How to design a multipurpose nursery


Living large in a small space

by HGTV host and interior design expert Krista Watterworth 
Photography by Luciana Pampalone


As if the excitement of being pregnant isn’t enough to ponder! What about trying to figure out how to fit your little cherub into a tiny space? Whether you have a small house, a modest apartment, or just need to be creative with your planning, here are some easy suggestions for creating a beautiful nursery that’s also functional.

You can alleviate some of the pressure to create a perfect space that baby will love by remembering that this room should reflect the parents’ personalities. You’re all in this together!

The first step is to choose a theme that will help you envision the ideal color palette, design style, and accessories. What inspires you and your partner? Is your style adventurous and lively or calm and serene? I chose a nature theme because my husband and I love going for long rides in the country. And I wanted to bring a touch of the outdoors to our urban environment, because moving outside the city isn’t an option for us right now. Our color palette is quiet and neutral, because we envision our home as a relaxing escape.

Another question to ask yourselves: Boy or girl? Whether you know the answer or not, you may want to choose a gender-neutral approach. I went for an overall vibe rather than making all those pink or blue choices.

We live in a two-bedroom apartment, so the new layout had to serve many functions—acting not only as a nursery, but also as a home office and guest room—talk about a design challenge! I used many of my own design tricks to maximize space and make our nursery a place where the whole family will want to spend lots of time.

Here are nine tips you can use to plan your small nursery.

1. Wall-mounted lighting

Eliminates the need for side tables or floor lamps, saving precious floor space. Dimmer switches provide lighting options and variety.

2. Multi-purpose furniture

A convertible crib (with storage underneath and a hideaway changing table), sofa bed, and a wardrobe to stow away office and baby supplies make the most of every square inch.

3. Wall-hung cabinetry

It provides much needed storage and frees up floor space. You can brighten the room by installing under-cabinet lighting. Use paint, stencils, or wallpaper to dress up inexpensive cabinets. But never hang heavy items over a crib.

4. Create art with paintnursery_2

Color and shape adds an interesting thematic design element without cluttering the walls with frames. With stencils, you get a perfect shape every time—no need to be an artist!

5. Neutral color palette

These mellow tones calm a multi-use environment, and there’s a wide variety of elegant neutrals in the yellow, beige, gray families—almond, clay, muslin, dove, fawn, silver, canvas, milkshake, sugar cookie. Use semi-gloss paint, because it’s easier to clean. And choose a non-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint.

6. Use Contemporary Styles

They are simple and understated and have clean lines with subtle details. Modern design is an easy way to keep the room style “quiet” and less intrusive.

7. Organize, organize, organize!

Employ a custom closet-storage system for optimal organization. Combine shelves, drawers, and baskets to maximize capacity and double the amount of usable storage space. Another organization must-have? A label maker.

8. Splurge and save

Mix high-end and affordable by deciding which pieces are most important and splurge on those items. We picked a high-end crib and custom sofa bed, but saved on our wall art and storage. And look in sale bins—I bought our drapes and area rug on sale at Pottery Barn!

9. Include Daddy!

Ask his opinion so he doesn’t feel left out. Find out what inspires him. This is a great opportunity to learn more about each other, but don’t have this conversation when either of you is tired, or if you’re feeling hormonal. My husband chose birch wallpaper to line the glass cabinets, and he also chose a world map that matched our color palette because he loves geography. Make sure his style is also represented in the room; after all, you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Krista Watterworth is an HGTV host and an interior design expert. For more expert tips, and for a glimpse inside her beautifully designed nursery, check out the nursery issue of Pregnancy Magazine


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