Decorating & Design

December 18, 2008

Baby Nursery Design Tips

When it comes time to create or decorate a nursery, most mothers (and the occasional father) bubble over with dreamy ideas for their baby’s room. While almost anything goes, the nursery should definitely follow the “function first, form second” rule. Safety and practicality are paramount when putting together a nursery, but once that is under control, feel free to let your imagination take over. No matter the size of the space, it’s a good idea to begin by dividing the nursery into dedicated areas or zones, each with a different function, since a well-organized room will save you precious time and energy. Defining each zone in the nursery will make decorating and furnishing the space much easier.

The Changing Zone

A surface area on which to comfortably change your baby’s diaper is key. A changing table can offer much-needed storage below, but if floor space won’t allow for such a large piece of furniture, a dresser can double as a changing table by securing a changing pad to the top. Drawers can hold diapers, wipes, baby powder and all necessary products. If your nursery includes a closet, think about hanging an over-the-door shoe caddy inside to store extra baby changing necessities. Install shelves near the changing station for easy access to items. For safety reasons, mount shelves on either side rather than over the table top.

Hang a mobile, or mount a picture or artwork on the ceiling over the change table to distract baby during change time. Place the diaper pail directly beside the change table so you can keep one hand on baby while tossing away used diapers.

The Sleeping Zone

While babies usually spend the first few weeks or months in a bassinet, it’s a good idea to finish outfitting your nursery before your bundle of joy arrives — there will be little time for decorating afterwards!

Cribs are available in a wide array of colours and styles. Be sure to take measurements of the space you have planned for the crib prior to making a purchase. Be sure your crib conforms to federal regulations; antique or older cribs may come with chipped paint containing lead which is toxic to infants, while spindles on older cribs may be spaced too far apart and prove hazardous (the width of a pop can should not be able to fit in between). If you are planning on painting a second-hand or antique crib, attach a plastic bite-strip to the sides of the crib — babies tend to use the wood as a teething toy.

Your nursery will have a more cohesive look if the crib, change table and dresser (if any) are similar in colour and style. Add variety and interest to the room with patterned bedding, a colourful area rug and drapery.

Purchase a good, firm crib mattress – it’s best for your baby’s bones and lessens the chance of suffocation. While it’s not necessary to spend a lot on a mattress, be sure to go with a brand known for its quality. Add a water resistant, machine washable mattress pad to make clean-ups a breeze. A hanging mobile is a must over a baby’s crib. Musical, plush, colourful or homemade, a mobile will offer your baby something to train his or her vision on, while working as a good distraction, allowing the imagination to flourish or lulling baby to sleep. Blackout lining on window coverings will help darken the room for daytime naps.

Tip: A chair rail installed around the room (just higher than the crib) can offer a “shelf” upon which to display photos, first works of art or toys.

The Sitting and Nursing Zone

A comfortable chair is essential in a nursery as hours may be spent rocking, reading and feeding baby there.

Glider chairs are a popular option. They provide a nice rocking motion, but since the arms are typically hardwood with a small amount of padding, resting one’s arms on them when holding baby can become uncomfortable. A fully upholstered chair with a washable slipcover, whether rocking or not, is a smart choice.

A chaise is another option for a nursery as it can provide a comfortable spot for a tired parent to curl up once the baby has gone to sleep — the only caveat is space.

Whatever type of chair you choose, be sure to also allow space for a small side table and lamp for play and reading time.

Tip: Baby-proof outlets and lamp cords before the baby arrives — you may be too busy later.

The Play Zone

While playing is actually the least important function in the nursery — since the baby will spend most of her time sleeping in the beginning — it is a good idea to plan for play space for spending quality time on the floor with baby as she grows. A comfortable, easy-to-clean area rug is essential. Babies need “tummy time” and crawling around on a hard floor can be tough on little knees. A rug also adds warmth underfoot and some sound proofing. Colourful woven baskets or bins are great for holding stuffed animals, books and toys.


As with all home design and planning, you can never have enough storage and the same is true for a baby’s room. Before you know it, you’ll have piles of outgrown clothing, surplus toys and gadgets.

If there’s a closet in the nursery, install shelves on which to keep their tiny clothes folded. Shelves can also hold extra diapers and wipes, shoes and slippers. A clothes hamper can be coordinated with the room’s fabric colour or theme.

Nursery Décor

Choose a theme for the room. Whether you select animals, letters, numbers, flowers or colours, applied sparingly, a theme can provide a direction for the decorating process while allowing your creativity to shine through. Keep it subtle, starting with just a few theme-related items that you can always add to as the child gets older. Your baby will have a serene, safe, comfortable space in which to sleep, daydream, play and grow.