5 Easy Tips for Designing a Pretty and Practical Nursery, According to Design Experts

published Nov 16, 2022
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Erin Fetherston's nursery

One of the most exciting parts of preparing for parenthood (aside from reading about and learning how to care for the actual baby, of course!) is getting to decorate a nursery. Nurseries can end up being one of the places you’ll spend hours with your baby, from essentially the moment you bring your baby home or into the world until it’s time to transition into big kid beds. Just like any other room in your home, you likely will want this area to be stylish and comfortable, with all the little luxuries you need to make your — and your little one’s — life easier.

Whether you have an entire spare bedroom to reimagine as a kid-centric nursery or just a closet-sized nook to get creative with, you deserve a spot that’s equal parts pretty and practical. Atlanta-based interior designer Andi Morse has three daughters, and designing beautiful spaces for families with function at their core is an integral part of her design philosophy. “It doesn’t matter how pretty something is if it’s going to get ruined,” Morse says. “Practicality is where I start when designing spaces that a family can love and live comfortably in.”

I talked to Morse, designers Erin Fetherston and Nirjary Desai — as well Apartment Therapy’s own chief content officer (and mom!) Laura Schocker — to bring you five tips on how to create a nursery that’s charming and functional, and here’s what they said.

Credit: Erin Derby

Get a washable rug if you can

Whether you have wall-to-wall carpeted floors, hardwood, or vinyl tiles, a cute area rug probably has a spot on your nursery shopping list. When searching for the perfect style, fabric should play a major role in your final decision. “I’m not kidding when I say choosing a washable rug in my daughter’s nursery has saved the day more times than I can count,” says Schocker.

From feeding and diaper mishaps and to accidental spills, children making messes is completely inevitable, so it’s best to be prepared. “Being able to just pull the rug up and toss it in the washer is so much easier (for me) than spot cleaning,” says Schocker. You can position your washable rug so it’s right by your changing area, too, or in any other spot that you feel like it would be most useful. If you choose a smaller size, it’ll be easier to stuff into a washing machine, and you can always layer it with another carpet if you want more of your original nursery flooring covered.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Invest in a very comfortable seat

Anyone who’s ever had — or even cared for — a child knows you’re likely to spend a lot of time with your newborn or toddler in your arms. For this reason, you’ll want to invest whatever resources you can into a comfortable nursery chair. “I’m a big advocate for upholstered chairs that are fully skirted versus chairs that show the wooden legs,” Morse says. “Not only does this style just look better, it also makes the chair easier to rehome in other rooms when the kids outgrow it.” Find something with good bones that speaks to you. Big boxes and home decor stores have tons of styles and fabrics available, but you could also go the vintage route here, too, and get a piece reupholstered to suit your color scheme.

Credit: Lana Kenney

Be smart (and stylish) about your storage

According to Fetherston, whose chic nursery is pictured at the top of this article and just below, balance is important in a space like a baby’s nursery. “It’s really about stylish storage accessories and taking time to organize things well,” she says. “I pre-label my dresser drawers by clothing size, so that the size needed at the moment is always in the top drawer for easy access, and larger sizes that they grow into go into lower drawers.” Fetherston also keeps all of her changing table items in cute bins, like Crate & Kids’ natural wicker baskets, so that they are easy to access — and easy on the eyes when out in the open on shelving.

Credit: Crate & Kids

Think beyond a traditional changing table

If you can’t afford to buy a changing table and a dresser or simply don’t have room for both, then you really can do without one. “I think having a versatile compact side table or the top of a dresser [for a changing surface] would be a great way to gain function in a smaller space,” says Desai, a soon-to-be-mom. “You could even consider a small multi-functional ottoman that could be used as a seat, more storage, and a way to change the baby.” “You can really change a diaper on any flat surface,” Fetherston adds. “A crib, the floor, a bed, or daybed all work just fine.”

Spend a little extra effort on the ceiling

To make a drastic, budget-friendly change in a room, many people opt for a fresh coat of paint on the walls, which is great for nurseries, too. Patterned wallpaper has become an increasingly popular design choice as well. “I love wallpaper,” Morse says. “Using it on the ceiling is an even bolder idea.” Unlike paint, wallpaper brings an additional layer of texture and dimension to a room, and it delivers a lot of bang for the buck, particularly if you choose an affordable paste the wall or peel-and-stick style. “Doing just the ceiling is also lot less expensive than covering an entire room,” Morse says. “Plus, babies are always looking up, and a fun wallpaper print is way more interesting for them to stare at. It keeps their minds busy!”