Tips and Tricks for the Sweetest Nursery


There is nothing quite like planning for a new addition to the family, and for me, this includes an excuse to prepare and decorate a beautiful nursery. I have an 18-month-old as well as a baby on the way, so I’ve had plenty of practice at this the last couple of years. I’m certainly not a professional designer, but what I lack in training and skill I make up for in enthusiasm for a home décor project.

Here are my tips and tricks for planning–then executing–a perfect (for you and your little one) nursery.

Start with Inspiration Pieces 

Pick one or two inspiration pieces to get started. You’ve got to start somewhere and an inspiration piece (or maybe two) is a good jumping off place. Maybe it’s a piece of furniture, a meaningful piece of artwork, or a rug you can’t live without. But instead of starting with a theme or even a color, pick something you love, then design the space around that can’t-live-without-it piece.

nursery design tips
My daughter’s room inspiration piece was the artwork in this photo; it hung in my room when I was a little girl! I used the color scheme (neutrals, greens, and a blush pink) as well as the antique style as my jumping off point.
nursery design tips
We did a gender surprise with my son, so I planned a gender neutral nursery. The multi-colored quilt here, which was a wedding gift given to my parents over 40 years ago, was the inspiration for the color palette of his room.

Use Subtle Themes 

Subtle themes are better than loud ones. Some people love a good theme, and while that can be fun, keep it subtle. This makes the room work longer for the child. It’s also less overwhelming when entering a space that should be peaceful and calm, rather than an overt homage to construction vehicles or princesses.

In my son’s room, I wanted to incorporate sheep, which are meaningful to me both because it is representative of my Christian faith, and because my grandfather was a sheep farmer. I grew up going to the farm to visit his baby lambs. Rather than buy everything I could find with a lamb on it, I framed some artwork that came from my grandparents’ house and from my mom. A friend, upon seeing the artwork, gifted us a beautiful mobile with lambs. The theme is subtle but precious to me every time I am changing my son’s diaper (which is a lot!) or putting him to bed.

nursery design tips
An homage to sheep without the theme being overbearing

Don’t Buy Everything from the Same Place

You may love a certain store or design style, but sticking exclusively to that style will inevitably look like {fave store} vomited their wares in your sweet babe’s room. Even the cutest stuff needs to be mixed and matched. For example, I adore the bohemian style of décor popular right now, and my favorite line is the budget-friendly Opalhouse by Target. But using every single thing from the same line would look, well, like I work for Target (I don’t), so I had to refrain. I purchased items from Facebook Marketplace (used things, obviously), Target, Home Goods, Hobby Lobby, Anthropologie, and World Market. I also raided my parents’ garage and our own attic for items for my kids’ nurseries. 

Beyond Pink or Blue

There’s no need to go crazy with pink or blue. You do not, I repeat, do not have to paint the walls pink or blue the moment you learn the gender of your child. In fact, a room that defies the stereotypical paint colors and baby-ish characters and designs can be sweet and unexpected. I chose a neutral beige for both my son’s and my daughter’s rooms so that as they grow, we can easily change out simple décor items like rugs or bedding without a major overhaul.

nursery design tips
To spice up the beige walls, I stenciled one accent wall. Yes, it took forever, but the effect was totally worth it.

Shop Your House

You don’t have to spend a ton to create a sweet and simple nursery for your little one. Look around at what you already own to see if you can use or update pieces for the nursery. Maybe an old dresser can be painted or refinished or that comfy chair in your living room would make a great nursery chair. Use what you already own first, then fill in gaps with new pieces, not the other way around.

nursery design tips
I love reusing things from around the house in new ways to update a space. The rocking chair has been in all four of my girls’ nurseries, and I bought the side table at a garage sale about ten years ago.

Mix Old and New

While, of course, everyone’s aesthetic is different–regardless of design style–a mixture of old and new provides great balance for a room, including a nursery. It’s okay to mix an antique hand-me-down piece of furniture with a new crib or a rescued-from-the-junk-pile, freshly painted dresser/changing table combo with new artwork and bedding. In fact, I would argue that the cutest rooms are the ones that best mix the old with the new.

Include Something Unexpected

I like to include at least one unexpected piece in each room to make the space memorable. This could be a brightly colored piece in an otherwise neutral room, a fun wallpaper or accent wall, or maybe something that differs from the overall design aesthetic (such as a mid-century modern piece in an otherwise traditional space). Matchy-matchy rooms are boring, so bring on the fun!

nursery design tips
The cute red drawer from Ikea was my unexpected piece in this space. It stores lots of books and draws attention due to its bright color and the industrial style, which differs from the style of the rest of the room.

Don’t Forget to Make It Functional

Remember that a real person will sleep in the room . . . a lot. Even though it’s really fun to design a room for its aesthetic appeal, ultimately the space needs to function. Babies are real people, too, and they spit up, poop, and generally wreak havoc on spaces they occupy.

So while it’s great to make the room pretty, make sure it works for your family, too. That diaper pail may be ugly, but you’ll need it (approximately ten times per day at first), so make the best of it. Best of all, the baby won’t care what the room looks like, so don’t stress about it. All that sweet baby needs is to be known and loved.



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Mallory grew up in Oklahoma, met her husband Dave in college there, and they have lived in Maryland, Michigan, and now Alabama since getting married in 2008. She graduated from Michigan State University with a PhD in exercise physiology in 2014, and her family then moved to Birmingham so she could start a job as a college professor. She is mom to five great kids ages nine and under, and considers it a tremendous joy to get to invest in the lives of both her kids and her students. In her free time, Mallory enjoys family walks around the neighborhood, reading to her kids, bargain hunting, home improvement projects, and being involved in the children’s and missions ministries at her church.