Let's face it: Sleep is at a premium when you have a baby. With late-night nursings, early-morning soothings and everything in between, it's important to create the most Zen-like space possible. You want a room that is dark when you want it to be, light when you need it, warm enough and, most important, comfortable for you as well as your child.
Designer Paige Rien has made children's sleep her business. Known best for her role on HGTV's Hidden Potential, Rien also runs her own design firm, and she's been working with sleep specialist Nicole Johnson of Baby Sleep Site (www.babysleepsite.com) to create an optimal slumber hub for kids. "I am really passionate about kids' spaces, nurseries and spaces that address family needs. My philosophy is that every family is different, and every kid's space is different," says the mother of two boys, ages 1 and 3. "We have to make spaces for ourselves that really work for how we live, what we prefer, what makes us happy, what makes us tick."
Rien shared the following tips on how to create a dreamland for your child.
For decades, two things have dominated nursery design: what's cute and what cleans up well. Now designers and parents are moving beyond the pastel colors and strictly utilitarian focus to choose designs that the parents themselves enjoy. Perhaps that's a color or theme from their own childhood, or art that is appealing to babies as well as adults. The nursery design shouldn't be a huge departure from the design of the rest of the house, but at the same time, try to add a touch of whimsy.
Just as the parents must be happy with the look of the nursery, they should be happy with the feel of it: They're going to be spending a lot of time in there. A comfortable rocking chair is essential, whether you breastfeed or not. Moms, dads, nannies and anyone who takes care of the child will get good use out of it. Load it up with pillows, throws or whatever else allows you to melt into it. Ideally, this should be a chair you can comfortably sleep in as needed. Your comfort will help your baby, in the long run.
This room gets more use than nearly any other in the house. It's not only a place where your baby sleeps, but it's also a cafeteria, a dressing room, a bathroom and a cleaning room. Organization is key. You'll need to find things in the middle of the night, and quietly during naptime. You'll feel better, as a parent, if everything is in its proper place and you can find something at a moment's notice.
Lighting is key, and the dimmer switch is a gift for parents. It allows you to turn down the lights before bedtime and create "sleepy" mood lighting. It also allows you to slip in and out during the night to check on your child without disturbing him or her. If you don't want to fuss with your electrical wiring, there are dimmers that you can add to lamps. Rien also encourages "task lighting," meaning lights suited to different tasks. In addition to the overhead light, she suggests having a light on the changing table so you can see every part of your child you might need to see, as well as a reading light for book time.
When Rien designs nurseries; she applies three different window treatments. "I am determined to get darkness in children's rooms," she says. The first layer is blackout shades, which are easy to install and can be cut to fit any window at Home Depot or other big-box stores. She layers a textured, sheer liner drape on top of that, which allows her to control how much light will come through. And then she adds a thermal drape to keep any drafts out and help regulate the room temperature.
Sound machines have a way of creating a "sleep zone" by providing a consistent noise on which a child can focus. This means that the child can drift off to sleep peacefully while the rest of the household goes about its business, rather than tiptoeing around. The machines are also ideal for traveling, and create a comfortable sleep zone anywhere you go. Prices vary, but you can find a good one in the $20 range.
Babies can't create their own routines, so it's up to their parents to do it for them. This can be anything that works for your child. Rien's routine consists of pulling down the shades, dimming the lights, turning on a sound machine, lowering her voice and humming. She says that her boys may have entered the room alert and awake, but the routine acts as a reminder. By the time she leaves, they are very, very sleepy.
The temperature in your baby's room an important concern, and one way to quell any worries is to purchase a temperature sensor. You can place a monitor in each child's room and the device will report what the temperature is. There's no need to walk in, touch their cheeks and awaken them. Some children sleep better when it's cold; others sleep better when it's warm, so the ideal reading will depend on your own child's preferences.
Many parents want to do what's best for the environment without breaking the bank. Rien tells them that if there is one sustainable purchase they should make, it's organic sheets. Whether it's cotton for the summer or flannel for the winter, your child will be having a lot of contact with her bedding. It's nice to know that it's safe, soft and worry-free.
Color preference will depend on the parents' taste, but it's best to avoid intense colors and contrasting patterns. Once babies start to see color, contrast can be very stimulating. While it's great to have educational items on the walls -- letters, numbers, pictures, shapes and more -- it's a good idea to have at least one neutral, soothing corner or area of the room where little ones can shift their focus.
You want to be stealthy when walking into your child's room. A floor creak or door squeak makes that challenging. Think ahead and fix creaks, squeaks and other noises as soon as you recognize the problem. You and your child will be glad you did.
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.