The Do’s and Don'ts of Decorating a Small Nursery Space

15 Tips for Making the Most of a Small Room

Smiling Baby Girl In Crib
Michel de Nijs / Getty Images

When you live in a small space, making room for baby can be tricky. But with a lot of creativity and a little, good, old-fashioned know-how, a small nursery can be just as bright, beautiful and functional as any!

Running short on the know-how? Ask the pros! Whether you’re working with a small room, a shared room, or with no room at all, this list of professional decorating dos and don’ts will help you transform your tiny nursery into a seemingly roomy and totally workable space.

15 Commandments for Small Spaces: 

  1. Do choose a light color palette. Dark hues absorb light and can easily overwhelm a small room. Light colors, on the other hand, make a room feel bigger and brighter.
  2. Do consider a monochromatic color scheme, especially if you'd prefer to use a darker palette. Continuous color diminishes visual breaks, making a small space seem much larger.
  3. Do paint the ceiling. Whether you choose to use light or dark colors, painting the ceiling the same color as the walls - or even one shade lighter - creates a vaulted effect, giving the room a spacious feel.
  4. Do paint any wall trim or moldings in a lighter color than your walls. Light-colored trim makes the wall behind it recede, appearing further away from the onlooker.
  5. Do create visual interest. Small rooms often lack defining architectural features. Consider painting an accent wall, which provides the illusion of depth and creates a focal point for the design, or add flair by painting the inside of shelving units or windows.
  6. Do use pattern to make the room look bigger. Certain patterns can create the illusion of space. For example, vertical stripes accentuate height, while horizontal stripes can make a room appear wider.
  1. Don't allow a pattern to overwhelm your space. Use bold, large-scale patterns sparingly. If you do choose a large pattern, opt for a single pattern with a lot of neutral space. Prefer small-scale patterns? Beware of overly busy motifs. Choose a clean, repetitive pattern that features no more than one or two colors, and be sure to break up patterned elements with large blocks of solid, neutral color.
  2. Do let in the light. Natural light does wonders for small spaces, making them feel bright and airy despite their size. Consider buying a set of sheer drapes, or even doing away with curtains altogether by installing light-blocking blinds that can be pulled down as needed.
  3. Do get flashy. Mirrors and other shiny accessories reflect that all-important natural light, brightening the space and making it feel bigger.
  4. Do leave room to grow. When choosing your furniture, think long term. Baby's small, bassinet-style crib may fit now, but before you fill the remaining space with other furniture and accessories, think ahead. Have you left enough room to exchange it for a toddler-sized bed later?
  1. Don't overdo the furnishings. When it comes to furnishing your child's room, your goal should be to create space - not fill it up. Kids need room to play, so the fewer pieces of furniture you can get away with, the better off you'll be.
  2. Don't rule out large furniture completely. Bigger can be better, even in a small space. True - Small pieces are generally a better fit for a small room, but too many small pieces can make a room feel cluttered. As long as you stick to just one or two pieces, using larger furniture can make a room look bigger.
  3. Do choose simple furniture with clean lines and a light finish. While dark, ornate furniture demands attention, understated pieces with slim lines "disappear" into the overall design, giving the illusion of open space.
  4. Do make the most of the space you have. In a small room, every square inch counts. Look for little ways to create more space. For example, instead of buying a bulky bed frame for your toddler, try creating the illusion of a frame by using a slim, wall-mounted headboard. Need somewhere to change the baby? Skip the traditional changing table and try one of these space-saving alternatives.
  1. Do get creative with storage. When it comes to small spaces, clutter is public enemy number one. Since small rooms often lack sufficient storage space, keeping this menace in hand may require a little creative thinking. Consider storing toys or out-grown clothing in rolling storage bins that can be hidden away under a crib or bed, and keep an eye out for other clever space-saving ideas, such as ottomans with hidden storage. Not sure where to start? Make sure you have these nursery-organizing essentials covered.

Looking for even more small nursery hacks? Check out these Top Ten Ideas for Small Nurseries.