The arrival of a new baby is a very exciting time and the child’s first room is a special place. A nursery needs to be safe, practical and flexible—good planning will help to achieve this. It doesn’t have to be the smallest bedroom, if a bigger room is used, it can be adapted over the years as the child grows up. This can save money and time in the long run. If you plan to have more than one child, maybe use a smaller room and move the older child into the larger one. If possible have the nursery close to your own bedroom, so that you can hear the baby crying and that you don’t have so far to walk at night. A baby alarm can be used to keep in touch from other parts of the house.
Safety, temperature, and hygiene are import considerations in a baby’s room. Make sure the room is accident-proof. Have sockets tightly fixed and covered with plastic covers when not in use. There should be no trailing wires or light fittings which can be knocked over. Don’t overheat the room, the correct temperature is important for the baby’s comfort, have good ventilation and place the cot away from direct heat. Windows need to be secure, fitted with safety catches, so they can be opened without a child being able to squeeze through. If you have double glazing it should be possible to remove it easily if there is an emergency. Furniture should be stable, without any sharp corners or rough surfaces, if using free standing pieces, fix them to the wall. The last thing you want is for an item of furniture to fall over on a small child. Hygiene and cleanliness is important, particularly for a small baby, so have surfaces that are washable, particularly near the changing area.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money when decorating a nursery, with a bit of imagination and some planning a lot can be achieved. There is a wide range of furnishing fabrics, wallpapers and decorative details available but think carefully before decorating a room with a baby’s theme such as teddy bears or nursery rhyme designs as a child will out grow the room very quickly. Themes are more practical if the room is likely to be used for second and/or more children. If you use pastel colours you will not tire of them so quickly and they will go with whatever you put with them. Plain painted walls will allow you to add and change pictures, stencils, mobiles, paper borders etc. as the child grows and in some cases allow you to change curtains and soft furnishings without repainting the walls.
You can be braver with colour in a child’s room than other parts of the house. The bigger the room the darker the colour it can take, although ochre yellows or lavender blues can make a small room look cosy. Greens will soften pinks and yellows. If using a strong colour choose a multi-coloured fabric, that has these colours within it. The more grown-up the fabric you use the longer it will be suitable and the more economical it will be. Stripes or ginghams are always fresh-looking and will not be too babyish as the child grows.
Surfaces—Wall & Floor covering
Flooring is an important part of the decor in a nursery, because from an early age a child spends a lot of time on it, learning to crawl, exploring and playing, so they need a surface that’s comfortable, hard wearing and hygienic. Wood, cushioned vinyl, cork, or carpet are good choices, Wooden floors are attractive, warm and easy to maintain, but can be noisy. They should be splinter-free, they can be painted, stenciled or varnished and go great with a washable rug. Avoid deep or shaggy pile carpets, which are harder to clean. Carpet adds warmth, sound insulation, colour as well as comfort to a room. Choose a neutral shade so it will be easy to change the room’s decor. Cork and cushioned vinyl are quite, warm underfoot and easy to keep clean.
Walls need to be hard wearing in a child’s room so it needs to clean easy and be fairly robust. Painted walls are easier to maintain than papered ones, also it is easier to re-paint than to re-paper. If you use silk vinyl emulsion it can be wiped clean of grubby finger-marks etc. Use a washable wallpaper and a small scale print which is easier to live with, if you choose to use paper. Make sure it’s stuck on well, so that a child cannot remove it easily.
Use an unfussy window treatment, sill or full length curtains can be draped back with holdbacks (eg. little teddy bears) or co-ordinated tiebacks. It may be better if they do not drop fully to the floor as a toddler may climb or swing on them. A blackout roller blind may be used with them to block out unwanted light.
A baby doesn’t need a lot of furniture but it should be practical and easy to clean, but also fun as well as functional. For about the first three months, a Moses basket, carrycot or pram top can be used, but later you’ll need a bigger cot, so it the budget permits invest in a good quality one. Another essential is a place to change nappies. Special trolleys or changing tables are available but any flat surface about waist-height will do. Baby clothes tend to fold rather than hang, so a chest of drawers is useful and by placing a changing mat on top, it can be used as a nappy changing area. It can be given a new look later on with paint or stenciled. Remember to have a comfortable chair for nursing or feeding your baby, one that allows your feet to rest on the floor with back support. A chair with a wide seat and low or no arms allows room to move. Later on you need a small wardrobe as the child grows, so plan for it now. You can add a second rail lower down or pull-out baskets or shelves. A small sink in the nursery can be very useful now and in future years eg. washing hands, rinsing out paint trays, or when the room becomes a quest room.
Ceiling lights or wall-mounted lights are safer than table lamps, but if used make sure they are out of reach of a small child and that there are no trailing cables. A dimmer light switch lets you adjust the level of light and a nightlight provides reassurance later for a child who is afraid of the dark. Make sure there is enough electric sockets for the future.
Babies love to have something to look at, so hang pictures, mobiles and mirrors (safety ones) in the room. You can make your own pictures by cutting out designs from wrapping paper or posters and frame them in ready made colourful frames. You can change the pictures as the child grows. You could have a go at painting a mural, these are not difficult if you keep the design simple, one that the child will be interested in until they are four or five. Baskets, boxes, and bags will look attractive and help to keep things tidy. Store baby toys and first books in a large basket on the floor, it will be easy for a sitting baby to reach. Use a peg rail to hang wall pockets, nappy bag, toy bags etc—made in fabrics to co-ordinate with the colour scheme. A peg rail can also be used to hang clothes, a beautiful dress can be put on display, even if it was bought too small as a present. Display toys on open shelving so the child can see them and take comfort from having their treasures and belongings around them.
When decorating a nursery, remember little babies grow into toddlers, big children, teenagers and eventually adults, so the room you decorate today may have to accommodate all these different stages, so allow for this. But just remember all the fun you and your child will have decorating it over the years.
Mary D. Kelly