to dresser heights when shopping.
Consider your height, too, as you’ll need to be able to comfortably change your baby (a lot!).
Keep in mind standard contoured changing pads are about 32 inches long and 16 inches wide. It’s nice to have extra tabletop space for an organizer, lamp, or to set things down while changing.
Make sure all drawers open and close easily with one hand, as you’ll always need to keep one hand on your baby.
If you don’t have room or don’t want a dresser, no worries! You can use a standard changing station, which tends to be smaller.
You just won’t have the long-term versatility; although, it might make a great gardening table once your baby’s done with it!
How to Select a Glider or Rocking Chair
Though considered a must-have by most (including me), a glider or rocking chair is one of the most difficult furniture pieces to place. Their motion requires a lot of space, and they typically work best in a corner.
Gliders are more popular these days because they tend to be easier to get in and out of. Plus, they usually don’t have to be kept quite as far away from walls as rocking chairs.
Not to mention many now have tech features, like electric recliners and phone charging ports.
Gliders often look like cushy chairs, too, or have nice padding all around. This comfort is a plus, though you must ensure the fabric is easy to clean!
Rocking chairs are a classic, of course. You can always add tie-on padding, which is easier to toss in a washing machine than most glider options.
Whichever you choose, I also recommend placing a small, sturdy side table next to it.
You’ll need somewhere to set a bottle, your phone, and perhaps a small lamp. Look for a round table or rounded edges and one with 3 to 4 legs to keep the baby safe!
Chapter #9: Add Smart Nursery Storage Solutions
In this lesson, we’re going to talk all about storage!
Smart storage solutions (and plenty of them) are a must for nursery design. Even though babies are small, they acquire a lot of stuff! Some of the stuff is necessary, other stuff is fun, but all stuff needs a place to live.
I’m going to give you tips on how best to store the main baby items: clothing, diapering supplies, and toys/books.
Tips for Clothing Storage
You’ll go through more clothing and sizes than you thought possible in the first year. Babies grow fast, and you need to be able to quickly adjust your clothing storage accordingly.
- Hang clothes on baby hangers, organized by size.
- Keep the size they’re in now, plus the next size hanging and in drawers. Then organize the bigger sizes into small storage bins to tuck into the closet and take out as your baby grows into the next size down.
- Keep a small storage box or donation bag tucked in the closet to place clothes in as the baby outgrows them.
- Keep basics like onesies, pajamas, and socks in the dresser or changing table since that’s likely where you’ll be dressing the baby the most.
- Use drawer dividers to keep smaller items separated and organized.
- Keep a delicates laundry bag by the hamper to put dirty socks and hand mittens in to easily toss into the washer. This will help you keep track of all those tiny socks and mittens!
Tips for Diapering Supplies Storage
A changing station needs space for diapers, lotions, wipes, and ointments. You’ll need these within arm’s reach whenever you change your baby.
- Ensure all items are close enough that you can always keep one hand on your baby when diapering.
- Though you can store most items in the top dresser drawers, it’s convenient to have the most-used items on top in a basket or organizer. You can keep the bulk diapers in a drawer or closet, but always have a few diapers on top.
- Though a basket or organizer works well, some people like to use a caddy they can easily take into other rooms.
- Have a specific place for all diaper accessories (i.e. lotions, ointments) so you always know where to find them and they’re easy to get to without stumbling around in the middle of the night. Top drawers or inside the caddy are great options.
Tips for Toy & Book Storage
Since they come in all shapes and sizes, toys are some of the most difficult things to store.
Not to mention they need to be easily accessible and easy to switch out as the baby quickly graduates to other toys.
- Plan to have multiple places to store toys, such as small toys in a drawer, medium toys in some bins, and large toys in the closet or displayed.
- If you use a toy box, ensure it has safety hinges and suffocation protection. Opt for a smaller toy bin; otherwise, it can easily turn into a bottomless pit of unused toys.
- Wall shelves work well for books when you have limited floor space. Just be sure to mount them securely in places where the baby does not lay or play under.
