Designing a nursery step 2: Building a strong core

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Contributed by:

Danielle Kurtz
Creative Director and Mother of Two –

Pretty much every nursery needs to accommodate your baby’s three main pastimes: sleeping, eating and having their diapers changed. Now the order of preference on these definitely varies by child, but chances are most of your newborn parent days will be spent convincing your baby to engage in these activities. So, it’s important that each is considered carefully when putting your room together.


Let’s start with sleeping. You’ll need a crib. Your initial instinct may be that the crib is temporary, so not worth spending a lot, but many kids stay in their cribs for three or more years. Plus, if you plan to have more kids, you’ll want to invest in one that will last through multiple children. For these reasons, I think this is actually where a big chunk of your nursery budget should go. There are three things to consider when choosing a crib:

  1. Safety: Be sure that the crib meets all US safety standards. You shouldn’t opt for vintage or repurpose a hand-me-down. Crib safety standards have evolved greatly over the last decade, and the only way to know for sure that the crib meets all the criteria for safety is to buy new. And with hand-me-downs you can’t be sure you have all the appropriate pieces and parts to assemble the crib properly. Hopefully your little one will be doing a lot of sleeping, so it’s likely this will be the only place you leave them alone. It’s important you feel confident doing so.

    Beyond the safety standards, look into the craftsmanship of the crib and be sure it’s solidly built of high quality materials. It’s easy to forget that sweet, tiny newborns become rambunctious toddlers, but they do. So, the crib’s going to take a lot of abuse as your baby learns to crawl, stand and jump. Be sure it can withstand it.

  2. Functionality: Most cribs are simply beds for babies. But some come with nifty features you may or may not need. If you have a small space, consider a storage crib that has incorporated drawers beneath it.

    You also may want to consider a crib that can accommodate a toddler rail. This is perfect for kids that start climbing out of a crib at an early age, but aren’t quite ready for a big kid bed. You won’t know you need this until it happens, so just be sure you have the option going in. Also, check with the manufacturer to be sure the toddler rail will still be available a year down the road, or cover your bases and buy it now. The last thing you want is for it to be discontinued before you realize you need it.

    Lastly, some cribs are convertible into full size beds. These all-in-ones can be a great option if you’re certain you won’t need the crib for another baby down the line. If you already know you’re planning on a second child, I’d skip the convertible crib and instead worry about choosing a crib you can use again for your next baby.

  3. Styling: Lastly, the look of the crib is also important to your overall nursery design. I’d be careful about getting too trendy on the design or color if you plan to use the crib for another baby. Instead, I’d opt for something with a more timeless design in a neutral color. Think white, grey, wood tone or navy. That’ll give you the most flexibility to evolve the design of not only your current nursery, but also any additional nursery needs you might have as your family grows. Think of the crib as a great pair of jeans, it you stick with a classic silhouette, you can accessorize it a million different ways and it’ll never go out of style.


Next up, eating. During the newborn and infant stage, eating happens anywhere and everywhere. But, it’s those 2 A.M. feedings you really have to contemplate when it comes to your nursery design. And, more importantly, where you’ll be sitting while you feed your tiny little insomniac. Here are the three most important things to think about before buying a rocker for your nursery.

  1. Comfort: This seems obvious, but this is serious business. By the time I retired my rocker, I’d been a mom for 7 years and am pretty sure I logged about 6 of those years seated in that chair, with one to two children on my lap at any given moment. For a person that loves sitting and isn’t a huge fan of having people in my personal space, comfort was key.

    This doesn’t mean you necessarily want the plushest chair around that you sink into. Actually, kind of the opposite. You need a chair that is comfortable but gives you plenty of support and is easy to get into and out of. Imagine rocking your under-the-weather toddler to sleep, then having to get up and put your kiddo into their crib without waking them, all while you’re 6 months pregnant. I’m serious. Moving around carrying a 7 lb. newborn may seem like a breeze, but they will become a 30 lb. toddler before you know it. Look for firm cushions. A back that’s high enough to support your neck, and your partner’s. And, strong arms that’ll support your arm while you’re supporting your baby’s head.

  2. Durability: Things are going to happen on this chair. I’m talking milk spillage, baby drool, diaper leakage. It’s not going to be pretty, but you want to be sure your chair still will be. Look for fabrics that can wipe clean easily like microfiber and even leather. If you have your heart set on cotton or linen, consider a slipcovered chair so you can get it dry-cleaned as needed.

    Also, with all that sitting, you want to be sure the cushions can stand up to that level of use. You don’t want to end up with saggy cushions a few months down the line. Look for a chair with a strong internal suspension, and double-wrapped foam core cushions.

  3. Design: Like your crib, the rocker is part of the nursery’s core. And, since you may end up using it for multiple children, I like to stick to something timeless and somewhat neutral. Unlike the crib, if you choose wisely, the rocker can have a life past your nursery. Look for a sophisticated design with clean lines, and your chair can easily transition into your family room or master bedroom when you’re done with the nursery phase.


Last, but not least, diaper changing. You basically have 3 options, here’s the lowdown on each.

  1. Dedicated Changer Table: This may be enticing, and if you have the space they can be useful. But, I’d caution against investing a lot of money into one if you can’t see it having use beyond the diaper-changing phase. Otherwise, it essentially has a 9-month life. At that point your baby is going to be too big or too mobile to safely use one, and you’ll be left with a pretty non-functional piece of furniture. I’d definitely opt to use that floor space for a bookcase or dresser, which will have a much longer useful life.
  2. Changer Top: Speaking of dressers, my favorite option is a simple changer top. It can be added to the top of a dresser and used for as long as needed. When you’re done, you simply remove it and are left with a fully functioning dresser. You can keep all the essentials in the drawers or on shelves nearby. I love that this option works for a new dresser, or can be added to a vintage find or dresser you already own.
  3. Skip It: If space is tight, you may be considering skipping it altogether. I personally wouldn’t do that, as you still need a place for all the diaper changing stuff. Plus, I never wanted to risk my bedding or rug to a diaper explosion. Better to keep that all to the changer top where changer pads could be swapped out and laundered at will or simply shoved in a giant black trash bag if the situation warranted it. (Note, the situation may sometimes warrant it.)

Still not sure where to begin? Check out The Land of Nod Design Services. We have folks that know all the nitty gritty about cribs, rockers and changers. And, can help you select just the right piece to create the nursery of your dreams. And best of all, the service is completely complementary. So you can put your feet up and let them do the legwork.

If you’re all set on your nursery’s core items, check out my other posts in my Designing a Nursery series. In Step 1: Color Inspiration I share how to go from color muse to nursery design. Step 3: Tips & Tricks from A Mom Who’s Been There is all about my advice on what you really need, what you can skip and some things you might not even know are a thing yet. And Step 4: Finishing Touches…Secrets from a Designer is all about adding that extra layer that takes your nursery from nice to looking professionally styled, curated and uniquely yours.

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