Nursery Know-How

Even if you don't have the "designer" gene, these tips will help you plan a baby's room you'll love.


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.

7. Be careful with crib bedding. Though bedding can be colorful and decorative, you do need to take safety precautions. Don't place loose blankets or pillows in the crib with a baby younger than 12 months, and make sure she can't get her head stuck between the crib bumper and slats. Sheets should be tight-fitting and wrap securely around the corners of the mattress. Or try a crib sheet that stays in place with a zipper, such as Clouds and Stars QuickZip Crib Sheet (

8. Position the crib carefully. Avoid placing your baby's crib under a window or in the path of direct sunlight, which can be disturbing to a sensitive newborn and, on very hot days, might overheat her. Also, be sure not to place the child's bed or changing table under shelves or artwork that could fall or be pulled down by the baby.

"When arranging furniture, start with the crib," says David Harris, creative director at DucDuc in New York. "It's the largest piece in the room and the one you need most. Everything else will fall into place naturally."

9. Overestimate your storage needs. Clothing, toys, diapers and gear take up more space than you'd think, so you'll need plenty of baskets, bins, shelves and closet organizers to keep your baby's room tidy. If you have a toy chest, make sure that the hinges have a mechanism to prop up an open lid and that they won't pinch little fingers; also look for a model that will let in air if a child climbs inside and closes the lid.

10. Make it a room you love. "Nowadays, baby's rooms are decorated in grand ways," says Nava Writz, custom children's bedding designer for Nava's Designs. "If you want to go all-out, go all-out!" Or, if simplicity is your style, go with that. Whatever you choose, be true to your own style, and the nursery will be a special place.

Design for Small Spaces:

  • Mount a continuous shelf approximately 18 inches from the ceiling for toys, framed photos and additional storage, advises Nate Berkus, design expert for The Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • Tiny nursery?A crib and changing area are the most essential features, say Michele Adams and Gia Russo.
  • To make the room appear more spacious, paint all the walls the same color, Wendy Bellissimo advises.