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Photo: Cait Pappas. Crib bumper for decoration only.

How to Design a Simple and Soothing Nursery

Light and airy spaces make for a calming and cozy environment.

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Woodsy & Welcoming

Rustic accents add Colorado charm that your baby won’t outgrow.

Stuffed animal on neutral gray chair
Photo: Cait Pappas

The Inspiration

Being an excited first-time mother (who’s also an interior decorator), Cait Pappas, founder and lead stylist of Nest Out West, had her son Joe’s nursery decorated and finished months before he was born. The only caveat? That was in their first house. The Pappas family moved to their current home when Joe was just two-and-a-half months old, and given how frequently babies sleep, they didn’t have time to do much redecorating. “Paint fumes don’t clear out of a small room like this during the two to three hours between nap times, and I’m sure baby-wearing while installing ceiling-height curtain rods is a big no-no,” Pappas says.

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Now that Joe is two, Pappas and her husband Jason have more freedom to work on their home while he plays. After binge-watching the entire second season of Studio McGee’s Dream Home Makeover on Netflix, they had a major urge to complete a quick one-day room transformation. “My creative juices were flowing, and I started ordering paint samples from our local Ace Hardware store, new blackout curtains from Target, and [used a rug from another room] in Joe’s room to give it new life.”

The First Steps

Once Pappas was committed to the room transformation, she started sketching out different furniture layouts until she landed on what she calls the “unconventional dresser-in-front-of-window decision.” Her goal was to simply make the space feel larger (the room is only 9-by-11 feet), calmer, brighter, and more inviting.

The Details

One of the first things you’ll notice about Joe’s nursery is the animal prints hanging above his crib. Jason graduated from University of Colorado Boulder, so the family always has some Buff’s pride happening at their house. “I thought it would be cute to incorporate baby bison into Joe’s room because 1) the CU connection, but also 2) because we’re Chicago transplants living in Colorado, so why not play into the whole western theme?” There are tons of shops that sell baby farm animal prints, but Pappas searched high and low for this baby bison artwork until she found it on Etsy. The finishing touch to the wall art was the addition of the baby deer print, which reminded her of growing up in the midwest.

The Future Vision

Like all curious toddlers, Joe recently started trying to climb out of his crib, so Pappas wants to transition him to a bed before he falls and hurts himself. “I’d love to make his bed a space where he feels safe and comfortable, but also where his imagination can run free,” she explains. To achieve the vision, Jason is creating a lofted bed with some sort of enclosure. “Ideally, it’ll be a bed that he can play underneath to maximize the square footage, and that he can safely climb in and out of without falling.”

As for the colors, Pappas says her home coordinates with this “warm neutral” color scheme. She imagines Joe becoming a teenager in this space, and plans to align the aesthetic with his age by bringing in more mature versions of these colors, such as more leather tones and darker green hues, while phasing out some of the lighter greens and grays.

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Bright & Sunny

A neutral sun complements existing furniture and curtains.

Neutral sun nursery
Photo: Rachel Hoback

The Inspiration

Rachel Hoback, blogger behind Sprucing Up Mamahood and a mom of two, loved the look of boho rainbow style nurseries, but felt that most were a little too feminine. She wanted to create a space that was fun and happy, but more gender-neutral for her son Roman. To source some ideas, she started to look on Pinterest—that’s where she came across a lot of art prints with the rising sun design you see on Roman’s bedroom wall. Rachel has always referred to Roman as “my little sunshine” so this mural felt like the perfect fit. “His room feels happy, cheerful, and bright—just like him,” she says.

The First Steps

You might think Rachel’s first step in this space was painting the sun mural, but it was actually the opposite. “We already had the furniture from Roman’s room at our previous house. After moving into our new house I purchased the striped curtains because I thought they were so cute. Then a few months later I added the sun mural and it really helped tie the whole room together!”

The Details

With safety considered in every detail, Hoback opted for a low VOC paint (volatile organic compound) for the walls in Roman’s room. She notes that choosing a safer paint option is especially important in a bedroom because you don’t want the toxic chemicals off-gassing into your furniture, carpet, and clothes.
Hoback also used a combination of faux and real plants in the space. “The fake plants are easy (and cleaner) to include in a kid’s bedroom, but I typically prefer real plants,” she says. If you want to add some greenery to your nursery, opt for a snake plant, which is a great choice for bedrooms because they purify the air and need very little light to live.

The Future Vision

It’s important to consider how a nursery will transition into a “big kid” bedroom if you’re trying to stick to a budget. Hoback recommends choosing a crib that can convert into a toddler bed, and then into a full size bed. “We’ll most likely keep the bed in the same place, which will work just as well with the sun! I feel like the overall theme of the room would still work as he grows, which is something that is important to me when designing a nursery/kid’s room,” she says. Another tip: Use a dresser with a changing pad on top instead of purchasing a separate changing table. “It saves space and money because you can continue to use it for years.”

