Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Nursery Design 101

Nursery Design 101
Elizabeth Adams

When we found out we were pregnant, I immediately set to work on creating the perfect new space for our first baby. I mean immediately - with First Response stick still in hand I reached for my sketch pad. But I knew "perfect" would come with some limitations. The remaining spare bedroom of our new house is pretty small, so I had to maximize storage space and minimize the accumulation of decorative "stuff," and we had already committed a lot of money to refinished other parts of the house. So I had to make some choices on where to spend the big bucks and where to do some serious bargain shopping.

Thank goodness for the Internet. I found 90% of my nursery d├ęcor on the Web, and was able to easily compare prices and designs and find inspiration along the way. Some pregnancy magazines and web sites also gave me some good hints. Don't forget to tap your best resources - friends and relatives with babies. They've already done a lot of the legwork for you.

The first decision I made was the crib set (fitted crib sheet, bumpers, crib skirt and blanket). This would be the basis for the theme of the nursery. Although I already knew I didn't want a nursery dripping in pink or covered with dinosaurs, I didn't know the sex of our baby when I set out. So I looked for a theme that could be enhanced with masculine or feminine touches later in the process. I selected the "Sir Leaps-a-Lot" crib linens from Wendy Bellissimo. These didn't come cheap (my husband is still working through his sticker shock), but the detail was beautiful, from the embroidered frog prince and princess leaping for a kiss on the bumpers to the lavender chenille ties and embroidered, two layer crib skirts.

I based the paint scheme on the colors of the crib linens, choosing a very pale yellow for the walls, and a lavender accent for the shelves. For an external water pipe that runs floor-to-ceiling, I used the yellow and lavender paint to create a "maypole" that adds some interest to the room. To paint the ceiling I used a sea sponge and a very pale blue to mimic the sky and added some wallpaper clouds that I found on Pottery Barn Kids. I found a nice, inexpensive curtain with a yellow windowpane design at Target.

Now that I had my frog prince/princess theme, I kept my eyes open when browsing children's websites and stores for items that would compliment it. My mom spotted our "castle" storage unit on-line at Land of Nod, which is owned by Crate & Barrel and is full of good stuff. She purchased it for us as an early baby shower present. It allows us to stack, hang and stuff baby clothes and other items as we see fit. I bought some wicker baskets to hold blankets and miscellaneous items from Ikea, and got wooden baby hangers with little frog heads to hang clothes from the top shelf at The Container Store.

The giant stuffed frog prince I found at The Company Kids Store, a division of The Company Store. My husband was afraid this oversized amphibian would scare the daylights out of our child, so I did a test-run on a friend's one year old and he thought it was the best thing he'd ever seen. At this web site I found frog and crown drawer pulls, which I used to replace the plain wood knobs that came with the baby's dresser to give it more personality. Also at The Company Kids Store I purchased a lavender pillow with a silk-screened crowned frog that says "Just One Kiss." Perfect to toss on the rocking chair. At a local boutique I snagged a little hand-painted canvas that features a frou-frou pink dress with the words underneath "You be the frog. I'll be the princess." (By this time I knew we were having a girl, so I was free to add some girlie touches - if it had turned out to be a boy, we had a framed poster from my husband's family of a little boy peeing into a lake with a frog crawling up on shore coughing. Luckily it wasn't a boy.).

Next came the hunt for a changing table and/or a dresser. Since I was limited in storage space, I wanted drawers. I also wanted a piece of furniture that wouldn't be rendered obsolete after the child outgrew the need to be diapered. I looked for a dresser with a removable changing top, and found one for $250 from a manufacturer in Canada, Forever Mine. They delivered to our front door for a very reasonable price based on our location in the US. I picked white, so that I could easily match it with other pieces that I would buy later. It arrived, as promised, within a couple weeks.

The crib was our final purchase for the nursery, and my husband wanted to have some say in this. So together we marched off to Buy Buy Baby, a mega-store that has everything from pacifiers to gliders to pregnancy pillows. He had something particular in mind for the crib, which was, as it turns out, for it to be as simple and streamlined as possible - and inexpensive. Since cribs can climb into the thousands of dollars, we did pretty well for our nice model at $350, and a mid/upper level mattress at $150. Make sure you order in advance, our crib took the full 12 weeks to arrive after we ordered it.

My husband again chipped in on the nursery prep, this time with elbow grease. He fit the very deep and very narrow nursery closet with pull-out coated metal bins he bought at Home Depot and two hanging rods. It was a perfect cheap solution to having shelves custom-built for an awkward and unfinished closet.

Final touches included finding shades for our antique ceiling fixture for $22, a colorful braided area chenille rug and the mosquito netting for a wispy envelope for the crib from Pier 1. I found an old mirror and refinished the wood frame with the same lavender paint I used on the shelves, and had white cushions made for the rocking chair, where I'll most likely be clocking in many, many hours later this spring. And finally, my mother's childhood Dr. Seuss books, which I read every
time I visited my grandmother's house as a child, are now sitting on the shelves, waiting for our daughter's turn to enjoy.

I think the key to surviving and actually enjoying decorating the nursery is that I started early - although you may want to put down your pregnancy test and tell your partner first, unlike me. I took my time in finding the right pieces for the right prices, and I now have a unique nursery that suits our tastes and worked on our budget. Now that I'm approaching my due date I'm free to focus on the fun stuff, like swollen feet, sciatica and getting pummeled from the inside by my baby's kicks and elbow jabs.

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