When my husband and I found out that we were having a baby, we were living in an apartment with a footprint of just 173 square feet. The landlord’s addition of a 67-square-foot loft where we slept—but couldn’t stand up in—made the whole apartment clock in at just 240 square feet.
Suffice to say, it wasn’t decorating a nursery and the accompanying visions of carefully curated shelves, or perfect mobiles, or designer cribs that occupied my thoughts during my pregnancy. I was only worried about finding a place large enough for three of us to sleep. I climbed a ship’s ladder up to the crawl-space we called our bedroom until I was six months pregnant and we finally found a one-bedroom down the street.
Our new place was plenty big enough for us all to find a place to rest our heads, but small enough that we’d still be sharing a bedroom. In welcoming a tiny human into a shared space, I learned a few things about creating a cohesive look that neither felt too austere for a baby nor too baby-like for her parents.
For parents preparing to welcome a baby into a their only bedroom: here’s my best advice for decorating for your space.
Focus on sleep.
In rethinking the space, keep the focus on the primary activity that (god-willing) will be going on in the bedroom: sleeping. We eventually welcomed a crib into our bedroom, but we didn’t keep any of the baby’s other supplies or toys or clothes in there. It was a nice way to keep the room from feeling overwhelmingly baby-centric (or overwhelmingly crowded). We converted a closet into the main room as a place to stash our daughter’s dresser/changing table and diaper pail. We kept toys and rattles and books in crates in main living space.
A neutral color palette isn’t for everyone, but we found that sticking to a neutral palette was a nice way of keeping the room from feeling either too adult or too childlike. We kept the room painted white. We swatched out an ugly lamp fixture for a softer ceramic one. Eventually we found that a dark curtain helped our baby to sleep better, and so at night and during naps we clipped a dark piece of fabric over our lighter-colored curtain with two clothespins and called it a blackout shade.
We waited to buy a crib until after our daughter was born. If you already have a crib, by all means, keep it, but I don’t think that there’s a need to start off with one. We had a small Moses basket that we put our daughter to sleep in in the early months. With a Moses basket we could keep her in the bedroom with us during the night and move the basket around the apartment during the day. At about the three-month mark, we bought a crib. For us, moving slowly helped ease the transition from the room being a space that was ours alone to one we shared with a baby. (And gave us more time to find a crib we liked!)
Our bedroom decor was simple before our baby came along, but we committed to keeping it that way after bringing her home, too. We chose the simplest, lowest-profile crib that we could find: The genius Ikea Sniglar is not only incredibly affordable, but its simple design makes it easy to integrate with existing furniture. We hung a moon calendar for the year of our daughter’s birth on the bedroom wall as our personal nod toward welcoming her into the space, but we didn’t buy anything specifically designed for a nursery besides the crib.
Play around a bit.
I never introduced a mobile or nursery wall decals into our space, but I did have fun swapping out decorative elements with the seasons—and the baby’s developmental stages. In the corner where our daughter slept, I hung black silhouette cut-outs in the early days, dried flowers as summer faded into fall, a pine bough at Christmas, cut out brown paper hearts at Valentine’s day. All of that felt playful enough for a baby, and subtle enough for a shared bedroom.
Get more of Erin’s tips decluttering, organizing and simplifying in her new book, Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending up with More. Buy it here.
Photography by Erin Boyle/Abrams Image.