How to furnish and decorate the nursery is one of many things that parents-to-be need to consider as the due date approaches. Betty Horvath, Senior Designer with i Design 4 Interiors, LLC in Brookfield, has been in the interior design field for 25 years. “I’ve done everything,” she said, “but children’s rooms are a personal favorite.”
Horvath, a Milwaukee/NARI member, is celebrating Parents Day, July 26, with tips to help parents achieve a well-designed, safe, and appealing nursery.
Be careful of the furniture purchased – thousands of babies sustain injuries each year due to poorly designed furniture or incorrect use. In this room more than any other, it’s important to select strong, sturdy workmanship.
In Horvath’s most recent nursery project, a small Milwaukee bungalow, the parents were very aware of safety hazards. For every item purchased, they checked consumer reports and were careful to determine which items were safest for the child.
When deciding where the furniture should go, recognize hazards. Keep the crib away from heaters, windows, window cords, and electrical outlets. Horvath said, “Generally speaking, don’t put the crib on an outside wall.”
There are now window blinds that are cordless, which are a lot safer for babies and toddlers. Parents should have soft surfaces and rounded furniture corners.
Many items can be tipped, even wide dressers, so try strapping furniture to the wall. Also, install safety latches on drawers. Don’t decorate with any items that have small parts or pieces that babies could choke on.
Look for holes and gaps. Cover any small hole where fingers, arms, or legs could get caught. Holes greater than four inches also may be big enough to trap the head or upper body, which can have tragic results.
Some people prefer carpet in a nursery because it makes the space feel softer, but keep in mind that carpet can act like a sponge for dust and allergens. An area rug over a hardwood floor is a nice alternative.
Colors And Shapes
Many parents are staying away from the traditional pinks and blues for nurseries, using light greens and yellows instead. Painted furniture is still a hit with white being the most common finish.
Consider what mood and feel you want your nursery to have – whimsical, soft, or bold? Do you want a theme such as princess, circus, Noah’s ark, sports, nature, or perhaps a fairytale character or television show?
“A number of people I’ve worked with in the past have done safari themes,” Horvath said. “More specific themes have to be changed often as the child grows. People are moving away from Winnie the Pooh and Disney, instead choosing ideas that are timeless. That way, the child can grow up with it.”
Animals are always in style and the alphabet is a lot of fun to incorporate, as well as anything floral if it’s a girl.
If you don’t want a specific theme, you can decide on a focal point such as the crib or a unique window treatment, and design the rest of the room to match. In Horvath’s project, a polka dot theme was unintentionally formed when it was discovered that two objects – the stroller and the bedding – both had polka dots.
"We wanted to use colors and objects to stimulate the child’s senses. We made the walls apple green. Then we painted the ceiling aqua marine, with varying shades of aqua marine and apple green in the polka dots,” she said. “The varying shapes and color shades will entertain the little one.”
In addition, they used a striped tapestry, an early gift from the godfather, as further inspiration for the room’s decor. Vertical lines can feel strong, horizontal lines can feel calm, curved lines can feel soft, and diagonal lines can convey movement.
“We placed the changing table in the five foot wall space between two doors. Above it, the parents had a great idea to hang black and white photos of their baby girl’s grandmothers and great-grandmothers when they were young, as a tribute to the child’s female ancestry. The photos were matted in different colors and hung with a mirror in the center. It serves as a wonderful sensory stimulation during changings,” she said.
“The parents-to-be love color and art and wanted the nursery to reflect that.” At the heart of it, the parents were pleased to have a nursery that didn’t necessarily look like a nursery, but an extension of the rest of their home.
When selecting the size of your furniture, keep in mind the size of the room so your choices won’t appear too large or too small. To keep the room balanced, space out the bigger pieces of furniture and spread around the colors and patterns you’ve chosen.
Placing a comfortable rocker near a window allows you to relax and look outside during feedings. Have a nightstand nearby, as well as view of clock. As for the crib, Horvath suggests arranging it where you can see the baby first thing when you walk into the room.
Consider arranging a piece of furniture diagonally across a corner. This may make a small room appear larger. A corner table behind a furniture piece, for accents like stuffed animals, may make a nice added touch.
Finally, to make sure you don’t feel crowded, have two or three feet of space around the changing table, dresser, and crib. “Make sure the crib doesn’t obstruct the traffic pattern,” she said.
You don’t want to cover a lot of distance during diaper changes. Keep the hamper near the changing table, and the changing table near the crib.
There may be some available closet space before your child gets older. For easy accessibility, consider using this for a hidden bottle prep area. Try making room for a bottle warmer and a small refrigerator for extra milk or nursery water. On top of the refrigerator, you can store clean bottles on racks.
Horvath made the most of the space available in the small room. “We took the closet and filled it with stackers for built-in storage, so everything can go on one wall, like walk-in storage space,” she said. “On one wall, we built custom book shelves around the radiator. Someday, when the child is in school, a desk will fit in the bookshelf area.” A number of items on the bookshelves are sentimental from the mother’s or father’s childhood, or reusable things from the baby shower.
When purchasing items, usefulness will prove more important than appearance. Practical items like a diaper holder, a garbage can that conceals odors, and a changing table with plenty of storage will be more appreciated than decorative knick-knacks.
In addition to being functional and stimulating, the nursery Horvath designed was “green.” “Many homeowners are looking for eco-friendly products,” she said. “We use items that can be recycled to different rooms in the home once the child outgrows them. Plus, some of the furniture is made of bamboo, and I work with organic cottons and fabrics.” She also uses paints with very low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The parents planned to feed with eco-friendly materials like glass bottles and cornstarch-based plates and sippy cups, and will make all the baby food from scratch in addition to nursing. All toys, clothing, blankets, bedding, diapers, and the diaper bag were made from cottons, organic materials, renewable materials like bamboo, or eco-friendly materials. “The rattan furniture has eco-friendly kapok stuffed cushions,” she said. “There are no synthetics there at all, no plastics.”
Consider purchasing furniture that can be used for years to come. “These parents purchased a crib that could be converted into a toddler bed. Then, once the toddler outgrows it, it can be converted to a day bed or full-sized bed. Spending a little extra in the beginning allows them to have a piece of furniture that will last for years to come.” The changing table they chose will also convert to a dresser in the future.
Brookfield-based i Design 4 Interiors, LLC is a member of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for more than 47 years. For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster, call (414) 771-4071 or visit the Council’s Web site at www.milwaukeenari.org.
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