Sleep Like a Baby

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Color is usually a good starting point when thinking about designing your child’s nursery.

Preparing for a new baby can be one of the most exciting times of your life, and that includes planning the nursery. And of course choosing colors, linens, accessories and furniture is exciting, but there are several important things to consider as well, such as budget and safety.

Whats your budget?
Just like with other home projects, its best to determine how much you can spend up front, because when designing your nursery, you can let your emotions get the best of you and end up spending too much money. Several upscale furniture store chains now offer juvenile furnishings, and while they may be half the size of adult furniture, they arent half the price. So determine how much you are willing to spend before you actually beginand stick to your budget.

Finding the right furniture
Of course, one of the first things youll have to purchase is furniture, and dont be afraid to spend (or invest) money on items like the crib or basinet, dresser, changing table and even a bookshelf. If you select high-quality furniture, such as hardwood, it can generally withstand time and can adapt with your growing child. Interior designer Susan Turner, ASID, JPMA, of Susan Turner Baby agrees. Buy functional things that can grow with your child, she says. Children grow so fast so its a good idea to buy one or two really good pieces that can last forever.
For example, several companies make convertible cribs that change with the child. The pieces start out as cribs, convert into toddler beds and then finally full-sized beds. Convertible cribs are oftentimes more expensive than standard ones, but you may end up saving in the long run because you dont have to buy a bed later.

If youd rather stick with a traditional crib, there are ways to save money. New parents Michelle and Kevin Foley, for example, found a crib that was being discontinued because the manufacturer changed some of the design specifications. Our model doesnt have hidden tracks on the side of the crib that slides up and down, Michelle Foley says. They were also making the track a little easier to slide up and down. Neither change was a safety issue, just a way to make the crib look nicer and more functional.

And when it comes to furniture, dont forget about safety. Take the time to do your research and know what the latest safety regulations are, and by no means should you ever skimp on price when safety is concerned. Buy new products so you know they will have the latest safety requirements, Foley says. I know people have a tendency to go to garage sales for cribs, playpens and highchairs, but specifications change and to make sure you have the safest products, buy new stuff. Dont borrow your neighbors 10-year-old crib just to save the $250.
However, using an old chest of drawers or shelf unitespecially if they are family heirloomsis practical and economical, and its a great way to start your baby out with some quality pieces. Family heirlooms are wonderful additions, Turner says. The older pieces are so solid and sturdy, and sometimes you just dont want that brand new showroom piece. You can also find inexpensive items at flea markets. Simply jazz them up with paint and drawer pulls that match your nursery theme and youve got an instant nursery set. If you choose to use older pieces in the room, they should be sturdy and clean. Just be sure that an older chest of drawers has stop mechanisms to prevent the drawers from coming completely out of the chest, says Carolyn Williams, owner of Kids Room Stuff in Norcross.

Be an educated consumer, shop around and make sure you are buying the safest products available for the nursery.

Color is key
The first thing I look at [when designing a nursery] is color, Turner says. I try to choose a color palette that allows parents to blend five or six colors that can grow with the child. She suggests choosing a soft, cool color that will last well into the toddler years for the walls. Sage greens, soft blues and ecru are popular, Turner says, while pinks are less desirable.

The neutral wall color also allows parents to add color in contrasting pieces and accessories. And when it comes to bedding, Williams says its one of the most important aspects of the room. Fabric and bedding all come into play with how the room is decorated, she says. Its usually a big purchase and its always an intricate part of the decor. Some of the most popular choices in bedding today include French toile, linen embroideries and vintage looks.

Because many parents today are creating nurseries that will grow with their child, accessories are more critical to the design than ever because they can easily be changed as the child gets older. Wall prints, throw blankets, lampshades, rugs and bedding fabrics can be the source of vibrant colors and nursery themes, like boats, lambs or Winnie the Pooh.

But be wary of going overboard with a theme room, Turner and Williams both say. While they are extremely fun to design, they can be quite impractical in the long run. Themes are wonderful if you are planning on changing the room in a few years, Williams says. If not, then use your accessories to create a theme because they can easily be changed.

Convertible cribs, although initially more expensive can save you money in the long run as your child grows.

Safety first
While choosing colors, fabrics and accessories for your nursery can be a joy, the most important thing to consider is safety. One way to ensure you buy products that are safe is to look for the seal of The Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA). JPMA is a national trade organization representing the juvenile product industry. The JPMA seal ensures the products meet the organizations extensive certification program for safety. JPMA has a Web site with safety guidelines for bedding, cribs, changing tables and toys.

Generally speaking, most products you buy from reputable retailers will meet the latest federal standards. But its important to do your research and find out what these standards are so you can be sure youre buying the safest products.

The bottom line is that a nursery should be a place where your baby feels safe, relaxed and comfortable. But it should also be a place that helps fulfill the dreams of new mothers and fathers. Most importantly, be an educated consumer so you know youre buying the right products, and shop around. The juvenile products industry is a $6 billion a year industry, so you have plenty of options available. A new nursery should be designed to fulfill the mothers fantasy, and usually, with the first baby they get it all, Williams says. And remember, its OK to indulge yourself, but do it wisely with safe pieces that can carry forward.

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