Nursery 101: How to Decorate a Nursery

Decorating a nursery is a big project. Feeling a little overwhelmed? You’re not alone.

Pulling the perfect nursery together before baby’s big arrival can be a little stressful, especially if you don’t have much experience in design. Need a shove in the right direction? This step-by-step guide to decorating a nursery will keep you on the right track. Just breathe and take it one step at a time!

  • 01 of 12

    Get Inspired

    Wallpapering the Nursery
    Photo by Tetra Images via Getty Images

    If you’re looking for inspiration, Pinterest is the perfect place to start. Focus on broad concepts, like color, style or theme, but don’t forget to pin those painfully cute details. Sometimes a single pin—something as simple as a swatch of wallpaper, a cute art print or a cuddly toy—can inspire an entire nursery design!

  • 02 of 12

    Narrow Your Options

    Mid adult couple playing with baby toy and baby daughter on lap
    Roberto Westbrook / Getty Images

    Settling on a specific decorating style and/or theme is the quickest way to shave down your design choices, helping you to define everything from paint colors to furniture options. 

  • 03 of 12

    Decide on a Basic Color Scheme

    Mother smiling at baby
    Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

    Easier said than done, right? Don’t panic. Look to your inspiration images and study up on the latest color trends for choosing a nursery palette.

    Pro-Tip: Whatever you do, don’t buy paint yet! Selecting your basic color scheme is one thing, but committing to a single, specific hue is another. Save the trip to the hardware store for later.

  • 04 of 12

    Create a Mood Board

    Hands of designer pinning mood board ideas to wall in creative studio
    Igor Emmerich / Getty Images

    Once you’ve narrowed down your ideas and identified your must-have pieces, use them to create a mood board—a visual summary of your nursery concept. This could be something as simple as a second, dedicated Pinterest board or as sophisticated as a digital rendering of your dream nursery. Prefer to go old school? Bust out the project board and create a cut-and-paste collage. Whatever works for you! 

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  • 05 of 12

    Buy the Basics

    Pregnant Woman Standing by Crib
    Gareth Brown / Getty Images

    Ready to hit the shops? Start with the crib and other bulky furniture items, like the changing table and rocker. Buying the furniture first will allow you to better visualize your nursery. Once everything is in place, you’ll know how much space you have and what else is needed. Laying out the bones will also help you to make those first important decorating decisions, such as where to draw focus and what bedding to buy. 

    Pro-Tip: Nursery furniture doesn’t need to match. A well-coordinated collection of mismatched furniture makes for a more interesting space! 

  • 06 of 12

    Decide on a Focal Point

    Pregnant mother and daughter decorating sunny nursery
    Caiaimage/Tom Merton / Getty Images

    Imagine painting your perfect nursery on a blank canvas. What’s at the center of your composition? A crib set against a stunning accent wall? A well-dressed window? Just as every painting needs a subject, every good design needs a focal point – a specific area or item of interest that serves as both the subject and anchor of your design.

    Once you’ve chosen a focal point, think about what you can do to make it a genuine point of interest. 

  • 07 of 12

    Choose Textiles and Prints

    Mother reading book to baby daughter in nursery
    Hero Images / Getty Images

    It’s a golden rule of decorating: Always choose soft furnishings before you buy paint. It’s much easier to match paint with textiles than finding fabulous bedding and curtains that just happen to pair nicely with your specific shade of Sherwin Williams. Waddling around the shops is hard enough! Don’t make it harder on yourself by limiting your selection. 

    Considering a wallpapered accent wall? The same rule applies. Find the perfect print, and then buy paint to match. 

  • 08 of 12


    Expecting couple with paint swatches in nursery
    Jupiterimages / Getty Images

    Time to bring your project to life! Clear out the room and cover the furniture. Prep, paper, and paint to your heart’s content. (Remember to use a good-quality, VOC-free paint and ensure adequate ventilation.) Let the room air out for as long as possible, and then clean it from top to bottom. 

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  • 09 of 12

    Dress Your Space

    Father cradling newborn baby in nursery
    LWA/Dann Tardif / Getty Images

    Decorating a nursery is not about how much adorable nursery swag you have. It’s about how you use it. Instead of trying to cover every inch of available space with decorations, try concentrating your decor in key areas.

    Dense groupings of accessories draw the eye, putting the focus where you want it to go. Start with your primary focal point, and build out from there, creating several minor points of focus around the room. (Be sure to leave plenty of breathing space in between!)

    Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to add a rug! Area rugs pack a powerful design punch and often prove a practical choice, even if your nursery already has wall-to-wall carpeting. 

  • 10 of 12

    Create Storage

    Comfortable decor of a contemporary baby room
    KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

    You can never have enough storage, especially when it comes to kids. Baby bibs, blankets, and burp clothes take up more space than you think and will soon be followed by an adorable onslaught of stuffed animals, toys, and miniature clothing. Wondering how to make space? Start with the essentials.

  • 11 of 12

    Get Ready for Baby

    Diaper changing station
    JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

    Now that your nursery is starting to come together, it’s time to shift gears and start thinking about its little occupant. Have you baby-proofed your nursery space? Stocked up on nursery necessities, like diapers and wipes? Figured out what to do with all those adorable little outfits? If not, you may need a little help getting organized.

  • 12 of 12

    Give It Polish

    Beautiful child's room
    KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

    Your nursery is almost done! Want to go the extra mile? Take your creation from “finished” to “fabulous” with some inspiration from other nursery designs.