Designing Your Baby’s Nursery

By Nancy Moffett

Mother’s Day is this month, so our thoughts turn to babies and the joy they bring to our lives. When the new arrival comes home, it should be to a nursery that is comfortable, practical, but also beautiful, to foster serenity for both mother and baby.

Walls

Here’s where it pays to use your imagination to create a stimulating, yet restful, environment. Today’s paints offer endless possibilities. Lisa Costa, owner of CertaPro Painters of the Lehigh Valley, recommends paint with no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Most paint companies offer these environmentally and health-friendly paints in a myriad of colors. It’s important for both mother-to-be and baby to not be exposed to these harmful chemicals. As far as finish goes, eggshell is your best bet for washability, she says. However, if you prefer a flat/matte look, paints such as Sherwin Williams’ Emerald® or Harmony® give you a low-luster, washable finish.

As for color, Costa says many parents still opt for traditional pastel yellow, pink or blue. But, some go for a more sophisticated look using browns, grays or gray-green. Decals, lettering and art prints make it easy to jazz up the walls. Websites with lots of creative wall treatment ideas are parents.com, pinterest.com and pregnant.thebump.com.

Floors

Hardwood is the ideal. Today’s products come prefinished, eliminating the chemicals that come from staining and finishing the floor on site. Vinyl planking or laminate are also good choices, according to Suzanne Bartlett, interior designer with Spectrum of Floors in Easton. However, these products may give off VOCs. The FloorScore and GREENGUARD® programs certify products for low VOC emissions, so check for their ratings before you buy. Other good options are cork, bamboo and natural linoleum.

An area rug over hardwood will soften the room and give baby a comfortable place to play. Again, research before you buy. There are many products that are washable so they won’t harbor dust, dirt and dust mites that can cause allergies. If you opt for wall-to-wall carpet, Bartlett says wool carpet over rubber padding are less toxic options over conventional products. A good site for issues with nursery flooring and rugs is creative-baby-nursery-rooms.com, which makes recommendations for going as organic as possible.

Lighting

Most bedrooms have a ceiling light, either alone or incorporated into a fan. Most fan remotes have a light-dimming feature. If not, consider replacing the existing fan with a newer model. If the ceiling lamp doesn’t have a dimmer, have one installed so you can control the level of light overhead. Of course, you’ll also need at least one bedside lamp. Some now come with an automatic fade feature that gently dims the light over 15 minutes, very soothing for a sleepy tot.

Windows

Sandy Kuhns, owner of K&H Custom Window Treatments, says, “You need room-darkening products – either shades or blinds – so that baby isn’t disturbed by sunlight.” Another option is curtains with blackout linings. There are lots of choices. Of course, safety is uppermost. “Almost every product now has a cordless version,” Kuhns explains. “It’s well worth it to use cordless treatments for the rest of the house, too,” to prevent accidental entanglement. As for drapes or curtains, she sees a trend toward brighter colors (orange, coral, green) all in crisp, clear versions. Geometrics and patterns on window treatments help stimulate baby’s imagination.

Furniture

The most important piece of furniture in any nursery is the crib. Although parents-to-be may want to save money by buying a used crib, there are many out there that may not be safe. Any crib you consider should be certified to meet safety standards by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Their website offers a printable checklist you can take with you when you shop. Manufacturers listed in each product category have had all their models tested to meet JPMA standards. The site also lists recalled products, something you should check if considering buying used furniture.

Melanie Senderowitz, store manager at Bellini Baby at the Promenade Shops, says the next item to consider is a changing table. “A larger area is best for safe and comfortable changing, and something that converts is ideal,” she says. Bellini offers a slide-top changer that allows parents to change the baby facing front instead of from the side.  The slide top attaches to the back of a Bellini dresser which can be converted to a dresser with a shelf after the baby is out of diapers. Speaking of dressers, the drawers should be on glides and offer lots of storage. Dove-tailed drawers are a sign of well crafted furniture, Senderowitz points out.

Another important nursery item is a comfortable chair. Although a rocking chair is the traditional choice, glider rockers offer smooth movement and “a comfortable and stylish place to feed your baby,” Senderowitz explains. “Many gliders are now designed to later be very comfortable family room furniture.” Above all, make sure the chair you choose is quiet when you’re rocking or getting up. The last thing you need is a noisy chair that will wake a sleeping baby.

Keep safety and comfort uppermost when designing a nursery, but have fun with it, too. After all, you want a happy, colorful environment for both you and the precious baby you bring home.

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