With so much baby-on-the-way advice floating around these days, I was surprised, when we brought our daughter home from the hospital, at how little I had been prepared for the day-to-day of having a baby in our home. We found that our home's furniture layout, and even some design elements, actually made getting through the day with a baby a little more difficult. Here's some Baby-Friendly Decorating 101: simple ways to approach your home's design that I wish had been brought to my attention before my daughter was born.
Take your focus off of the nursery. One of the easiest mistakes we make when preparing for a baby is focusing all of our design energy on the nursery. While it is an exciting opportunity to completely makeover an entire room, you and baby will likely be spending very few waking hours in that room. (And if you co-sleep or have a bassinet in your room, you may very well be spending no hours at all in the nursery.) Remember that you are not going to want to be quarantined in baby's room, and she will be where you are, by necessity at first and then by choice as she gets older.
Try to create at least a baby-friendly corner, if not an entire space, in each room you frequent. At our house, this meant some simple changes such as less furniture in the kitchen so my daughter's bouncy seat could sit in the corner away from the action while I was cooking and, now, a softer bathmat in the bathroom for her and her toys to sit on comfortably while I brush my teeth and put on makeup in the morning.
Experience rooms from the floor. As a mom-to-be, I tried to envision how our home would work with a new baby. I pictured myself mostly sitting around, recovering and holding her while she ate and slept. So after making sure baby items were accessible, my next priority was to ensure that I had a comfortable place to sit in most rooms of the house. While this vision played out in reality for a few months, it wasn't long before she wasn't a new baby anymore and was ready to spend the majority of her day playing on the floor.
Once it dawned on me that my husband and I would also be spending the next several years sitting on our hardwood floors with her, I hunted down a comfortable, stain-resistant rug for the living room, made several floor pillows readily available in every room, and rearranged furniture to create more floor space (it's uncomfortably confining to sit on the floor and have furniture blocking your view out of a window or into the next room).
Create open spaces. Our front door opens directly into our living room, and a favorite design element of mine for some time was the positioning of our couch, which sat in the middle of the room and created a faux entryway. By chance, it also created separation between the living room and dining room (and, by extension, the kitchen). When my daughter became mobile, she needed more open space for crawling, and I needed to be able to monitor her more easily as she moved from room to room. After much deliberation and hesitation, we finally pushed the couch against a wall, rearranged the rooms accordingly, and even removed our coffee table. While it's not my ideal living room setup, it makes for a better crawling (and soon-to-be toddling) experience for all of us.
Embrace flexibility. The key to creating a design that works for the whole family is to be flexible. As our daughter grows and goes through different stages, our needs change from room to room. I've learned to no longer be married to any specific design elements, because ease-of-living in our space is of top priority these days. Someday I'll be able to focus on form more than function...though when the two coincide, it's like magic, isn't it?
And of course, all of this can be tackled post-baby as your needs are realized, but do yourself a favor and get the ball rolling before baby comes home, because finding the time—and energy!—afterward can be a challenge in itself.
(Image: Leela Cyd Ross/Joan's Artist Abode)