How to design the perfect safe nursery

Kitting out your child’s nursery can be seriously enjoyable. From furniture to floors, curtains, handy storage and mood lighting to help your baby to relax - we’ve got loads of tips on how to do it beautifully and of course, safely, too

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    Creating a nursery can be a fun interior design project. Not only are you making a space for your baby, but children’s rooms are inherently inviting and colourful. Get the safety aspect right, and you’ve got the perfect space for your child to sleep, play and grow in.

    How to choose safe nursery furniture

    Whether your nursery is in a corner of your bedroom or a whole room, one thing you do need is a cot.

    If you’re sourcing one second-hand, make sure it carries the British Kite Mark to guarantee safety. If it’s vintage, sand it down and repaint it with lead-free paint.

    And do look out for the spacing between the cot bars. Child safety expert and founder, director and manager of Maisie Poppins Nursery, Maisie Collin, says: “It is very important to ensure the wooden slats are close enough together that small babies’ heads can’t get stuck – but far enough apart that limbs won’t either.”

    There are so many different sizes and styles of cots, but consider longevity. A cot bed, for example, means you won’t need to upgrade later on. And, says Maisie, “can pay off really well in relation to safety, comfort, transition management and adaptation over many years”.

    The combination of a co-sleeping cot by your bed for the first 6 months, and a cot bed in their own room works really well for a lot of people. (Safe sleeping guidance says your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first 6 months.)

    Think carefully about mattresses too: never use a second-hand mattress and make sure it meets British standards of fire safety.

    While some people swear by baby changing tables, you could simply put a baby changing mat on top of a set of drawers.

    But, importantly, make sure any furniture like wardrobes and sets of drawers are attached to the wall. You can buy wall anchors from any hardware shop, and IKEA has started supplying them as standard.

    “There have been countless times small children have hurt themselves climbing up them,” says Maisie.

    “Children develop physically all the time, and understandably want to test their new skills out – they may do that when you aren’t in the room.”

    Make sure everything you need is in easy reach of the changing table. Your baby will quickly learn to roll, so keep the nappies, wipes, cream and nappy bags at arm’s length so you don’t have to leave your baby alone even for a second.

    Read more: How to attach furniture to the walls safely

    Best nursery colours to choose

    Whether you’re choosing to create a gender neutral space or not, if you start with pale grey, white or cream walls, the colour in the artwork, cot mobile and books you choose will shine through.

    Mobiles, art and books are changeable, too; when your child grows and starts to show preferences, you can switch the pictures around and customise the space.

    Babies respond first to colour, then to shape, so bright colours are best. A mobile or bunting above the cot or baby-changing station will really attract attention. Better this, says Maisie, than lots of pretty cot bedding. Though it looks beautiful, it isn’t advised for small babies.

    “Babies really don’t need pillows and duvets. What they need is to lie flat so their trachea can function well and their backbone is straight,” she says.

    “I recommend having a bumper-free environment as bumpers often come loose and create a secondary suffocation risk,” as do stuffed toys, which Maisie advises, are also a distraction to sleep.

    “Their cot is a place they should feel calm in.” While babies are very little, you can display their stuffed toys on shelving. 

    Read more: Vital sleep rules for your baby

    Should you carpet your nursery?

    You don’t need to carpet your entire nursery but, if you have wooden flooring, a fixed rug is a good idea as it can really warm the room.

    “I find the overall winner is wooden laminate flooring for a child’s nursery with the addition of a carpeted area or safe rug in one area for comfort,” says Maisie.

    But, says, Maisie, don’t get anything too varnished and slippery, “especially when your toddler or baby is learning to walk”.

    Other experts, though, favour carpet in a nursery. Expert interior designer Sarah Wodehouse recommends a short carpet that’s soft underfoot and works well acoustically.

    One option is to go for a polypropylene carpet (twist or Saxony) which has stain-free fibres and is easy to clean.

    Though, remember, babies are messy; when you’re choosing your carpet, think carefully about the colour – you’ll be surprised how many different liquids you’ll be cleaning off the floor!

    Whichever option you go for, though, using an underlay is a really good idea. It will shape how your floor feels, looks and wears – and there are lots of different options.

    Read more: Flooring expert Carpetright has some handy tips on its website on how to choose underlay

    Using underlay:

    • adds a cushioned depth of comfort underfoot
    • acts like a shock absorber, protecting the condition of your floor
    • acts as a barrier against noise and helps with soundproofing
    • acts as an insulator and could save you money on your energy bills.

    So, in our book, it’s definitely worth adding that extra layer. 

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    Blackout blinds or curtains?

    Most parents swear by blackout blinds. They are especially useful during nap times and the summer months.

    “I find the best solution is to have a fitted blackout blind as a base and then curtains on top,” says Maisie, as then you have the option of total blackout, or just the curtain, which will allow some light through, which may be useful as your child grows.

    “Some fearful 2-year-olds may need the comfort of some light during a nap,” Maisie says. Blind cords are a serious strangulation hazard, though, so if you’re going for a blind, make it a cordless roller blind. 

    Read more: How to safely install blinds in a nursery

    How to keep nursery floors and walls safe

    Toy baskets and bins work really well to keep toys tidy. Remember, you’ll be coming into your baby’s room at nighttime, so you don’t want to be tripping over lots of different toys!

    “Have simple designated areas for your child’s possessions where items are easily stored away and not scattered all over the floor,” says Maisie.

    Contrary to what a lot of people believe, you don’t need to cover up plug sockets. In fact, it can be dangerous. “The Department of Health has been very clear that using socket covers creates risk,” says Maisie. 

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     “When a socket cover is pushed in it can damage the socket and, worse, make the current live, leading to possible electrocution and fire risk,” she says. “Sockets should be left alone.”

    If you have sharp-cornered furniture, it may be worth covering edges in the very early days, but, says Maisie, “as they get older, toddlers tend to work them out as part of their overall increasing awareness.

    They may need reminding of course!” she says. “I find toddlers very much enjoy picking the exciting sticky corners off – and putting them in their mouths! But use your own judgement.”

    What kind of lighting works best?

    You can turn any lamp you love into a nightlight by getting the right bulb, so there is no need to buy a special one. Having said that there are loads of super-cute nightlights on the market if you do want to splash out on something special for your new nursery.

    Most baby thermometers come with built-in nightlights, too – and a thermometer is a great idea to ensure your baby’s bedroom is the right temperature. So this could be a great 2-in-1 option.

    Read more: 10 of the best nightlights

    And finally…

    One thing to remember is that you and perhaps your partner (as well as your baby) will quite possibly be spending a lot days – and sleepless nights – in your child’s nursery, so make it as cosy as possible. And have fun! If you love the space, your baby will too.

    Carpetright offers a range of family-friendly fooring: check out its website for more information and to find a store near you

    Image credits (from top): Oeuf NYC / Sonali Hindmarch (left) / Cam Cam Copenhagen (right) / Flexa

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