5 Critical Things to Consider When Designing a New Baby Room

baby-nursery-designDesigning a new baby room is definitely one of those fun things that couples get to work on together prior to a baby’s birth.  From colors, to furniture, to overall style – there’s definitely a lot of room for creativity.

My wife and I had a pretty unique situation, in that our future baby room was, at the time…

…occupied by a bunny.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Our pet bunny had its own room.  That’s what happens when you move into a three bedroom condo and don’t have kids for a few years.

So, on top of the usual room designing tasks, we had one extra step: find a new place for the bunny to live.  I won’t bore you with those details, because chances are, you don’t have to deal with this exact scenario.

Regardless of what your situation is, however, you are probably looking to fully transform the current space.  And in doing so, there are some important factors you will want to think about.

The New Baby Room: What Do I Need to Be Thinking About?

Here are five pretty critical things to consider when you start planning and designing your new baby room.

#1 Color and Theme

baby-room-ideas-in-grey-9
Source: http://burjo.dynu.com/

This is the first one everyone thinks of when they beginning planning the new baby’s room. And quite honestly, it’s the most fun (provided you and your spouse can agree on everything).

For a lot of people, color and theme are primarily driven by gender.  For other people, they prefer to go with something more generic and less gender-specific.

You can get pretty crazy with colors as you have color-based decisions for (potentially) all of the items below:

  • Walls (and assuming there are 4, you don’t have to do the same thing for all of them)
  • Flooring/carpeting
  • Furniture (more on this later)
  • Props (for lack of a better word – things like artwork, large stuffed animals, and other objects that you don’t intend to move)

Here are some Pinterest boards that can help you with color schemes.

And with themes, you have nearly unlimited examples.  Themes are generally more specific than just color – they add more character to the room.

Here are some examples of room themes:

  • Animals (bunnies, dogs, general wildlife, etc.)
  • Fairytales
  • Disney movies
  • Dinosaurs
  • Superheroes
  • Princesses
  • …and about a billion more that aren’t listed here.

Here are some Pinterest boards that can help you with room themes.

#2 Long-Term Plans

Source: parentingrenewed.com
Source: parentingrenewed.com

It’s easy to be short-sighted when you’re designing your baby’s room.

While most elements of the room can be changed in the future, what are your long term plans for the room?

If you plan to live in your home for the foreseeable long-term future (10+ years), consider how much work you want to do (or don’t want to do) later on.

Living in the same room long-term:

When you plan to live in your home for many years to come and you plan for your child to live in the same room for his or her entire childhood, there are some long-term considerations.

For example, let’s say you really like Disney princesses as a theme for your soon-to-be daughter.  Do you wallpaper the room with Disney princesses? Or, do you go with a more neutral wall color and simply add movable objects (like dolls and other toys) to the room’s decor?

If you wallpaper the room, there’s a chance when your daughter enters her teen or pre-teen years, she doesn’t want that type of wallpaper.  It’s a lot easier to get rid of dolls than it is to remove wallpaper and re-paint a room.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go for the wallpaper – you just want to keep in mind the long-term impact.

Plans to move in the short-term:

If you’re planning on moving within the first couple years of your child’s life, and you own your home, you should consider the implications it has on when you actually go to sell your house.

For example, you may love the color forest green for your son, and while painting the room that color isn’t a big deal, it may not be a good idea to replace the carpet or any other fixtures to match that color scheme.

The last thing you want when trying to sell your house is to have a prospective buyer turned off by the appearance of one room.

I know, it’s no fun to have “long term plans” interfere with the fun of planning now, but I guess that’s the cost of being practical and a little bit critical (two elements of my personality that I exhibit, almost to a fault).

#3 Your Comfort in the Room

Planning your baby’s room isn’t all about the baby.

During the first several months, and even first few years, you will be spending a considerable amount of time in your baby’s room.

