Designing your baby's nursery is a daunting task. You want it to look good, be safe and functional, and be a warm, cozy place that your child can grow up in. Add to that all of the other expenses that come along with having a baby, and it's hard to figure out what's worth splurging on and where you can cut some budget corners. Home design guru, Cortney Novogratz, knows a lot about nurseries and all of the multi-functions they need to serve as she and her partner in design and life, hubby Robert, have seven kids. Yes, seven—in New York City, where space is very hard to come by!
"First and foremost a nursery should feel happy, because there is so much joy in creating a family," advises Cortney. "But it should also be a calm space where you and your baby can feel safe and at peace. I believe it's important to create a place that inspires your child to dream, create, and explore."
Here are Cortney's tips for getting the best bang for your buck while creating a truly peaceful and personal space for your baby:
Don't splurge on a crib. Reduce, reuse, recycle instead. "Borrow a crib from a friend or relative (or buy one used, if none of your friends are moms yet), because before you know it your baby will be ready for a real bed. And if you have the space, it's really nice to have a daybed near the crib, so you can take a nap with your baby after they've kept you up all night."
If you have space, invest in a comfy reading chair. "In the beginning you'll be holding the baby in your arms rocking him, but pretty soon he'll be crawling up into your lap to read a book."
Splurge on lighting. "Kids are always growing and their tastes are changing, but one thing that will last a long time and will still look great down the road is a really beautiful light fixture. A cool statement piece will hold up even as your child grows out of other things. I love this little owl lamp by Lolli Living ($62) because it adds a touch of fun. Plus, yellow is a great color for boys and girls."
Don't save your best artwork for the living room. "You'll spend a lot of time in the nursery, and a great art collection will inspire your children and get them excited about art!"
Space planning is important. "Baby clothes are so small that you don't necessarily need a full-size dresser. A tall skinny dresser or even a jewelry chest works great for kid's stuff. And it's important to make sure most items are within easy reach, because you will probably be holding a baby when you want to grab something!"
Need a changing table? Repurpose an old dresser you already own. "All it takes is a coat of paint to transform an ugly dresser into something new and fresh. A quart of zero VOC paint will cost you $24, and will protect your family from breathing in any toxic chemicals. You'll need a changing pad and cover for the top. I love this Land of Nod khaki and white striped cover ($35)."
Include your family. "When our first son, Wolfgang, was born, my husband Robert and I collected a bunch of photos of our relatives when they were children, and created an extended family photo wall. It's great because as your child grows, you can really start to see the resemblances to your relatives. Even when he was a baby, we could see that Wolfie would have big hands like his grandfather. This is a really great way to personalize your nursery and help your child feel connected to the family. To make it feel unique but cohesive, try using a bunch of different frames that are all the same color."
Don't be afraid of color. "I like to go with gender neutral colors, like greens and yellows. You don't always have to play by the rules, though. I've been known to use a combination of hot pink, orange, and blue for a boy's room and it looks great. Kids are inspired by color, so go bold!"
Little touches can make a big impact. "Removable vinyl decals are an easy and inexpensive way to spruce up your nursery's walls. I would stay away from anything too infantile. These Skip Hop alphabet letters ($20) are cute and will make a great learning tool when your baby becomes a toddler."
Keep your baby entertained. "We love to create bright, colorful spaces, and you don't want to neglect any part of the room. Children are like sponges and they take in every detail around them. Since babies are often lying on their backs, we like to put something interesting on the ceiling, like a bold color or striped wallpaper to keep them interested."
Remember: Little kids don't need their own rooms. "When my boys were little, they all slept in the same room. We had 2 twin beds and 2 cribs all lined up in a row. It was so cute, because they really bonded as a family and we would wake up to find them all snuggling together. Sometimes the older boys would even crawl into the crib with the little ones!"
Image of Cortney Novogratz courtesy of Catherine Hall/the Novogratz; product images courtesy of Diapers.com, Land of Nod and Diapers.com; room image courtesy of the Novogratz.