Say bye-bye to cutesy-pie. Today's nurseries are more sophisticated and designed to grow with the child.
So long, Winnie-the-Pooh. Today’s new parents are opting for eclectic sophistication when it comes to decorating their nurseries. “Everything is more modern,” said Tiffany Hanken of Tiffany Hanken Design in Minneapolis. Gone are the pink-or-blue color palettes, the matchy-matchy furniture sets, the cartoonish animal themes. Newborns are increasingly coming home to rooms with gray color schemes, hardwood or laminate floors and minimalist furniture. On the walls, you’ll find graphic prints and framed fabrics; beneath your feet, a faux fur rug.
“When children are small, it’s about texture and feeling, so layering those textures everywhere is trend-forward right now,” Hanken said.
While the classic nursery setup once included a crib, dresser, changing table, bookshelf and rocking chair, today’s new parents are flexible with furniture must-haves and often choose pieces that multi-task. Long dressers can double as changing tables, Hanken said. More mature custom-order swivel chairs are replacing traditional rocking chairs for rocking babies to sleep.
Cribs are still a major purchase, however, and often become the focal point of the nursery, said Tracy Hains of Che Bella Interiors of Burnsville. “That’s often the jumping-off point.”
But when it comes to cribs, clean, European and convertible are what parents crave.
“I haven’t seen a traditional-style crib in a really long time,” Hanken said.
To liven up today’s subdued nursery palettes, Hains finds ways to incorporate bursts of color. “There’s a quilt or art that the color is pulled out of,” she said. “The pops come from different sources.”
Navy blue is an up-and-coming color for nurseries, Hains said, while Hanken leans toward aqua. Both hues are being used in a gender-neutral way, with accents adding a feminine or masculine bent.
Modern moms and dads are also open to DIY projects. One of Hanken’s clients has been scouring antique stores to find a classic piece to refinish and paint herself. Hanken estimates that at least one piece in each nursery she’s done has a homemade element.
Nurseries also are getting greener. Paints that are low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) are now the norm for new parents, according to Hanken.
When it comes to big purchases, Hains encourages parents to think long-term. She recently encouraged an expectant mother to choose a neutral-colored glider. “I said, ‘What about baby No. 2? This is such an investment, do you really want it to be useful only in a female nursery?’ ”
And parents are investing, especially for first-borns. Designer rooms typically range from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the quality of the furniture. Parents who also want drapery panels, artwork, murals and lighting can expect to pay on the higher end of the spectrum.
Initial design for a professionally designed nursery takes about four weeks (if the parents-to-be are decisive); implementation lasts from four to six weeks.
Design aside, nurseries must be useful and practical to accommodate baby care, Hains said. “You can build the most beautiful nursery in the world, but if it doesn’t provide you with functionality, we’ve missed the mark.”
Tale of three nurseries
1. Designed by a pro
Laura Engen found out that she was expecting last August, but didn’t start hatching plans for her baby’s room until after the new year. As the owner of Laura Engen Interior Design in Minneapolis, she approached her son’s nursery from the perspective of a design professional as well as a first-time mom.
After finishing her basement and relocating her home office there, Engen went to Pinterest for inspiration, keeping in mind that the nursery should complement the gray-and-white palette of her Lake Nokomis-area home.
“I wanted to keep it tailored and clean,” she said. “We knew we were having a boy, but we wanted something gender-neutral, so we could change out the accent colors and themes as he got older and we figured out his personality and what fit him.”
Baby Grand (with stores in St. Paul and Hopkins) was the first place she shopped for furniture. Engen also sourced a quirky side table from Francis King Ltd., whose showroom is in International Market Square.
An unlikely addition to the nursery — a rhinocerous head, also from Francis King — came as a shower gift from Engen’s designer friends. The show-stopping piece is made out of industrial metal scraps in shades of green, and is mounted on a distressed wood plaque.
“It wasn’t theme-y like airplanes or marines,” Engen said of her design. “It was kind of fun and playful, but it still has a mature feel about it.”
Engen added in artistic DIY details, like a bark lamp that she spray-painted silver and topped with a white shade. Though all of the elements weren’t in place when baby George arrived in May, Engen wasn’t worried; she’ll continue adding on at her own pace, she said.
“It’s important to find a balance,” she said. “You want to do something fun and playful for your kids, but at the same time, you’re really doing it for you. I like the nursery to be an extension of the rest of the house, not a departure.”
2. Ever-changing canvas
Kate Smith, a St. Paul-based copywriter, took her time decorating her nursery. “We were hesitant to start purchasing things before our son even got here,” she said. “The big thing was not going out and buying a ton of stuff right away, but about thoughtfully curating what would be included.”
That curation has included a rocking chair from Baby Grand, an Oeuf crib made from sustainable woods, and a custom changing table built by a friend. Simplicity was paramount for Smith, who adhered to a soft gray-and-blue color palette, which flowed from the rest of the home’s hues.
“The foundation is minimal and clean,” she said, although she and her husband added a few nods to their favorite things. An “E.T.”-themed poster from Artcrank, purchased before the couple knew they were expecting, decks one wall. The music-loving parents also hung a poster of the comedic New Zealand band Flight of the Conchords.
A floor-to-ceiling chalkboard, painted onto one wall of the nursery after baby Sam’s birth in February, was another fun addition. “It’s definitely not a new idea,” Smith said of the chalkboard. “We saw it on a few other nurseries and really liked the idea of being able to change something up.” Smith’s sister, an artist, did the first chalk drawing.
As Sam grows, “We’re learning to sacrifice a little bit of what we find aesthetically pleasing,” Smith said. She’s incorporated more “crazy patterns” and bright colors to the room as her son’s tastes develop.
3. Delegating the decorating.
At one point during Sarah Longacre’s pregnancy in 2013, one of her yoga students started talking about about her nursery in class.
“I had this overwhelming feeling of, ‘Omigod, I have to do a nursery, too?’ ” Longacre said. The owner and founder of Blooma, a yoga studio for women and families, didn’t have room on her to-do list for one more chore.
So Longacre approached her mother, Cheryl Hauser, and sister, Wendy Brown, “who have amazing style,” Longacre said. She gave the duo a budget and let them do as they pleased designing the baby’s room in her southwest Minneapolis home.
“All she asked for was something that was more sophisticated and definitely not a ‘theme,’ ” Hauser said.
“It was a huge risk,” Longacre said, “but it gave my husband and I so much more time as a couple.”
Two weeks before Longacre’s due date, her mother and sister opened the nursery door, and Longacre got her first peek inside.”It was unreal,” she said. “I loved that I didn’t have to make the decisions. It felt so wonderful to have their complete support.”
Hauser sourced the crib and rocker from friends, bought a full-length silver mirror and accent lamp at Hunt and Gather, and found the changing table at Nadeau, which imports wooden furniture from India and Indonesia at wholesale prices. Hauser and Brown selected all the fabric featured in the nursery and had the pillows made locally.
The decor also includes heartfelt touches, like pictures from Longacre’s pregnancy photo shoot, a pillow with handprints of Longacre’s two older kids, and a mobile of hearts signed by friends. There’s also a nod to baby’s ancestry in a pair of booties from Longacre’s great-grandfather and a blanket from her great-great-grandfather. A tree decal graces one wall, and a hanging plant completes the gender-neutral, budget-friendly design.
Baby Metta (named after the yoga practice of loving kindness) arrived in September. Longacre has never regretted the decision to delegate her decorating.
“You know when someone else makes you dinner?” she said. “It’s always better than when you make it yourself.”
Erica Rivera is a Twin Cities freelance writer.