I don’t doubt that there are many parents who have simply passed out on the floor of their baby’s room, next to the crib, but don’t let that be you.  It’s bad enough that you’re going to be short on sleep and irritable.  And if you have a job and you’re at the point where you’re back at work, you’ve got an extra layer of stress to worry about.

Don’t you want to be comfortable?

I’m not suggesting that you add a bed next to your baby’s crib.  You’re trying to get comfortable…you’re not moving in.

What a lot of parents opt to do is get a really comfortable chair – one that serves multiple purposes.  Whether you’re sitting in the baby’s room waiting for it to fall asleep, nursing, or holding it and reading a bedtime story, comfort will be important.

On TV or in the movies, they often seem to portray hard, wooden rocking chairs as the furniture of choice in a baby’s nursery.  While the rocking motion might help your baby sleep, the wooden chair rarely looks comfortable for the parent.

I much prefer something a little bit more cushy, with a foot rest, that still has a rocking motion – something like this:

Or, if you don’t want the rocking motion, I’m always into over-sized recliner chairs (like this one):

recliner-chair

The bottom line is, while your focus may be on the baby, you need to keep your comfort in mind and plan accordingly.  I really could go for a nap in one of those chairs right about now.

#4 Storage

Although you may not have a lot of baby stuff right now, get ready to be overwhelmed with toys, clothing, and other baby-related products.  Especially if you have a large family or lots of friends who are looking spoil the little girl or guy.

If the baby will be in a normal bedroom, he or she will likely have a closet, but that may not be enough.  Fortunately, there are a lot of good storage options.

Floor Bins & Toy Chests

These are great because they come in different sizes and can be placed anywhere in the room.  They generally hold toys, but can also hold extra pillows, blankets, books and other items.

Here are some examples:

Rolling Toybox

(Source: Amazon)

rolling-toybox

Floor Bins

(Source: Pottery Barn)

floor-bins

Toy Chest

(Source: Amazon)

toy-chest

Extra Shelving

You may already have shelving in the baby’s closet, but trust me, you’re going to want more.

Whether it’s for books, diapers, or anything else you want easily accessible, having extra shelving out in the open is a great way to store some of your baby’s necessities while keeping them off the floor.

Here are some examples:

On the Wall Book Bin

(Source: Land of Nod)

on-the-wall-book-bin

Fabric Closet Organizer

(Source: Amazon)

closet-organizer

 

#5 Other Key Pieces of Furniture

I know we’ve already covered certain optional furniture, such as storage containers or a comfortable place for you to sit, but I’ve saved the best for last.  There are some more critical pieces of furniture that you will need to figure out for your baby’s room:

  • The crib (and crib bedding)
  • The changing table (is it actually critical?)
  • Diaper pail

The Crib (and related items)

This is really the crux of the baby’s room.  It’s where your baby will spend most of its time in the first couple of years.  It’s where your baby will (hopefully) be sleeping.

And if you do everything right, maybe you’ll get some sleep too.

(Just kidding.  No sleep for you.)

Don’t look at the crib as just another baby-related expense.  Look at it as an investment.

Not only will your baby sleep in the crib for the first 2-3 (or more) years of its life, but a good crib can easily be passed down to any future kids you may have.  Like any other investment, you want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Discussing which specific crib you should buy is really outside the scope of this post (it definitely deserves its own post).  However, we can all agree that regardless of what your baby’s room looks like, the #1 goal is safety.

Let’s take a look the tips that Consumer Reports came up with after examining the cribs available today:

