Babies. If there’s anything that can make us abandon our typical tastes in favor of overly cutesy blue and pink things, they are it. I totally see the temptation when decorating a baby’s room to embrace the baby look. After all, they’re not little forever, and there’s only a short window of time when wallpaper adorned with mint green bunnies will do. Once the shiny newness of bunny-covered wallpaper fades — likely because it’s been coated with a thin layer of baby puke and new parent tears — you’re left with a room that doesn’t have any staying power. Why invest time, money and energy in designing a room with a style expiration date?
When I was pregnant with my son, Ford, I had one decorating mantra in mind: “No baby blue walls, thank you very much.” I actually quite like that hue, but powder blue walls for a baby boy is just a little too on the nose for me. My passion is creating interiors with an offbeat edge, and there is nothing offbeat to me about adhering to decades-old gender stereotypes. My rebellious streak combined with raging pregnancy hormones meant I was on a mission to design a room that was fresh, colorful and fun with the ability to grow and evolve as my future kiddo did.
I love bold, saturated color balanced with black and white, mixed metallics and weathered wood. This formula has proven mega-successful for me as a designer in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and beyond. Why not in a baby’s room?
For Ford’s nursery, my vision was to create a base of white paint and light wood, anchor everything on a graphic black and white area rug, and introduce bold splashes of orange, teal and chartreuse that could easily be swapped out as he developed his own aesthetic. You’d be surprised how quickly that happens! At age 2 1/2, he will tell you with serious intensity that his favorite color is purple.
Good thing we didn’t go with baby blue.
The blonde hardwood floors, antique white walls and crisp white cabinetry created the perfect blank canvas. The main furniture pieces in the room — a vintage dresser and modern crib — are not only painted classic white but each also serves a practical dual purpose. The crib converts to a toddler bed, allowing it to last much longer than a standard crib. (In fact, we recently had to make this conversion as our little Houdini escaped one night.) And the dresser currently functions as a change table with the addition of a custom topper painted in Benjamin Moore’s zesty citron shade. When Ford is finally potty trained, the change table topper will come off to reveal a sturdy, simple white dresser that can grow with him through his childhood.
Off-white walls, white trim and white furniture can easily become banal instead of beautiful if not complemented by the right supporting pieces. I went bonkers over this cheap and cheerful Ikea area rug to anchor the space. And apparently, so did everyone else, as it’s become ubiquitous. I still adore it, though, and there’s no shame in owning a trendy piece if you love it. The graphic pattern makes a dynamite statement and is anything but boring. Plus, bold black and white is great for babies as their eyesight develops.
My favorite part of the room — and it’s a silly little thing — is the multicolored paper pennant banner hanging above the crib. The contents of this nursery were in our California apartment, so between grabby baby fingers and the frequent (albeit minor) earthquakes, you’d better believe I wasn’t about to hang anything that could potentially be pulled down by or fall on my sweet bundle of baby. And knowing that babies grow quickly and probably won’t be interested in my wall art choices for long, there had to be no guilt when it was time to remove and replace it. I dug through my art supplies and with patterned scrapbook paper, a length of twine and a few mini clothespins, a lovely little focal point in the room was born that met all of my design criteria.
Three years and one cross-country move later, the room’s design has evolved. The paper banner is long gone and has been replaced with a more grownup framed art show poster from Montreal (formerly mine) and a vintage embossed metal Remington plaque featuring images of wild game (formerly my husband’s). The rug has held up beautifully, and its geometric patterned surface now functions as makeshift roads for my son’s mini cars and trucks. The dresser is still sturdy as we change our son’s bajillionth diaper. And I’ve got plans to paint an accent wall a deep navy or charcoal hue (sorry kiddo, not purple) for a more mature look to contrast with all the white and light wood. We’ve made minor design progressions through the years as Ford has grown and his needs and tastes have changed, but the core pieces and colors remain a flexible foundation. And there’s not a baby blue wall or mint-colored bunny in sight.