- While you can keep most books organized neatly on a bookshelf, it’s convenient to have a “book box” on the floor where you can toss in the books they enjoyed that day. Then switch out those books with those on the shelf periodically.
Chapter #10: How to Pick Nursery Lighting
In the last chapter, we learned how to store things, sometimes in dark, gloomy places. In this lesson, we’re going to learn how to properly brighten a room with perfect nursery lighting.
Lighting is a very important element of design, but it also affects sleep habits. The wrong lighting can make it difficult for a baby to fall asleep (and for you to find your way out of the nursery).
Here are some tips on selecting lighting for your nursery…
Avoid Harsh Lighting
Soft lighting makes a room feel cozy, but that’s not the only reason to use it.
Soft lighting reduces the contrast between light and dark, which helps prevent over-stimulation and lets your baby’s undeveloped eyes rest.
Avoid halogens and exposed bulbs in your nursery. These harsh lights can make your baby anxious and can pose a safety hazard as they grow.
Opt for “soft-white” or “daylight” bulbs and fixtures with shades or diffused light.
Install a Dimmer
A dimmer switch can help your baby wind down at bedtime. Plus, it can help you perform late-night feedings and diaper changes without bright lights waking your baby up completely.
Don’t Rely Solely on Overhead Lighting
Whether or not you have a dimmer switch, you don’t want to rely solely on ceiling lighting to brighten the room. In most cases, you’ll also want a changing table light and a reading (or nursing) lamp by the glider.
Use Floor Lamps (Safely)
Floor lamps are an excellent way to add light to a nursery as long as you take extra safety precautions.
Since floor lamps are not known for being very stable, they can easily come crashing down as your baby starts trying to stand or walk. Not to mention once they become a toddler!
However, don’t be deterred from floor lamps! You can easily and safely keep them from tipping over by:
- placing them behind furniture
- securing them to a wall with any version of hook, string or clamp
- securing them to the floor with Museum Wax (a.k.a. Earthquake Wax)
Make a Statement
So far I’ve given you practical and safe lighting advice, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring!
You can replace a standard ceiling fixture with a dramatic pendant or even a chandelier to make a statement.
Plus, you can use the table lamps as thematic elements of your design. They’re easy to switch out as the nursery evolves into your child’s room.
A Note on Natural Light
Designers always love to maximize natural light, but when it comes to nurseries, you really need to be able to control it. No baby wants to take a nap with bright light pouring in through the window.
We’re going to have an entire lesson on window treatments soon, but I want you to keep them in mind now since it affects your overall light design plan.
Chapter #11: Choose a Rug That Maximizes Your Space (& Design)
We’ve talked quite a bit about ceilings and walls in the past few lessons. Now, it’s time to talk about floors! Well, rugs, more specifically.
Whether your nursery has carpet or wood floors, an area rug will help protect it from inevitable spills and scuffs. Plus, it creates a soft, cozy space for your baby to play.
So, rugs serve a great function, but they also serve a great design purpose! A rug can really add character to a room and help tie everything together.
But choosing the perfect rug can be very daunting and downright difficult. That’s why I’m going to break down what to look for in a great nursery rug.
Bigger is Better
Too many people make the mistake of placing a smaller area rug in the middle of the room. That actually makes a room look smaller and chopped up.
It’s better to use a large rug that covers more floor area. In fact, I recommend choosing a rug size that extends underneath some of the main furniture pieces. This helps tie everything together.
Just make sure any swinging doors can freely swing over the now-thicker floor.
Secure It In Place
Nothing is more annoying (and potentially dangerous) than a rug that slips around, wrinkles, or has corners that flip over. You don’t want to trip while carrying your baby!
This is another reason I recommend ordering a rug large enough to go under some big furniture… it helps keep it secure! If you need to keep it in place even more, then I recommend the following.
If you’re putting the rug over carpet, I recommend purchasing rug tape along with your rug to go around the perimeter.