  • Basic is best.  Sometimes when you add all the crazy bells and whistles, you end up with a crib that’s less safe.  The safest cribs tend to be the simplest cribs.
  • Buy new.  While you may be tempted to re-purpose a crib from your childhood, or find a vintage used one online, keep in mind that safety standards have evolved tremendously over the past few decades.  Newer cribs are more likely to be safer.
  • Check the construction and workmanship.  Even the best cribs are subject to flaws.  You want to make sure everything is firm and sturdy.  Consumer Reports suggests testing the quality and construction of the crib in-store first, by shaking the crib slightly to see if the frame seems loose.
  • Buy the mattress at the same time.  Mattresses tend to be sold separate from cribs, so it’s a good idea to buy them at the same time to ensure a good fit.  Fit is extremely important: you want to make sure there aren’t any spaces where your baby wedge a body part (particularly the head) and strangle or suffocate.  If you can place more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame, you need a bigger mattress.
  • Use the right sheets.  Similar to the mattress, you want to make sure everything fits well (and tightly).   If the sheets can be pulled up easily, they can be a potential hazard for the baby.
  • Arrange for assembly.  I scoffed a little at this tip from Consumer Reports, but I understand the reasoning.  Personally, I like to take on these sort of projects – if it’s made for people to do themselves, I like to do it myself. However, if you feel you don’t have the skills or time (if you don’t have the time to put a crib together, you’re in a world of trouble when the baby comes), it may be worth having the crib assembled by a professional so that you’re sure it’s done correctly

The Changing Table?

baby-changing-tableBelieve it or not, this one’s actually debatable.

Some parents feel that a changing table is an unnecessary piece of furniture when you can just use the top of a dresser (by adding a changing pad and safety strap).

Or, many parents prefer to simply use a changing pad on the floor (and some feel it’s safer than placing your baby on a platform that is a several feet off the ground).

My view is this: No, it’s not a critical piece of furniture from a practical standpoint.  Your baby doesn’t need it.  BUT – depending on your budget – you may want a changing table as part of the nursery’s design.

And it isn’t all about design either – there are a couple practical advantages to owning a baby table as well:

  • You can change your baby’s diaper at a height that is comfortable for you (36-44″ off the ground) instead of having to kneel on the ground.
  • Changing tables tend to have shelves and/or drawers, so they also work well as storage. It’s nice to have wipes, rash ointment, clean diapers, etc. handy when you’re changing your baby’s diaper.

Ultimately, I think it really comes down to budget and space.  If you have room to spare and money isn’t an issue, it’s a nice piece of furniture to have in the nursery.  However, if you decide against buying one, you and your baby will be fine without it.

The Diaper Pail

diaper-genieThe diaper bin is another baby nursery fixture that isn’t absolutely crucial, but parents generally find them to be useful.

It’s estimated that in your baby’s first year of life, he or she will go through 2,500-3,000 diapers.  They need to be changed frequently, and you probably don’t want to run outside to the trash can every time your baby poops.

Why not use a regular household garbage can (such as the one in your kitchen)?

If you don’t have a sense of smell, then yes, that’s a viable option.

But for the vast majority of us who can smell…trust me, the kitchen trash won’t be a solution.  You will stink up your house (or at least, the area around the kitchen).

So, that brings us to the diaper pail.  Its main selling point? You can put dirty diapers into it (until it’s full), and the smell is contained.  No need to run out to the trash every time your baby poops.

You’ll typically keep the diaper pail in the baby’s nursery, as that’s where you’ll probably do a lot of the diaper changing (especially if you have a changing table).

However, budget-permitting, you might consider buying a second diaper pail for the kitchen or other area of the house where you spend a lot of time (and potentially will be changing the diapers).  Not necessary, but convenient if your baby’s room is on a separate floor of your home.

You can get a decent Diaper Genie for $35 (at the time of this writing), so it won’t break the bank.

Ready to Design Your Baby’s Room?

I honestly think designing a baby’s nursery, especially if you’re a soon-to-be first time parent, is one of the more fun parts of becoming a parent.  Not only are you getting excited for your future child, but it’s an excuse to plan and buy things, which I know a lot of people enjoy.

There can be a lot to do – especially if you plan on re-painting and re-carpeting – so it wouldn’t hurt to start tackling this task a month or two before the baby is due.

And if you’re in the position where you need to relocate a bunny and plan on building it a new home from scratch…well, send me an e-mail, and I can fill you in on what we did.

What are some things that you think are critical for designing a new baby room?  Anything important that I missed?  Leave a comment! 🙂

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