Good morning! Some days I sit in my office at Highland House and just gaze out the window, hoping for a column idea to present itself. Some columns just fly from my fingertips and other days I swear my mind is a void. And then something occurs that sparks an idea. One day I watched a mother push her baby stroller past our home, and I thought, “I wonder what that baby’s room looks like?” I certainly have designed my fair share of baby’s room, so that is today’s topic.
Cribs and Bedding
While the look of the crib is up to personal choice, its safety is not. As much as you love that antique crib passed down through the family, pass on it. Many older cribs have cutouts, larger space between the enclosure bars and perhaps even lead paint. I believe it’s my duty as a designer to be sure your baby’s room is, first and foremost, safe. When selecting a crib:
Look for a current Juvenile Products Association stamp of approval (JPMA).
Buy new for warranty protection and recall information.
Make sure the mattress is firm and fits snuggly into the crib. You should not be able to put more than one finger between the mattress and the crib frame.
Don’t place the crib near a window. Drapery cords and blind cords can cause strangulation not to mention the added risk of a child falling out a window. After all, we don’t know our little ones are climbers until they fall out of the crib the first time!
Never substitute parts when assembling a crib. If a part is missing, contact the manufacturer and order the missing part.
Skip the area rug in front of the crib; the last thing you want to do is catch a toe and trip with your little one in a darkened room. (Note there is one in the selected photo, but I would recommend not using one!)
For safety reasons, the excessive bedding once common in baby room design is no more. A lot of mothers, however, still love the idea of loading up the crib with all sorts of comfy quilts, soft pillows, stuffed animals and a bumper pad. But if you adorn the bed with all this baby fluff, please keep some type of basket on hand for the pretties when it’s time for your munchkin to go to bed. As for the bumper pad, I’d error on the side of safety and not use one. (And don’t think you’ll just remove it and reinstall it for every nap and bedtime—that ordeal is just "too" much for a new mom to deal with.)
One way to still achieve that fussy “baby” look is with a dust ruffle on the crib. For a small baby room, I once designed a three-tiered dust ruffle for the crib that allowed for storage underneath. The three tiers were snapped together, so when the mattress was at the highest level for a newborn all three tiers were in place. As the mattress moved down, a tier of the skirt could be removed, and it worked splendidly! For the bedding and curtains, I suggest 100 percent natural, prewashed fabrics that allow you to launder as needed. (And you will need to…a lot.)
A Design to Grow Into
If you have unlimited resources, by all means go for the baby room that elicits oohs and aahs for those first couple years, then redesign. Most of us, however, are not in that position. Therefore, I suggest to parents a design concept that will grow with the child. Using a generic paint color and perhaps some equally simple window treatments will allow you to make color impact changes easily without a complete room redo.
When building the baby suite, keep in mind that furniture will need to be swapped out. The crib will be replaced with a bed, and a changing table might be switched out for a desk. As you select the color and style, think about how the room will transition.
Buy juvenile furniture from a reputable company with a long history, such as Ethan Allen. One of my favorite companies is Young America, Stanley’s youth furniture line, which is manufactured in Robbensville, N.C., and available at Horton’s in Wichita.
Shop at consignment and secondhand stores for items other than the crib. This is not only smart, gorgeous, but you may find pieces of higher quality at great prices.
Consider a chair and ottoman, always a nice addition, and don’t forget the simple joy of a rocking chair.
Find a side table for a lamp with a three-way bulb for late-night soothing and feeding. If space is an issue in the room consider a floor lamp, allowing for a smaller side table.
Warning: Yes, you can get a darling little pink chest or baseball-inspired dresser for very little money…if you assemble it. And this can be a huge undertaking. You get what you pay for in furniture. Also watch out for MDF, medium-density fiberboard, which is heavier and doesn’t hold a screw, causing the drawers to break down.
Color and Paint
In the first few months of life, babies see only black, white and gray, with their color vision developing around five months. For a newborn, therefore, you might want to incorporate some strong black-and-white features. (It is so charming to watch them trying to focus on these strong statements, but after a few attempts they do manage to do so.)
Deciding on a theme for the room will provide a design direction and help with the color choices. Countless resources are available for design ideas. Start with Google or Bing and then just surf until you find just the inspiration you’re looking for. Or, let your family heirlooms launch your imagination—perhaps there is a wonderful collection of Mother Goose figurines. Once you decide on a theme and colors, you can paint.
Select paint that has low or no Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). What the heck is that? Well, here are the dirty facts. VOC is a chemical additive present not only in paints but in some cosmetics, colored markers, gasoline, moth balls and cleaning supplies! This additive emits gases and in paint it lingers after the paint is dry. Oh, ick! So, again, select paints with low VOC factors or no VOC. For the baby room, consider the following paints: Sherwin Williams/ProMar 200 Zero VOC Interior Latex or Benjamin Moore/Natura Waterborne Interior Paint, which have zero VOC!
Live plants are a good addition to a baby room due to health benefits. Consider an English ivy or mother-in-law’s tongue, both of which will aid in VOC removal. Be sure to do your research when selecting plants for a baby room; peace lilies, for example, actually emit VOC.
Regardless of the room’s theme, this is where you will spend a good share of your time, learning who this little bundle of joy is. You will quickly find out your baby’s particular likes and dislikes as you fall madly in love with each other. And, eventually, you’ll lose control over the look of the room as your little one makes it his or her home.
I will leave you with a beautiful quote from Dickens:
“It is not a slight thing when those so fresh from God love us!”
See you next week!