Square One

How do you design a baby's nursery? Start with one thing you love, and use it as inspiration for the look of the room.


One easy way to begin the potentially daunting task of designing your baby's nursery is to choose a favorite item—a piece of art that's been in your family for years, a brightly painted dresser or a sleek modern crib—and use that as inspiration for the room's style, colors and patterns. No matter your budget or decorating experience, the following tips from fellow interior designers show how one piece can be your starting point for a cohesive nursery design.

Identify what inspires you Children's space designer Jennifer Ward of Minor Details in Brooklyn, N.Y., begins every new project by asking her clients to find one truly beloved piece of inspiration, such as "a book image featuring a favorite color, a vintage postcard, an heirloom toy or an admired piece of architecture," she says. Even if none of these items ultimately goes into the nursery, each can act as design inspiration. A favorite photo of the Taj Mahal could inspire a white-on-white color scheme with a few opulent metallic splashes and a balance of boxy modern lines with luxurious softness. A vintage postcard featuring a washed-out beach scene could inspire you to use an ocean color palette, Danish modern wood tones and perhaps a wool-sisal rug underfoot.

Be color conscious A favorite color can also be your starting point. Sausalito, Calif., nursery designer Serena Dugan created her own son's nursery using her love for dramatic color. The co-founder of Serena & Lily design studio searched for a dresser/changing table that would provide some pizzazz and found a low six-drawer dresser from the 1950s on eBay (above). She loved the midcentury-modern style, with aged brass Campaign-style hardware. "I decided the room needed a little orange to give it the pop I was looking for," Dugan says. So she painted the dresser a deep, rich coral. "The dresser is definitely the focal point of the room. I could have added other orange accents to balance it out," she says, "but when you have one piece that you love in a fabulous color, why not let it stand on its own?"

Begin with bedding Maybe you've fallen hard for a certain style of crib bedding. Don't be embarrassed to create the nursery's style around it! Go ahead and pull your colors directly from the bedding, or create a theme around its patterns. For one of my own clients, whose mother was making a quilt of bright orange, green, pink and purple for her expected grandchild, I matched a painted wall stripe to the orange and splashed small pops of the other colors throughout the room to tie it all together. The quilt's geometry inspired clean, modern white furniture and a circular orange rug that was as bold as the quilt itself.

Start with the crib If you're like a lot of expectant parents, the crib might be your focal point—which is as it should be, according to interior designer David Harris, director of communications for children's furniture company ducduc in New York City. You're likely to spend the biggest bucks on the crib, and the right one will last stylishly through your child's toddler years or longer if it's one of today's many convertible options. If you plan to use a hand-me-down crib that meets today's safety standards, Harris recommends having it professionally stripped and re-lacquered with low-VOC paint in a bright new color or in white so it fits into any room scheme more easily.

The lines of the crib can also set the style for the whole room. A boxy modern design may invite a sleek upholstered glider and similarly modern changing table, while calling for a soft rug and a "fuzzy" mobile to balance out the angles. A traditional crib style might go best with a painted country-chic rocker and dresser or pieces such as a Moroccan ottoman or lightly patterned dhurrie rug.

Price Tag

$1,690 Crib: Netto Collection Moderne Crib, with adjustable mattress platform and storage drawer

$1,199 Glider: Ashbury Glider (shown in almond basketweave with chocolate trim)

$569 Bedding: Serena & Lily Organic Rye Collection paisley print

(The above items are available at serenaandlily.com.)

$450 Dresser: Vintage dresser found on ebay.com.