Your baby is on the way, and you want to fill her room with every imaginable item that will meet both her needs and yours. The dilemma: your nursery measures eight feet by nine feet, and no matter how long and hard you stare at the space, it’s not getting any bigger.
There’s no need for magical intervention. No need to bring in a construction crew to knock out the walls. With a bit of careful planning and organizing, you can make the most of whatever space you have.
Small rooms can make a big impact, so instead of getting discouraged and feeling that you have limited possibilities, look at the glass as half full. Your baby really doesn’t need masses of furniture, so establish some practical guidelines about what is truly essential. If there isn’t space for something, you probably don’t need it anyway.
1. Colour palettes
A neutral pastel shade on the walls is an effective solution, but it’s not your only option in a small room. Contrary to common belief, dark colours do not necessarily make a room look smaller. In fact, you can create visual depth by painting two opposing walls a deep colour, such as blue, violet or green. These cool tones’the colours of the sea, sky, and forest’will appear to recede, making the room appear larger.
If you prefer, focus on a single wall, anchoring it with a bold paint treatment that contrasts with the other three. A colourful wall covering or wallpaper also serves as an ideal accent to expand the room.
Alternatively, choose a colour that you like and apply it in a monochromatic scheme‘varying shades of the same colour. Or pick different colours that have the same tone and intensity, such as cobalt and purple. Both treatments will give you the opened-up feel you’re looking for.
The baby’s bed will most likely be the largest piece of furniture in the nursery. I suggest using a crib with a streamlined design’something basic and no-fuss without a canopy or any ornate details. Clean lines allow the eye to travel freely about the room, making it feel more spacious. Because of its sleek and simple design, contemporary furniture works best when you’re faced with limited square footage.
Before you set out to buy baby furniture, take a look around your house. You might already have a small side table or dresser that can be put to new use in the nursery. Once you’ve taken inventory and reappropriated what you can, it’s time to hit the stores.
When shopping for a bookshelf or chest of drawers, look for pieces that are tall and narrow, since they take up less visual space than furniture that’s short and wide. Ample space between items helps open up a room, as does keeping furniture away from doors.
Make sure the pieces you choose are relatively small and scaled down, and buy only what you absolutely need. Even though you might be enchanted by the vast storage possibilities of a bulky oak armoire, it will likely overwhelm the room. Instead, look for combination pieces that serve a dual purpose. Several manufacturers make double-duty furniture, such as a changing table that includes a chest of drawers; crib with built-in storage beneath; two-tiered toy box that serves as a step stool when baby gets bigger. If it takes up the space of one item but serves the functionality of two, it’s a smart buy.
3. Window treatments
Use minimalist window treatments to open up the room. Simple blinds or light-colored Roman shades with a tailored valance are a good choice. Try hanging the valance higher than the top of the window to make it appear taller and to elongate the entire room as a result.
Basic is best. You don’t want to draw attention to the floor in a small room, so avoid busy patterns and fussy designs. Instead, choose wall-to-wall carpeting in a neutral colour and a light texture. Cork flooring is also a good choice, because it’s soft enough not to require the addition of an area rug, which can break up a room and make it appear even smaller.
Once again, keep it simple. Avoid noisy patterns and lots of embellishments. If the design is such that it screams for attention, it will overwhelm a small nursery. Blending the colour of the bedding with the colour of the walls is a good solution to open up the room.
Use natural light to your advantage. You’ll be amazed at how a sunny window can make a room seem larger than it really is. Inside the nursery, track lighting will eliminate the need for lamps, which take up visual space. Install a dimmer switch so you can control the brightness of the room.
7. Special touches
Keep accessories to a minimum. There’s no need to top every piece of furniture with masses of toys, stuffed animals, and chotchkes that serve no other purpose than to clutter up the room. Mirrors are a wonderful multipurpose solution in a small nursery. Besides giving the illusion of more space, they reflect light and the great outdoors when placed opposite a window. They’ll open up the entire room and bring in twice the natural light, making the nursery feel open and airy. Best of all, babies love to see their reflections.
This is the most crucial word when it comes to decorating a small space. You need all the storage you can get, because if items are out of sight, they can’t cause visual overwhelm. A crib skirt can provide a screen for a multitude of objects. Store less frequently used items beneath the crib’your extensive stash of diapers, for example’where they’ll remain hidden by pretty fabric. It’s also a great place to hide away plastic storage bins that can be filled with toys, blankets, or baby clothes that don’t yet fit. Alternatively, look for a crib that has drawers beneath it or find a bench that doubles as a toy chest. To expand floor space and open up the room, rethink baby’s closet. Remove the door and treat it as an alcove for your changing table or dresser. Or take down the hanging rod and install floor-to-ceiling shelves.
There are definite advantages to a small nursery. When space is limited, you can’t possibly become a pack rat, so consider this an opportunity to teach your baby an early lesson about the benefits of being streamlined and tidy. Working within the confines of limited square footage also affords a chance to kick your creativity into high gear, because you’ll need to make every furniture choice count.
In truth, the size of the nursery is all about your perspective. Instead of thinking of it as tiny, appreciate it for its compactness, efficiency and coziness. And if it’s an environment where baby is comfy and happy, it’s the perfect size and place.
Excerpted from Feathering the Nest, copyright 2009 by Tracy Hutson. Excerpted with permission from Harry N. Abrams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.