How to Design a Nursery: Dos and Don'ts

designing a nursery

The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian

Designing a nursery for your baby-to-be can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also seem a little daunting, especially if you don't know where to begin. Feeling a little overwhelmed? Take a moment to arm yourself with these helpful nursery design do's and don'ts, and you'll be ready to hit the stores in no time.

Do Choose a Specific Style or Theme

Although it's not absolutely necessary to limit yourself to a single concept, settling on a specific idea will help you to narrow your focus and create a more cohesive design.

Do Pick the Perfect Palette

Swimming in a sea of paint chips? Put these eight foolproof color tips to the test.

Do Choose Textiles Before Paint

There is nothing worse than finally finding the perfect curtains or the baby bedding of your dreams, only to discover the color scheme clashes with your paint job. Given the astounding array of available paint colors and the prevalence of color-match technology, it's definitely easier to choose your textiles first and then buy paint to match.

Do Identify a Focal Point

Most nurseries are centered on the crib, but there are many other options to choose from. A large window or alcove or even a signature piece, such as an over-sized toy or a painted dresser, can also draw focus.

Do Decorate the Ceiling

Babies spend much of their time on their backs. Why not give your little one something to contemplate? Consider painting the ceiling a soothing color or enhancing your nursery's theme with a mural or decals. 

Do Consider Going Green

Designing an eco-friendly nursery is not only good for the planet—it's good for baby too! The products we use on a daily basis are full of nasty chemicals. These chemicals—known as VOCs—dissipate slowly, compromising air quality as they evaporate. They may even make your little one sick.

Do Create a Nursing Station

Nursing is a tricky business, and it can quickly turn into a juggling act if you are unprepared. Make nursing time stress-free with these tips for keeping everything you need close at hand.

nursing station
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian

Do Create a Sanitation Station

Keep your nursery germ-free by having sanitation supplies ready to go. Set up a tray on your changing table with antibacterial gel and paper towels to prevent contamination of surfaces, and give hotspots a daily once-over with antibacterial wipes. You should also have a plan for dirty diapers and heavily soiled clothing, such as a diaper disposal system and a separate hamper. 

Worried about chemical residue? Check out these cheap and easy, eco-friendly cleaning options.

nursing station
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian

Do Develop a System for Sorting and Storing Clothes

Keeping up with baby's changing wardrobe is a never-ending challenge. Start by organizing your kiddo's clothes by size and type. Fill your nursery closet and dresser drawers with the things you can use now, and label and put away the rest until your baby needs them.

It also helps to keep an easily accessible box for clothes that you have officially deemed too small. When the box is full, wash the clothes, label them and store them away. Keeping outgrown items separate prevents them from creeping back into baby's closet, saving you the hassle of an extra trying-on session. 

Do Get Creative With Storage

Babies come with lots of stuff! If you're going to stay on top of it all, you're going to need a plan. Start by doubling your storage space with these must-have tools. Then try creating your own inexpensive storage solutions with these DIY storage projects and clever hacks.

wall shelves in a nursery
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian

Do Install a Ceiling Fan

Preventing SIDS may be as easy as a flick of a switch. A 2008 study published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reported that infants who sleep under a ceiling fan reduce their risk of SIDS by 72 percent. Live in a cold climate? Installing a ceiling fan is a must! 

Do Leave Room to Grow

When choosing your nursery furniture, think long term. Baby's small, bassinet-style crib may look darling now, but have you left enough room to exchange it for a toddler-sized bed later? No room for both a stand-alone changing table and a dresser? You'll get more use out of the dresser in the long run. Thinking ahead will ensure you get the most out of your money and your space.

Don't Neglect Your Windows

Properly dressing your windows is not a design choice—it's a safety concern.

Always install blackout curtains or heavy blinds in the nursery. This will help the baby to sleep longer and more comfortably. More importantly, it will prevent the room from getting too hot during the day, dramatically decreasing your baby's risk of SIDS.

Don't Use Harsh Lighting

Install a dimmer on any intense overhead lighting fixtures, especially if they are located directly over the crib. It's also a good idea to purchase a small accent lamp for a cozy, story-time glow. For more help lighting your nursery, read these pro-tips.

Don't Forget the Nightlight

Nightlights provide both safety and comfort, especially during late-night feedings. They can also be downright adorable! 

Don't Wait to Baby-Proof the Nursery

Baby may not be on the move yet, but before you know it, you'll have your very own toddling disaster zone. Take care to cover electrical outlets and tuck away cords. Anchor down any furniture that could pose a threat, and secure rugs to the floor to prevent slips. You should also be wary of potential choking hazards, and be sure that all medicines, ointments, etc. are securely stowed out of baby's reach. 

Need help staying one step ahead of your little one? Baby-proof your space with our complete nursery safety checklist, and learn how to prevent common nursery accidents with helpful tips

Don't Forget to Stock Necessities

Purchase all necessary diapers, wipes, lotions, and ointments well ahead of baby's arrival and put them away. Make sure that everything you need remains within arm's reach, so you are never tempted to take a hand off baby. 

Don't Wait Until the Last Minute

Be sure to get your nursery project underway early, so there will be plenty of time to air out new furniture and freshly painted spaces. Getting a head start will also prevent stress and ensure that you will have enough energy to finish the job.

Watch Now: A Dinosaur Mural Perfect for Any Kids Room

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chemicals of Special Concern to Children's Health. Minnesota Department of Health.

  2. Coleman-Phox K, Odouli R, Li DK. Use of a fan during sleep and the risk of sudden infant death syndromeArch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(10):963-968. doi:10.1001/archpedi.162.10.963