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Tips for renovating a nursery

Whether you’re expecting your first child or renovating a nursery in a new home for your growing family, selecting a nursery design that works for you and your baby should be a joyous project. To make the process a little smoother, here are a few tips for renovating a nursery you can begin to think about as soon as you know you’re about to welcome a child into the world.

Start with the Crib

Incredibly, newborns spend 16 to 17 hours a day sleeping—in snatches of as short as half an hour to as long as four hours. While some babies start sleeping through the night by about three months, “night” can be as little as six hours. And other babies may not sleep through the night until they’re a year old.

One way or another, you will be sleep deprived and your baby will be spending a lot of time in their crib. While it might seem like a good idea environmentally to buy a used crib or go with a hand-me-down from a family member, you also might want to consider investing in a good quality crib that meets today’s safety standards and can be used for other newborns or converted into a small bed as your baby grows into a toddler. A convertible crib can be used until a child is three or so. And of course, if you’re planning a larger family, your next baby can use the crib as well.

Choose cribs made from natural wood and try to avoid laminates and plastics, all of which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and will off-gas for at least a year after purchase.

Invest in as much natural fiber crib bedding as you can, and go organic if you prefer. Cotton that’s been washed and dried over and over again can feel almost as soft as silk against tender skin. Buy extra crib bedding: the last thing you need while trying to juggle night feedings and diaper changes is discovering you need to do laundry. And the amount of laundry you’ll be doing will already have increased exponentially.

Changing Tables or Pads

If you have room for a changing table and want to invest in one, many modern versions come with built-in storage for many of the supplies you’ll need while changing baby. Changing tables are hard to repurpose as other furniture though, so if you’re planning to keep your family small, you might want to invest in a changing top instead of a table and use it on top of a small dresser.

Dresser storage can be easily compartmentalized with drawer dividers and you can keep all the things you’ll need to make your child comfortable in the top drawer while using the others for baby clothes and bedding.

Don’t Forget Comfort

Invest in a chair for your nursery and an ottoman so you can put your feet up if your room’s too small to accommodate a loveseat or a couch. You’re going to want to spend time in the nursery with your baby, and a comfortable place to sit is the perfect place to bond while feeding, snuggling, reading, or singing lullabies.

There will also be those other days and nights when your child is running a fever or has the sniffles and you want to monitor them more closely than via the baby monitor. Give yourself a break and pick comfortable seating that might even let you catch a 20-minute nap when you need it most. Who knows, if you fall asleep, your baby might settle too.

Soothe and Stimulate

Much of your baby’s first year of life is going to be spent in the nursery. When thinking about how to decorate the room, take both of your needs into account.

Pay particular attention to the lighting in the room. You’re going to want to be able to darken the room for daytime naps but you’re also going to want as much natural light as possible. Consider blackout curtains or blinds for the window coverings, and invest in not only a night light but a table lamp and an overhead light fixture that has some visual interest. Make sure you install a dimmer switch.

When choosing rugs, curtains, cushions, and nursery room colors, start with the textiles first. It will be much easier to match the textiles with paint color than the opposite.

Build in a ceiling decor concept when renovating a nursery. Decorate the ceiling with wallpaper, bold or neutral stripes, or easily removed, glow-in-the-dark decals. The ceiling will be the baby’s focal point on first awakening, and while mobiles are great, there’s a lot more to a nursery than just the area above the crib.

Consider painting a mural on the wall across from the crib, especially a mural that lends itself to storytelling. And think about going green when gathering tips for renovating a nursery. If you’re repainting, look for low-VOC or VOC-free paint and rugs made of wool, cotton, sisal or jute. Low-VOC flooring includes wood, bamboo, cork, and linoleum rather than laminate.