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Design Tips

Hoback started her design process on Pinterest, but she also recommends that parents look on Instagram for inspiration. Simply search for photos with hashtags like #NurseryDecor or #NurseryInspiration. And instead of just thinking in terms of themes, she suggests you approach the design process by thinking about different colors and textures you like—you can even find a piece of artwork or a pattern (like a rug or blanket) that you love and work off of that.


Soft & Cozy

Carefully selected fabrics create a comfortable space.

Neutral nursery
Photo: Kylee Trunck.

The Inspiration

Kylee Trunck, a home stylist and designer, originally intended for this charming nursery to be for her boy/girl twins, so she gravitated toward neutral colors. “I wanted it to be beautiful, but functional and also fun,” she says. Trunck eventually had to separate her twins into different rooms because they kept waking each other up at night.

The First Steps

When starting with an empty space, Trunck recommends that parents not put so much focus on figuring out what their style is. It can often feel intimidating and limiting, when in reality, you might be drawn to many different styles. “I’d gather all of your Pinterest images and look for what the common threads are to help you understand what you like. I always tell my clients to start with one or two pieces that they love and then start building around them,” she explains.

For Trunck, the design really started with the rug. She came across a spotted rug in designer Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus’s daughter’s nursery that she loved, which inspired the overall vibe of the room.

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The Details

Because Trunck knew that she and her husband were both going to feed and get up with the babies, she decided to purchase two rocking chairs. She arranged them near a window and added a pop of texture through the use of fur throw pillows, which draws guests in and offers up a cozy nook for not only feeding, but reading and resting too.

Another standout in the nursery is the tapestry Trunck sourced from RH Teen. “I was looking for something neutral to make an impact above the crib because the wall behind it was large and open. I also wanted something that wouldn’t fall down or couldn’t be pulled down. It’s hung like a curtain rod, so it’s very sturdy!”

Design Tips

Since many parents incorporate artwork in their baby’s nursery, Trunk suggests using double sided 3M strips for extra security on the walls. Another fun wall art idea is to hang a blanket.

One other element to consider is the type of fabrics you incorporate in the space. For example, Trunck opted for a wool rug because it’s one of the most durable fibers. “It’s held up for two years beautifully,” she says. Another material to explore is polypropylene, which is essentially an indoor/outdoor rug that’s water resistant.


Keep Safety In Mind

Charity Jackson, a Colorado Springs pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), weighs in with important safety information to remember when designing a nursery.

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Avoid Crib Hazards

The most common hazards we see when parents set up a new nursery are usually sleep related. Crib bumpers, stuffed animals, or blankets in the crib add to the visual design, but are not safe to be included in an infant’s sleeping space. Avoid low-hanging mobiles that are within baby’s reach while lying in the crib. Also, allowing cords from window coverings and blinds to dangle presents a strangulation risk.

Take Advantage of Technology

Smoke detectors should be installed outside every nursery, and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the home. Window locks and guards are also recommended to prevent falls once babies are mobile. A baby monitor is also important for parents to keep an eye on infants when they’re in another room. Night lights may be used to aid parents in avoiding falls when checking on infants during the night and transferring sleeping infants to the crib. (Avoid placing night lights near curtains to reduce fire risk).

Attach Furniture To the Wall

All furniture that has the potential to tip over should be firmly attached to the walls by the time babies are mobile and pulling up to stand, usually by nine months old. These fixtures should stay in place until children are at least five years old. Pay particular attention to dressers, bookcases, and TV stands. Secure them firmly with straps into the studs in the wall.

Reassess the Room

Periodically Baby-proofing is always a work in progress. Periodically reassess your baby’s nursery for hazards as you add or change décor. As infants grow older and become more mobile—rolling, crawling, and walking—it is important to scan the area for choking hazards. Keep in mind that babies put everything in their mouths!

Read more of Jackson’s safety tips on her blog, astheygrow.blog.

Nursery Finds We Love

Woodland animal wallpaper
$195/roll, lanasshop.com

As soon as she found out she was pregnant, local mom and artist Lana Effron hand-painted this Colorado-inspired wallpaper for her son’s nursery. The detailed print, which features a variety of woodland animals, makes for a playful statement piece in a baby’s space.

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Rubber plant
$119, leonandgeorge.com

Keep houseplants off the floor (and out of reach!) by placing small greenery on a dresser or nightstand. This 1-foot Rubber Plant from Léon & George is easy to care for and provides air-purifying aspects. But the best part is that it can be delivered to your front door in a colored pot of your choice.

Flower chandelier
$199, potterybarnkids.com

This elegant Flower Bud Chandelier doubles up as artwork and a light source. The minimalist design adds a sweet touch to a baby’s room yet is mature enough to transition into a big kid space.

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