How to: Design a Nursery

It's fair to say my favorite pastime while pregnant was designing Noam's nursery. It gave me a huge sense of purpose to create a room in which both he and I would be spending a lot of time, and it gave me an enormous sense of accomplishment once it was completed. If you're interested in seeing how Noam's nursery turned out, you can view it a few posts back.

I absolutely love home design and interior decor, so it was a real treat for me to be able to start from scratch when we moved from the East Village to Hoboken back in April. At 6 months pregnant, it was the perfect time to get serious and build the nursery.

In order to get everything together in time for his arrival, I started earlier, though, and went through my design process (which I've used in the past for our East Village apartment and then again for this new house). Here's my step-by-step process for designing Noam's nursery. 

1. Establish a purpose

This may seem obvious, but having a clear, defined goal for the room you're designing is key. The types of questions you should be able to answer (for a nursery specifically) are:

What will you (and the baby) do in the room? Will you be feeding your baby? Changing his diaper? Will he sleep in there? Will others join you in there? Again, these may seem like obvious things but consciously defining what the room will be used for will help make sure you don't overlook any key pieces of furniture or spaces you want to create within the room.

How long will I use this room this way? Is the nursery for just one baby? Will you use the same room as the baby grows up or move him to another room?

How do you want it to feel? Do you want it to be cozy and serene? Modern and cool? Crisp and clean? To answer this question, it may be helpful to look at nursery design inspiration (Instagram is a great resource for this) and pull some favorites together.

2. Make a list and prioritize

Once you've established the purpose (or purposes) of the room, begin to make a comprehensive list of what you'll need to fulfill that purpose. If you'll be feeding the baby in the room, you'll likely need a glider or a chair and possibly a side table next to the chair. Changing the baby? You'll need a changing table, some type of diaper pail, a place for diapers, wipes, etc. Dressing the baby? You'll need clothing storage, a place to dress the baby, a hamper for dirty clothes.

Once you've created a list, prioritize based on what you need most or soonest. It may be helpful to break your list out into 'must-haves', 'nice-to-haves' and 'extras'. Many things you may not need until the baby is a little older (like a crib or lots of toys), so those can always be added later if you've got a tight budget or timeframe. 

Heads-up: I'll share some shopping lists on the blog later this week that can help you get started building your list.

3. Decide on the basics

After creating a comprehensive yet general list of what you'll need to fulfill the room's purpose, now's the time to choose which items you'll buy. Shop around at baby furniture stores, visit helpful websites and blogs and take a look at Pinterest or other sources of inspiration and decide which styles and brands you like. In order to evaluate what you find, consider the feel of the room (which you decided on in step 1), the construction and materials of the products, the brands' reputations and the usefulness of the products. 

There are a ton of options out there, so this step may take some time, but it's incredibly important. Baby furniture and other items can get very pricey and need to be safe, so don't rush it. 

4. Create the picture and fill in the gaps

As you decide on the basics you'll need for the room, create a picture of what the room will look like (this step can be done in tandem with step 3). I've found the best way for me to visualize the room is to create a design board. I use Keynote, but there are plenty of other options out there. 

I'd recommend starting with the big items like the crib and any other furniture you'll be using, but if there's another design element that's more important, you can start with that instead.  Plop those items in and then look for the gaps. As more and more items are added, the gaps will become increasingly evident. Do you need toy storage? Would you like to add a second rug to warm the space up? Could you use an ottoman that serves as both a foot stool and seating? 

This is also the time to begin bringing any theme you've decided on to life. I chose to create a neutral, calm, classic nursery with a somewhat subtle wild animal theme (specifically giraffes and elephants). It was important to me that I am able to reuse the big pieces for future kids and/or in future rooms. Also, I didn't want the 'theme' to overwhelm, but I wanted it to be evident in the artwork, so I made sure I found wall art and other decor items that worked with my larger pieces. 

One key to creating a design board is this: don't get too hung up on it. It's helpful and should reflect what you want the room to look like, but it does not need to be the only map you use to create your room. Here's an example of the design board I created for Noam's nursery.  

1. Wall mirror to open up and add interest to space. 2. Animal prints for subtle animal theme. 3. Faux elephant heads to decorate walls. 4. Simple white dresser that also serves as changing table. 5. Simple, versatile toy storage. 6. Simple white crib. 7. Clean, classic grey glider. 8. Mirrored nightstand to hold nursing essentials. 9. White lattice table lamp for those middle of the night meals. 10. Neutral, soft Moroccan-inspired rug. 11. Neutral tufted ottoman to serve as extra seating. 12. Large, plush sheepskin rug.

1. Wall mirror to open up and add interest to space. 2. Animal prints for subtle animal theme. 3. Faux elephant heads to decorate walls. 4. Simple white dresser that also serves as changing table. 5. Simple, versatile toy storage. 6. Simple white crib. 7. Clean, classic grey glider. 8. Mirrored nightstand to hold nursing essentials. 9. White lattice table lamp for those middle of the night meals. 10. Neutral, soft Moroccan-inspired rug. 11. Neutral tufted ottoman to serve as extra seating. 12. Large, plush sheepskin rug.

5. Finalize the details

Once you've got your design board full of the big items and basics, it's time to finalize the design with the remaining details and finishes. This is the time to really focus on tying in your theme and adding the little touches that make your nursery yours, rather than a showroom's.

Search for and decide on wall art, decorative touches and practical pieces that you'll need during the many, many hours you'll spend in this room. For me, this step included creating a wall of shelves with books, wooden blocks and other toys, adding nursing and other essentials (like a phone charger and books) to the side table next to my glider, and collecting some plush stuffed animals in rope baskets that serve as both decoration and toys for Noam.

Well, that's it - all it takes is just a few steps in order to create and design the perfect space for your baby.  I found this process really helpful while designing Noam's nursery and have been incredibly pleased with how it's turned out so far. 

Final thought: Home design takes time and patience, and it's always a work in progress (that element of evolution and growth is what I love so much about it). I hope you can use and enjoy this process to create your nursery (or any other room in your home) as much as I did. And, of course, if you have any questions on the process or my specific design, don't hesitate to comment below.