If you’re putting it over hardwood floors, it’s a good idea to add a rug pad to make sure it doesn’t slide around.
Rugs come in an overwhelming range of materials. You can narrow it down by softness and durability.
Here are the best rug material options with their pros and cons:
- Cotton: soft and doesn’t contain synthetic fibers, but can be hard to clean.
- Polyester: inexpensive and easy to clean but does contain synthetic fibers that may or may not be soft.
- Bamboo: super soft and easy to care for, but can be pricey.
- Wool: can be soft and durable. However, quality varies drastically by brand, so read the reviews! Not ideal for families with allergies.
Your rug design can work either as a statement piece or as an anchor to your design.
If you have bold design elements elsewhere (i.e. big wall mural), you may want to opt for a solid-colored or simple design to balance the room out.
Or, you can look at your rug as a piece of art for your floor. The pattern can help elevate your design and even serve as a “seed item” that the rest of the design pulls from.
Chapter #12: Crib Bedding (& Safety)
Now that we have the nursery rug figured out, it’s time to move on to crib bedding.
There are a lot of safety concerns when it comes to bedding, so we’re going to talk about that today. But I’m also going to give you some helpful tips for selecting bedding.
A Note on Safety
Just because you see something in a nursery photo doesn’t mean it’s safe!
Some images will show hanging blankets on a crib or placing pillows inside. Those designs may be okay for some older children, but they’re not safe for newborns!
Most experts recommend that you never put anything in the crib (even blankets) when the baby is a newborn. The only exception is a fitted crib sheet.
So, you should always do your research when it comes to crib bedding and the age and development level of your baby.
Crib Bedding Tips
Now that we’ve covered the very important safety disclaimer, let me give you some tips on selecting crib bedding.
Pay Attention to Material
A baby’s skin is especially sensitive, so carefully consider the fabric of any bedding you buy.
Breathable cotton bedding is a great go-to for babies because it’s soft, durable, and easy to clean. Always check the fiber content (including cotton blends!).
Make sure there’s nothing that your baby might be allergic to (like wool) or cause them disomfort because it’s a non-breathable (synthetic) material.
Fitted Crib Sheet
The fitted crib sheet is the only piece of crib bedding that you really need.
I recommend buying at least three fitted crib sheets since you’ll need to change them often. You can even get different colors or patterns to change up the look.
I highly recommend getting a waterproof mattress protector because diaper leaks will happen! That, and spills and spit up and… you get the picture.
Some crib design have hardware that gets in the way of a skirt hanging down properly. This is especially true of modern style cribs.
You’ll need to check your crib or ask the manufacturer if you’re unsure whether or not you can use a skirt.
If you can use a skirt (and want one), be sure to measure from the bottom of the mattress in its highest position to the floor to determine the length of skirt you need.
There’s a lot of controversy over bumpers’ safety, and a few states even ban their use. I always recommend skipping the bumper or using safe alternatives that allow more airflow.
You can look for these mesh fabric or braided options by searching online for “breathable crib bumpers.”
Chapter #13: Guide to Nursery Curtains
In the previous chapter, we talked about crib bedding. Now, we’re going to talk about making the most of that comfy crib by controlling natural light.
That’s right, this lesson is all about window treatments!
Importance of Window Treatments
Window treatments are a key element of any design, but they also serve a very important function in a nursery.
They control light and heat– two main things that can affect your baby’s sleep habits.
As we all know, getting good sleep is essential for your baby’s healthy growth and development (& it’s essential for your own sanity!).
Since babies nap multiple times a day, window treatments are essential, too.
Before you decide which kind of window treatments you want, you’ll want to consider what kind of sleep training you want to implement.
Do you want to have your baby sleep in a completely dark room? Train them to sleep with some daylight? Or have both options?
I always recommend black-out curtains to give you the most control over natural light as possible.
The Ultimate Guide to Window Treatments
There’s actually a lot to cover when it comes to window treatments. So much so that I’ve written a complete guide on how to choose, measure for, and install window treatments.
