1. Look for inspiration.
If you can't decide how to decorate the baby's room, think about a few favorite things from your or your partner's childhood or ask grandparents for items of sentimental value to help spark inspiration. "You also can get ideas from a flower, animal or color theme," say Michele Adams and Gia Russo of the Los Angeles-based design team MiGi. "Browsing fabrics and ribbons can also inspire decorative ideas."
2. Don't overdo your theme.
If you go with a specific pattern or distinctive style, choose a few whimsical pieces and well-chosen accessories to illustrate it, but don't overload the room with them. As your child gets older, you can easily update the room without having to redecorate from top to bottom.
3. Create a cozy space.
An inviting spot will help you enjoy special bonding moments. Place a lamp, books and necessities on a table nearby so you don't have to get up every time you need something. "This spot will likely become a favorite well past the toddler years," says Wendy Bellissimo, family lifestyle designer and author of Nesting (IW Press).
4. Buy long-lasting furniture.
Choose pieces with multiple uses, such as a changing table that can also serve as a dresser, and a crib that can become a larger bed when the time is right. (If you get a used crib, make sure it meets current safety standards from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association; for information, see "New Mom's Buying Guide" on pg. 86.)
5. Get creative with color.
Basic pink and blue are no longer the standard; choose a color you love and try not to feel confined by gender-specific palettes. "Yellow, green, taupe, cream and brown are great because later you can add pink or blue accents if you wish, which look great with any of those colors," suggests Bellissimo, who has designed nurseries for celebrities including Brooke Shields and Kelly Ripa.Bedding and accessories in contrasting or complementary shades and patterns also can liven up a room.
Nate Berkus, design expert for The Oprah Winfrey Show and author of Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live Into a Place You'll Love (Hyperion), suggests painting the nursery's ceiling, as your baby will be looking at it a lot. A mural also gives the baby something fun to view.
6. Define a play space.
An area rug or mat provides a comfortable surface for playtime and a contained site for toys. Keep storage items nearby for easy cleanup.