Setting Up A Nursery for Your Baby's First Bedroom
The nursery is the room your baby calls home, and where the first years of their life will unfold. Whether you have a small nook or an entire room to work with, to outfit your little one’s space is to shape their earliest experiences — what they’ll see, hear, smell, and touch. While the nursery is a functional space that accommodates the daily needs of your baby girl or boy, we believe that a successful set-up considers both the essentials and a little something extra to create warmth and personality.
Preparing a nursery for the first time can be extremely pleasurable — since most parents start from scratch when they begin to think about what will go into their nursery set-up, it can be a time to think expansively about the atmosphere you’d like to create, or, if you prefer, maintain a theme that flows with the rest of your home. Some parents prefer an energetic design scheme with bold graphics and vibrant colors, while others may tend towards neutrals and pastel tones with more minimal use of color and pattern. We love the idea of having neutral-colored larger furniture and adding pops of color and pattern with textiles including crib sheets, blankets and quilts, pillows, rugs, and swaddles, in addition to wallpaper and art prints.
Wherever your inclinations lead, we always try to think about the longevity of each piece when designing a nursery — in terms of quality, function, and style — and typically eschew of-the-moment trends in favor of timeless, thoughtful pieces that will be more likely to continue to appeal to you and your family as your child gets older.
Here are a few guiding principles that have set us in the right direction when designing beautiful, functional, and inviting baby nurseries.
Find Your North Star
We’ve found it helpful to identify one piece to serve as a “north star” of sorts that will help inform the remainder of your nursery design. Perhaps it’s a wall hanging, rug, or a piece of art that you already own, or one you’ve been eyeing online or at a local shop. It could also be a family heirloom that has personal significance. Finding your centerpoint can be a useful way to create a direction for your baby’s nursery decor.
That being said, we love a bit of mismatch too, and oftentimes a nursery will come together in phases, so don’t feel obligated to make everything make sense all at once.
One idea we love is creating a visual theme across a few different decor categories, for instance, pairing our Lewis Swaddle in Alligator in 100% organic muslin with the Alligator Print framed in white. We offer several options of nursery art printed on 100% cotton acid-free paper that reference back to our nature and animal-inspired nursery bedding, pajamas, accessories, and other baby essentials.
Once you have your inspiration piece, it’s time to get going on the nursery essentials that will be doing the heavy lifting in your day-to-day routine. Our list of absolute must-haves includes a crib, changing table (or dresser that you can use for double duty), storage, chair, and lighting. We highly recommend a rug, diaper pail, and hamper as well — we find that it’s helpful to have all the essential functions in one place, and these items help with that.
When you begin selecting large furniture for your baby’s nursery, be sure to keep your square footage in mind. First, measure out your nursery-to-be and get an idea of where each piece will go, then work within the measurements to select furniture that fits. You may even decide to use an online room planning tool (or simply cut out bits of graph paper) to puzzle together how each of the furniture items in your baby nursery will work within the space. Make sure to also leave enough space around each piece of furniture to access all of the spaces within the room.
A safe place to sleep is essential to your baby’s health and wellbeing. There are plenty of options on the market, but we love cribs that feature a minimal design and that are convertible, meaning that they can adjust to your child’s needs as the baby grows. This means a piece that can be adjusted (usually with a conversion kit that must be purchased separately) as the years go on, from just a crib to a toddler bed, possibly even to a daybed.
Also, if you’re tight on space, “mini cribs” do just as good a job of safely and securely providing a place for your baby to sleep in their first two to three years of life.
Having a dedicated standing-height surface to change your little one’s diapers is more useful than you may think. Newborns usually need their diapers changed every two to three hours, and doing this at a comfortable height is crucial to avoid putting strain on your body. We love the idea of using the surface of a dresser as a changing table for space efficiency, and to cut down on the amount of furniture you need to purchase.
Just add a comfortable waterproof foam changing pad with plenty of changing pad covers plus some diaper wipes, diapers and creams (ideally all within arm’s reach), and your baby changing station is ready.
Having all of your baby’s everyday needs in the same room will help you avoid too much back and forth between your nursery and the linens closet, and your nursery storage needs will only grow as your little one gets older and, well, bigger. For this reason, we say “more is more” when it comes to storage space. Between clothes, diapers, stuffed animals, toys, books, swaddles, and burp cloths, you’ll have plenty of things that could stand to be stored away at the end of each day, and you’ll want to make sure to avoid any potential trip hazards as much as possible. Our two favorite options are covered storage with doors that open and close (or even a curtain works), or open shelving with baskets that make for easy cleanup.
Both options have the benefit of reducing visual clutter and helping keep the nursery organization in order. If you’re low on space, installing wall hooks can help save space for blankets and quilts, clothes, and swaddles.
