Designer Parenting: How to Create a Parent- and Kid-Friendly Nursery

Parents-to-be often have a few fears mixed in with the hopes and dreams surrounding their impending arrival. For me, aside from fears about the actual pregnancy and health of the baby, the biggest fear I had was giving up my “space” to a little person that would come with lots of baggage I had little control over. This may seem superficial, but let me explain. I am a home person (my design blog titled “Den Mother” probably makes that obvious). A big part of my identity is wrapped up in my home– I care about how it looks, take joy in finding items to fill it, and feel a sense of calm when everything is tidy and in its place. Well designed objects and spaces make me happy…so when I imagined a home consumed by kid gear and mess, it made me panic. Interior design is the forgotten self care element…new parents are often encouraged to take time for “self care,” meaning: take a bath, get in a shower when you can, put on makeup, take time for yourself to do the basic things that make you feel human. Creating a space that you enjoy, as much as the new human you gestated for 10 months, is just as important if you are a design lover like me.

So, while I’m only six months into this journey, I have developed a few tips and tricks I am following in my own home to make it parent- and kid-friendly. If you are decorating-while-parenting like myself, or have fears that a tidal wave of primary colored plastic is going to take over your life, I hope these ideas help!

1. Baskets are a design-obsessed parent’s best friend
There is an inevitability to the large amount of new baby junk coming into the home when you have a kid. You can Marie Kondo* your home until you are blue in the face, but the fact will remain that your little person needs stuff, their needs change on the daily, and people think you need things and will gift you things A LOT. So, the biggest difference you can make in your space is to put all that stuff AWAY. I live in an old, charming building with very limited closet/cupboard space, so…baskets! Baskets are chic, hide stuff, and are OPEN so easy access for when you need to grab a toy, blanket, whatever. The key is that they look like something you chose for your decor, but actually house all the baby litter that junior needs. Win!
*Marie Kondo is the author of The Life Changiing Magic of Tidying Up, a book that helps you purge unnecessary stuff from all areas of your life.
2.  Don’t be obvious, Man!
You don’t need to decorate your kids’ room in an obviously baby-fied way, because the world already knows you had a baby. Doll up your nursery or kid’s room in a scheme that you also enjoy. The only pieces of furniture that you need to announce that this room is for a little person is the crib and possibly a rocker. Homes with the best interior design have a flow and consistency through the entire house. You don’t want to spend time and money selecting amazing pieces for your home, only to decorate your baby’s space with–record scratch–pink bunnies or blue dinosaurs?  I’m not trying to crush your nursery dreams…you can definitely still celebrate your baby with the classic hues, if that’s your thing. But I would note that a drop of pink or blue can be enough, and there are strategies for “speaking baby” in a way that resonates with adults. And I hate to be the bearer of all things obvious, but…babies don’t care. That’s right, I said it. They really couldn’t care less about anything not related to milk and boobs.  I opted for an indigo themed room with every furniture piece being something that I love and can use in my home after the tot is older.
3. Minimize the plastic
Plastic is a good thing in small doses. One of my favorite baby gear items is a $20 plastic bouncy from Graco that allowed me to set my child down in my own home for longer than five minutes. I am having it plated in gold and hung on the wall when he outgrows it. Having said that, I am also keenly aware of how out of control plastic can become if I am not careful. It’s all about conscious consumption. Not only do I not dig the vast amount of plastic junk we produce–knowing it’ll inevitably be thrown out or donated–I just don’t like the way it looks (no apologies for being an aesthetics person–it’s my job). I’ve been in homes where it feels like the kids have taken over (no judgment) and plastic plays a huge role in that perception. So, I try to find Z wooden or cloth toys that will last and exude lasting design. I live here, too, and I have to look at those toys and gadgets all day.
There are lots of great sources for wooden toys, especially on etsy. One of my favorite websites is Brimful Shop. Also, local baby stuff swap groups tend to pass toys around and resell them for really decent prices. Because wooden toys are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, you stand a decent chance of being able to resell them and recoup some of your investment once your baby has outgrown that adorable clacking duck.
4. Quality, used furniture
The first piece of furniture I bought for Z’s room was his changing table– only it’s not a changing table, it’s a 1950’s vintage dresser with a changing pad on top (the Keekaroo Peanut Changer…best designed pad in the world and totally worth its weight in gold). I bought the dresser for $200 (IKEA has similarly-priced dressers for Ikea-level quality) from a Craigslist seller and I know it’s going to last long after he is potty trained and out of his crib. It is a piece I can use in any room of the house as our needs change. And, I LOVE its design. Looking at it makes ME happy. Changing tables are a huge waste of money and not that pleasing design-wise. There are so many options for finding quality pieces of furniture you like that also fit within a budget. Craigslist is an amazing place to find great pieces, as are thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales.
Craigslist tips:
– Search by using the “photo gallery” option…it will save you from having to click on descriptions and allow you to search by looking at actual pics.
– Always take someone with you to go see furniture or at least let someone know where you are going because: safety first.
– Ask about delivery options before you go to see a piece–often the offer of $20-$40 extra may be enticing enough to have someone deliver it for you.
– If delivery isn’t an option, search Craigslist or Yelp for “man-with-a-van” posts–people are making lucrative businesses out of having muscle and a truck.
5. Don’t fear light colors, Scotchguard
I bought two white rugs and a light grey sofa after I gave birth…and six cans of Scotchguard. To me, having a home I love means that sometimes I will make design decisions that make people think I am crazy. But having Scotchguard around is a little insurance policy against baby stains. It’s okay to make decisions that are not 100% baby related…you just need to put a bit more thought into protecting those choices.
6. Love thy low maintenance plants
I love decorating with plants. A room can sometimes completely come to life with the addition of a tree in the corner and some well-placed potted greenery. Having said that, when I had my son, taking care of anything living beyond him, myself, my husband, and our two cats seemed like asking me to hike Kilimanjaro…no thanks, not gonna be successful. So, parents can set themselves up for green thumb success by choosing plant life that compliments their parent lifestyle. Many, many plants require minimal watering. Some require more light than others, so my suggestion is to find a local nursery you love and talk to the people who work there. Describe your home in terms of lighting, and, of course, make sure the foliage you select is not poisonous for furry or human babies.
7. Guilt-free gift acceptance and rejection
Last tip! Hopefully, you are surrounded by lots of people who love you and are excited for you. This comes with its own decorating hazards as people will inevitably gift you things you just can’t stand. Get rid of that stuff immediately. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just donate it, re-gift it, get it outta your house. And don’t feel bad…your space is your place. Happy parent equals happy baby!

Den Mother 2


Den Mother 3

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