Plus, it includes important safety information that you’ll need to consider before ordering any curtains. Download the guide here.
Chapter #14: Finishing Touches!
We’ve covered everything from rugs to curtains, furniture to storage, paint to wallpaper, and more! Now it’s time to bring it all together with impactful finishing touches.
In this lesson, I will give you some styling tips and a list of decor items that help give the room character and tie it all together.
Design is in the Details
Like jewelry in an outfit or candles on a cake, the best interior designs come down to details.
These decor items aren’t the focal point, but without them, the room will feel like something is missing.
They can help add texture, color, warmth, vitality, humor, intrigue, and a sense of home.
The fun part is you get to play with them! You get to try them here and there and, maybe just a little to the left… a little bit more.
Bringing it all together is the best part of a designer’s job. At MagnifiNest, we LOVE putting it all together digitally, and our clients get to bring it to LIFE in their nursery. It’s fun for everyone!
Decor Items That Make a BIG Difference
The following list is the most popular decor items to add personality and character to a room.
So, it’s no surprise that we sell and customize most of them at our sister store, Teepee Joy. You can also easily find them online or in big stores, boutiques, craft fairs… or already in your home!
Remember that sense of home I mentioned earlier? Sentimental items are a big part of that.
These well-loved items that are tied to you, your family, your history… you can feel their meaning in a design.
A nursery doesn’t feel like a nursery without at least one stuffed animal. It doesn’t matter if it’s small and cute or big and squishy.
They set off an emotional response in anyone who walks in the room. Plus, they’re a great way to add color and texture to a nursery.
This may not have crossed your mind before but greenery and flowers can make a nursery feel fresh and vibrant.
Fresh cut flowers, an evergreen houseplant or even faux options can help a design feel lively.
Just be sure to do your research! You don’t want to pick plants that are toxic to pets or children or have strong allergens.
Teepees are what started it all for me… they’re the reason I became a nursery designer.
I love the sense of adventure they inspire juxtaposed with the cozy atmosphere they welcome you into.
A quality teepee can just as easily balance the room as be a focal point; their versatility shouldn’t be underestimated!
Wall art is great for adding whimsy or interest to a room. It can also help express your room’s theme, whether graphic or abstract, bold or subdued, big or small.
Sets of wall art are quite popular these days, making it much easier for parents. You can even personalize it with your child’s name at some shops.
Pillows bring the same cozy feel that stuffed animals do, along with adding color, texture, and/or pattern to your design. It’s also quite easy to personalize them these days.
While it’s not safe to put them in the crib, they work great on the glider, on the floor against the bookshelf, or in a teepee (naturally).
Many parents forget about banners when they design their nurseries, but they’re a great way to add fun (and fill in blank space). They’re also great for tying things together… sometimes literally.
Last but not least on this list is a throw blanket. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a design reveal on tv that didn’t include a throw blanket! They just exude comfort and safety, which is exactly what you want in a nursery.
To actually be safe, though, don’t drape them on the crib. Drape them on your glider instead.
Conclusion & Free Resources
I hope you have a much better idea of what you want for your nursery and how to achieve it.
What lies ahead is a lot of work, but having a beautiful, safe, comfortable nursery sets the scene for countless memories to make their debut and settle into your mind and heart.
The tough design decisions you make will evolve into the easy enjoyment of moments you’ll treasure forever.
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this guide, learning about every aspect of design, from initial inspiration to bringing it all together.
You’ve learned about budgeting, choosing the right furniture, staying organized, and lots of safety tips.
I know nursery design isn’t easy and I commend you for diving in to learn as much as possible as you start this process.
Before I end this post, I want to reach out to those who are still feeling a bit nervous or overwhelmed.
I get it. No matter how in-depth a course you take, designing a beautiful, cohesive, and safe nursery is a tall order. (Not to mention time-consuming!)
If you don’t have time to implement everything you learned in this course or would feel better with a professional guiding you, I’m here to help!
Find out more about my Nursery Design Service here.