Putting Together a Nursery: A Step by Step Guide

Clockwise from top left: Target Crosby Schoolhouse Floor LampSika Design Monet Rocking ChairCirconflexe Coat HooksCDR Orb PrintLewis Crib SheetsLittle Seeds Rowan Valley Linden CribConnected Goods Nesting Storage baskets with Lids, Vintage Coastal Blue + White Nautical PillowsUpholstered Wooden BenchSerena + Lily Sag Harbor BasketLewis SwaddlesHarto Marius Chest of Three DrawersLewis Changing Pad CoverMcGee + Co Oxnard Striped Wool Rug

In life, we rarely put together rooms from scratch. We usually have something that has followed us from another home or our parent's home(s) that becomes a starting point for decision making. A nursery is one time that we’re all most likely starting 100% from scratch, so how do you start?

As I’ve said in the past, I always like to begin with something I love. While you're surfing Pinterest, home sites or baby sites to fill your registry, what is something that jumps out at you? Is it a textile? A rug? A piece of art? A piece of furniture? These are all wonderful anchor points from which to make decisions so that everything feels cohesive. I also like to think about things that will have longevity in a room–both from a quality standpoint, but also what will I love over time? In this case, I began with our Marine Crib sheets–a color I've always loved, and have loved using in India’s nursery. It is bright and cheery, and works with all colors and all genders.

Once you have a piece to build off of, ask yourself : What are the functional / necessary elements of my nursery? Personally, I have found the baseline list to be: crib, changing table, chair, rug, storage, hamper and lighting (and of course a diaper pale). India has the world’s tiniest nursery, and these are the only things I have in there (truth be told the chair is too big for her room, so it’s in ours!).

With a design starting point + a list of necessities, you can begin tackling them piece by piece, starting with the bigger elements. What crib colors might work with these crib sheets? In this case, almost any! This very inexpensive pale wood crib is a timeless favorite, but in order to not overload on the natural wood tones that I knew were likely to follow, I chose bright white and a classic Jenny Lind Style. I prefer crib designs that don’t feel too cumbersome or heavy.

With a crib chosen, what kind of changing table will work? Do you want open shelving or a real dresser? A real dresser means it is usable for years to come. I like this mix of the painted drawers and oak surround so that it works with the crib, but isn’t too matching. Some alternatives would be this or this, and I love companies like this that make custom door fronts for Ikea furniture, so you can really elevate an inexpensive piece.

With very light pieces and bright textiles picked out, I know I need to increase my tonal range in the room, so I immediately gravitate towards dark chairs (carefully not going too large or bulky so the dark is all you see, versus mixing in). A lot of people will swear up and down you need a glider or a rocker. I have found ours useful, but I also do just as well when I only have a chair. Generally speaking, when my babies have needed motion, it means we’re walking around, not sitting. I’m showing the Sika Monet Rocker here, but there are other great dark rattan chairs like this, and much cheaper like this.

Because rugs can be costly, I choose great neutrals or unique vintage. If you know your taste, you can trust that a cool vintage rug will continue to be a great accent in other rooms, layered with other rugs or on their own. Etsy can be a great resource for finding bright Moroccan rugs. Another great source for durable, reasonably priced, classic neutrals is Dash + Albert.

We have a dresser here, but there is never enough storage in a nursery! Between toys, clothes, diapers, creams, stuffed animals… there's never enough. Baskets and hooks, hooks and baskets! I love the beautiful texture and unique shape of these Connected Goods baskets, and the lids allow you to hide bright plastic pieces and make for easy cleanup. There are so many great baskets out there though. These would work great for toy clean up too. I also love having hooks as an easy way of straightening up for clothes, blankets, swaddles, and anything else that needs a quick home. Low hooks are great for when Baby is old enough to hang things herself. 

Much like the baskets, a hamper is another excuse to have a beautiful vessel in the room. Don't default to plastic or something that looks like it's meant for the laundry room–elevate it! I chose a very nice one for this room layout, but there are beautiful less expensive options too like this, and I love Little Market as a basket resource too.

Our last necessity on the list! Needs vary depending on what is already in your ceilings + on your walls, but the more heights of light you have, the more you can control the ambiance. At least one light near a chair is great for going from story to bedtime easily. You can buy lamps at every price point, and I find such great options from less expensive sources, that it's a great place to save money somewhere like a nursery. Save your expensive lighting for a permanent fixture or a living room. 

What comes next is largely dependent on your space. Are you at capacity? If you have more floor space, maybe you want more storage because there is no closet, or a daybed for more sleeping space. If you have a lot of wall space (or any really) buy some art! It doesn't have to be expensive. For this layout, I chose a print that I love + that works with the color scheme. Should Baby's room shift, I know I'll be happy to put it in another room. I also chose a very high-end bench to style like a mini daybed or chair. I want this piece to last a lifetime, and it's from a designer I love. The slightly vintage look + vintage pillows gives a little diversity to all of these shiny new products (never let everything be new!). The graphic and dark upholstery gives contrast to our florals, and ties in the chair. This daybed is a great less expensive (but larger) option should you want a similar look at a more affordable price. And of course other Lewis products to layer the florals and colors. Swaddles might not be permanent pieces but they are ever-present, so make sure you love them! 

I hope this helps you plan your next nursery or room. Remember–start with something you love, then focus on the essentials, being sure to include a tonal and texture range, and always try to work something vintage into your space. Add pieces for personality + secondary needs. Make the look cohesive, without it being so matchy that it feels like a hotel. If you choose interesting but sweet add-ons, (Lewis textiles, a mobile, stuffed animals, etc) Baby is bound to love a room that you love as she grows. Am I missing anything you found necessary in your nursery? Do you have another way of tackling a blank canvas? We'd love to hear! 


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