Designing a nursery step 3: Tips and tricks from a mom who’s been there

Suggested ad (Land of Nod)
Contributed by: Danielle Kurtz
Contributed by:

Danielle Kurtz
Creative Director and Mother of Two –

Designing your first nursery is a unique experience. Even if you effortlessly pulled together your entire home into photo-ready status, a nursery is different. Different mostly because you need to design it for life with baby. And, if this is your first baby, you may not fully understand what that entails. I know I didn’t. Sure I knew the basics. After all, I was a designer working for a kids furniture company, I’d designed hundreds of nurseries before I was expecting my first child. But, I sure didn’t know it all, not until I was living ever sleep deprived, joyful minute of it.

Here are the top four things I learned:


1. Proximity matters.

Never in your life has “arm’s reach” meant so much as it will when you have a baby. You need access to things quickly, and without moving. So, be mindful of the layout of your nursery. If you have a rocker for feeding and cuddling before bed, be sure you can reach a lamp, books, blankets and a place to set a bottle of water and your phone. Once you’re in that chair with a sleeping baby, you may not be able to move for a while.

Same goes for the changing area. You need to be able to reach the hamper, diaper pail, diapers, wipes and other changing supplies while always keeping one hand on your baby. My nursery was only 10 x 10’, but even in that space, things needed to be in their set zones.

Once you layout your nursery, I’d suggest giving it an “arm’s reach test.” Sit in the rocker. What can you reach? Can you turn off the lamp without getting up? If not, shift accordingly. Stand at your changing table, imagine it’s 3 A.M. and in a sleepy haze you’re changing your baby. Once you get their diaper off, they decide to poop, a lot, all over. Can you reach everything you need to cleanup the mess without having to pick up that poop-covered child? If you can’t, you may want to reassess your layout.


2. Things get messy, often.

I remember being about 37 weeks pregnant with my son and being unable to sleep. I’d spend hours at night just sitting in the rocker in the nursery, looking at every perfectly decorated corner. Shifting things on shelves, refolding the blanket draped over the crib. Imagining all the peaceful bonding that was about to occur.

On the day we brought him home from the hospital he fell asleep in the car on the way home. So, I scooped him up and gently placed him in his crib. And for about a millisecond all those picture-perfect daydreams came to life. As I smiled sweetly at my son, he promptly peed EVERYWHERE. I don’t know how he did it, but he was like the Houdini of peeing. He could completely soak his crib, yet his diaper would be bone dry. Within three minutes of his arrival, I was swapping the perfectly pressed and coordinated crib sheets for whatever rumpled hand-me-down sheet I could grab first. I hadn’t even thought to buy multiple coordinating sheets.

I’d suggest getting at least 6 crib sheets. You’ll be shocked by how often you need to change them, and unless you like doing laundry all the time, you want to be sure you have enough backups. Same goes for changing pad covers. It’s possible to go through several of those in one changing, so be sure you have plenty.


In addition to linens, you’ll have toys and books to cleanup on a regular basis. While you may have a designated spot for each in the room, I’d also suggest having a good size floor bin for quick clean ups. That way if your Aunt Judy shows up unannounced, you can scoop up everything quickly and toss it in the basket. Worry about sorting it all out later.


3. Don’t forget the functional accessories.

While it’s easy to get caught up in all the fabulously adorable stuff you can put into a nursery, here are a few key accessories that you’ll want to be sure are accounted for.

  • Clock: While you might not want a reminder that it is in fact 4:30 A.M. a clock in the nursery will definitely come in handy. You may want to take note of the time or duration of a feeding. Also, you’ll want it down the line when your little one gets sick, so you can keep track of what time you gave him medication. And, frankly, life with newborn often renders you incapable of having any sense of time. So, sometimes you may just be curious, what time is it anyway?
  • Blackout Curtains: Sheers can be lovely. Lace and eyelet are beautiful. But, you know what’s truly a thing of beauty? A baby napping in the middle of the day. Babies are busy and curious creatures, so you’ll want to be able to create a dark, quiet, boring atmosphere in their nursery when it’s time for sleep, so they don’t get distracted. My daughter is 6, and I just last month removed her blackout curtains. And, honestly, I’m thinking of putting them back up so she’ll sleep in a bit more on the weekends. Sunny summer mornings start too early for me!
  • Shelf by the Door: You’ll often walk into the nursery with something in your hand that you don’t want your baby getting into…phone, keys, a glass of wine. You get the idea. I’d suggest putting a small shelf right inside the door and keeping it partially clear for things you have to temporarily stow out of baby’s reach as you’re coming and going from the nursery.
  • Wall Hooks: After bath time you’ll probably bring your little one into their room all snuggled in a hooded towel to get them dressed. Add a hook near the changing table so you can hang up the towel once you remove it. Then you’re not running back to the bathroom, or tossing a damp towel in the hamper.


4. Your baby is going to grow up.

This seems like a no-brainer. But when you’re so hyper-focused on the newborn stage it’s easy to forget that you need to create a space that will quickly evolve to accommodate an infant and soon a toddler.

  • Leverage Your Registry: When you create your registry, don’t forget to add on items that you’ll need later like a playmat, rocking horse and a set of blocks. No sense only receiving newborn gifts.
  • Choose a Plush Rug: When choosing a rug, keep in mind that your baby will learn to sit, crawl and walk on the rug. So, pick one that’s soft to the touch, and is thick enough to cushion those falls that inevitably come along with learning to walk.
  • Safety First: When setting up the space, keep in mind that soon your little one will be able to reach anything near the floor. So, plan on higher shelves or drawers for things like toiletries that aren’t safe for baby to get into. Also, think about the function of storage, and look for items that can evolve as the type of toys your child plays with evolves.

Beyond these tips, just keep in mind that your home is just like your family, constantly evolving and changing. So, be prepared to make adjustments to your nursery as you find what works best for you.

Still not sure where to begin? Check out The Land of Nod Design Services. We have folks that are experts at floor plans and have designed countless nurseries for customers. They’d be happy to make you a fully customized floorplan and room design to suite your needs. And best of all, the service is completely complementary. So you can put your feet up and let them do the legwork.

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. In Step 2: Building a Strong Core I breakdown some of the most important things to consider when choosing a crib, rocker and changer for your nursery. 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.

Learn about design services

This ad is brought to you by Land of Nod

Find the Ovia app for you!
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store