One of the best tips we ever received when setting up our respective nurseries was to invest in a diaper pail. A diaper pail is a dedicated trash can designed to contain the odor from used diapers, which helps keep your nursery smelling pleasant. We’ve also found that it can be a huge time saver as it reduces the back and forth of having to take a diaper to the outside trash can multiple times a day. Look for a diaper pail that has a foot pedal since you’ll often have your hands full, as well as a good odor control system. We like pails made from non-porous steel rather than plastic, which can help keep unsavory smells locked in.
Be sure to keep a refill of liners for your diaper pail on hand at all times. And customers are telling us they love using our Linen Spray as a quick pick-me-up refresher in and around the diaper pail!
Your baby’s nursery should be comfortable for both you and your little one, and having a chair, or better yet, a dedicated reading nook, is essential to spending some one-on-one time with your baby girl or boy. We recommend outfitting your seating area with dimmable warm lighting to create a cozy atmosphere (more on that below) and including a side table for placing a book and a cup of water.
Whether you prefer a large plush lounge or reclining chair or the gentle motion of a rocking chair, having a comfortable seating arrangement that allows you to sit for long periods of time to feed and nurse is essential.
We love the aesthetic benefits of rugs — how they bring together a space and can add a splash of color and pattern — but the functional benefits of rugs in a nursery are not to be overlooked. Aside from giving bare feet a warm, fuzzy feeling, rugs help diffuse loud noises that can echo in a room, and also create the perfect setting for some tummy time for your baby, encouraging them to roll and crawl and sparking their sense of curiosity and exploration. We advise going for synthetic rugs that are soft yet easy to clean, or wool rugs, which are both hypoallergenic and spill-resistant.
Having a dedicated hamper for your baby has a range of benefits, including increasing accessibility and saving time. It can also be helpful to keep your little one’s crib sheets, blankets and quilts, pillowcases, and swaddles separate from the rest of the household’s laundry if you use a special brand of delicate soap for these items, and also to simplify folding and sorting. Purchasing a hamper is also a great opportunity to add a beautiful object to your space.
Our favorite hamper options are wicker and rattan baskets either in neutral or tonal colors. Look for ones with handles for added character and easy transport.
The lighting you choose can have a noticeable influence on your space – feel free to play around with bulbs of different warmths and brightness until you find an option that suits your tastes. Having lighting options at a variety of different heights (think pendants and ceiling lighting, table lamps, and sconces) can enable you to control your lighting scheme. We prefer soft white (2,700 to 2,000 Kelvin) or warm white (3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin) bulbs — which resembles the warm yellow tone of candlelight — with the added benefits of a dimmer, which can help create just the right ambiance for night light feedings.
When considering lighting, we recommend thinking about how natural sunlight streams into your baby’s room at different points throughout the day to ensure that they’re not in direct sunlight for extended periods. You may also want to consider ways to create absolute darkness to aid in your baby’s healthy sleep. Blackout curtains are a great way to make sure your baby or toddler maintains a regular sleep pattern even if there’s light pollution from street lights outside or if the sun is still out at bedtime. This can also help your little one sleep later in the mornings, enabling them to get all the rest they need.
Your baby’s health and well-being will be at the forefront of every decision you make in regards to outfitting your nursery, but there are a few last precautions that can make a difference. Be sure to place cribs and other nursery furniture away from windows, and anchor all furniture to the walls of your nursery to avoid falling or tipping.
We also recommend ensuring that your nursery has both a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, as well as a room thermometer. You may consider using electrical outlet covers as well. Be sure to ask your pediatrician for more safety information. Lastly, baby monitors are a useful tool to keep an eye on your little one and help you keep peace of mind that your baby is safe and sound when he or she is alone.
One thing to keep in mind when preparing a nursery is timing. You may find that your dream crib or dresser is back-ordered for weeks or even months, so to avoid having to settle for something less exciting, we advise selecting and buying the absolute must-have items first to make sure that the space is up-and-running when your little one arrives. If learning the baby’s sex will influence your design or color scheme you may decide to wait until you reach that milestone to begin planning, but if your approach is not gender-dependent, we say the earlier the better to begin putting together ideas.
We recommend having furniture ordered by 21-23 weeks into your pregnancy since some larger items may be subject to longer lead times and assembly can take some time as well. This is also to ensure that you’re not tasked with moving or putting together furniture when you’re in the last weeks of your pregnancy. If you’re planning to paint or add wallpaper to your nursery, it’s a great idea to leave plenty of time to air out the space before your baby's arrival.
By 27-30 weeks into your pregnancy is a great time to have all of the decorative elements in place, from artwork to lighting, to rugs. You can have the leisure of spending time in the space once it’s set up and moving things around and trying different configurations if need be. By this time, we also recommend having all of your baby’s clothes and bedding washed and ready to go and a diaper changing station set up so that you’re ready to dive right in once your little one arrives.While getting started on designing your baby's nursery can feel overwhelming at first, we recommend getting your bases covered early so that you can take your time and savor the experience. Once your essentials are purchased and assembled, take pleasure in slowly, deliberately choosing decor that will delight your baby in his or her earliest years and add character to your home for years to come.