Newborn care

7 mistakes I made when decorating the nursery

Once the baby arrived, I quickly found out that a nursery isn't just a place for baby to sleep. It needs the utility of a laundry room, and the fortitude of a mudroom.

7 mistakes I made when decorating the nursery

Photo: iStock/MilosBataveljic

The exciting months leading up to your baby’s arrival are a whirlwind of planning and preparation. From choosing a name to creating a baby registry, there are so many exciting choices to make! And let’s not forget all the options when it comes to decorating the nursery. Instagram is full of ideas and Pinterest is a decor maven’s dream. Details of the dreamy nurseries of the rich and famous seem to follow every celebrity pregnancy announcement. Naturally, you want the very best for your baby. But when decorating a nursery, it is definitely possible to go overboard. I for one channelled my boundless enthusiasm for the arrival of my firstborn into creating her room. I admit I may have gone a little too far. Repeatedly. Here, I share some of my mistakes and regrets so that you might avoid the perils of nursery neurosis.

1. Overdoing the reno

My husband insisted the floors be refinished in the nursery. Our 60-year-old home had original hardwood in varying states of non-pristine condition. I could see where he was coming from: If our child was to be crawling in there, didn't we want the floor to be exquisitely clean and fresh? Now my daughter's room has the finest floor in the house. But, unfortunately, it makes the floors in all our other spaces look grungy, no matter how clean they are. And, obviously, our daughter's crawling was not confined exclusively to her room. In a final, shocking twist, the floors in the rest of our house failed to infect her with any known affliction.

2. Making it too precious

We completed the nursery decor with a shelf my grandfather had built, laden with Hummels from my childhood and vintage books from my husband's. Everything was clean and pristine. We were practically ready to run a velvet rope across the doorway, so precious was this nest we had built for our firstborn. I quickly found out that a nursery needs the utility of a laundry room and the fortitude to withstand the traffic of a mudroom. A nursery is not just where your baby sleeps—it's a heavy-duty workroom for you. Design it with utility in mind, and you will thank yourself night after weary night.

3. Over-shopping

Pregnancy-related insomnia paired with a drive to attain the highest value for each item of nursery furniture meant I spent dozens of overnight hours online shopping for just the right rocking chair. I'd pick out my dream chairs at fancy boutiques, then scour Kijiji for them. I'd find models just out of our price range at sophisticated decor chains, then hope for a sale. I bookmarked so many pages that I created a file for them. And then added files within that file. No matter how many shopping hours I logged, one adage always held true. Practical, beautiful, affordable: Pick two. In the end, I settled on practical and affordable. Our Kijiji glider chair served us well, and then we resold it again on Kijiji. That's good value.

4. Stressing about the paint colour

I chose a rather striking aqua blue for all four walls. When it was painted, I assessed it and realized that maybe I hated it. Maybe it was awful. Maybe it had been a big mistake. And if the paint colour wasn't perfect, then obviously, my foray into motherhood was doomed. I had a full-blown case of The Frets. If this happens to you, you don't necessarily have to exhaust yourself repainting. First of all, try swapping your light bulbs. LED bulbs come variety of colours from ultra-warm white to cool white, and you'd be surprised how much lighting can change how paint looks. You can also try to balance the colour by adding textiles in a complementary colour. But my most important tip? Remember that it’s just wall colour. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Once your baby arrives, you probably won't care anymore. In my case, in the end, when the white furniture was moved in, the blue was a lot more palatable. And later, when a certain Disney movie was released featuring a pair of Nordic sisters, the colour was an exact match for the mountain of Elsa memorabilia the room came to contain.

5. Fussy lighting

It was a porcelain, owl-shaped table lamp, and I loved it. I imagined it casting a warm glow as I fed my baby after dark. As I was paying for it, the cashier told me it gets hot to the touch when you leave it on. So now it's out of reach in the living room. What I should have done instead was to install a dimmer switch on the nursery's main light fixture.

6. Imposing my taste

I hung a framed Arcade Fire album cover in the nursery. Very chic, no? After all, everyone gets into bands because their mom likes them. In hindsight, introducing her to my favourite music is probably the most fool-proof way to ensure that she will not like it. Everyone knows that introducing favourite bands is firmly in the domain of older brothers and cool cousins.

7. Going too high tech

Attaching speakers to my old MacBook and adding it to the nursery was the most fool-proof way to ensure that my child would grow up to be the next Steve Jobs. Plus, both the laptop and the speakers were white! *chef kiss* This dresser-top system to play music for our baby was excellent—for us, at least. You wouldn't believe how many babysitters and grandparents can't use a track pad to navigate to the hidden dock, double-click on the app, scroll through the playlist to find the right one, then find the volume control—no, not that volume control, the other one—then reach around to the back to turn on the speakers, and then adjust the speakers' volume. Such Luddites! In retrospect, a clock radio backup would have come in handy. My mistakes have been many, yet my child, now nine years old, seems to have come through it unscathed. Of course, I'm sure you'll make your share of furnishing faux pas too. But, no matter what, remember that you want to create a peaceful workspace for you, and a safe and cozy snuggle space for your new addition. Everything else is just window dressing.

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