You may be a huge fan of girlie pink, or perhaps you’ve decided on a rich blue for your little boy, but unless you love endless DIY projects, it’s best to think long-term and keep it neutral. This way you’ll have a nursery to suit your little one as he or she grows up into toddlerhood, and beyond.
If you want to theme a room you can always use accessories and furnishings. Opt for neutral walls and flooring, and go to town on bright, or gender-themed, colours with the bedding and accessories.
“The nursery is usually the smallest room but ends up being one of the busiest once your baby arrives,” says Chris Dwyer, furniture development manager at Silver Cross (www.silvercross.co.uk). “A bit like your baby, it’s small but it’ll take up a lot of your time. So above all, it needs to be functional.”
Of course you want it to be a pretty and calm oasis, but it’s also a practical room. Soft cream, green, or yellow are popular and attractive gender-neutral colours.
Lucinda Croft, MD of luxury nursery boutique, Dragons of Walton Street, who designed nurseries for Princes William and Harry (www.dragonsofwaltonstreet.com), says pale, pastel hues are definitely the most traditional choice. “Bold colours can still work, but why not try painting one wall in a bright colour, then keeping the others a more toned-down version of the shade,” she says. “Obviously this depends on how brave you are and what your tastes are. Bold colours are a great way to stimulate your baby’s mind, too. Put the cot alongside the brighter wall to give your little one something to focus on.”
Try this: Put stimulating accessories up high as your newborn will be lying in the cot or on the changing table a lot. Mobiles are perfect for this, but make sure they’re out of reach.
“It’s easy to get carried away when you’re choosing everything for the nursery, especially furniture,” says Chris Dwyer of Silvercross. “But the key is storage. Again, although your baby’s small, he or she comes with a lot of things. And as your little one grows, you’ll need more and more storage, of course. Investing in one-off pieces seems lovely, but isn’t wise if you want items to last. The ideal example is the cot. Getting a cot bed will take the piece well into toddlerhood, and beyond.”
You’ll need to think carefully about where to put it, too. “Never have a cot near to the window or radiator as you need the temperature in the room to be constant, neither too hot nor too cold,” adds Chris.
3 steps to choosing your cot or cot bed
1) Cot or not?
A cot is your baby’s bed for the first couple of years. It usually has fixed sides, or one drop-side, and tends to fit a smaller space. A cot bed is similar, but once your child’s ready you can take both sides off, turning it into a junior (or toddler) bed, which will last longer.
2) Safety regulations
For peace of mind, look for the BSI number BSEN 716:2008, which ensures your cot or cot bed meets all current safety standards. Unfortunately, not all carry this, so check the following: any cot or cot bed, old or new, should have a space between the bars measuring no more than 6.5cm, and it should also have at least 50cm between the top of the mattress and the top of the cot’s sides. If you’re buying secondhand, check all fixtures are secure, there’s no damage to the top rail, like splinters, and consider stripping and repainting it. Anything made before 1992 could be decorated with lead paint, which is now considered unsafe and has been banned.
3) The mattress
Probably the most important factor when choosing your baby’s bed is the mattress. Firstly, it must fit the cot/cot bed properly, otherwise there’s a chance your baby could become stuck between the sides and the mattress. Generally, the gap should be no larger than 3-4cm. Some models come with a standard mattress, but many companies offer a multitude of choices – made of foam, coil springs, natural materials for allergy sufferers, or with anti-microbial treatment.
Current guidelines also recommend that parents never use a secondhand mattress for newborn babies to reduce the risk of cot death
Did you know…
When buying a cot, be aware that the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) recommends that your newborn sleeps in your room for the first 6 months, so get a cot that fits your room, but suits the nursery. A Moses basket in your bedroom is a good idea at the start.
Nursery safety do’s & don’ts
- DO keep all lotions and potions out of your baby’s reach on the changing table.
- DON’T leave your baby alone on a changing table at any time.
- DO fit a working smoke alarm (and test it regularly).
- DO buy a new mattress, never secondhand, and check it conforms to safety standards.
- DON’T fit blinds with cords or strings. Roller blinds are often best.
- DO keep nightlights away from curtains or other fabrics.
“It’s a good idea to opt for soft colour bedding and add personal touches of colour with toys and pictures,” says Jane Robson, founder of bedding specialists The Fine Cotton Company (www.thefinecottoncompany.com). Soft shades will make sure everything goes together with no clashes. Having a baby is an expensive time so it helps if you can buy things that can be passed down in the future,” says Jane.
Snug top tips:
- Always ensure you buy good quality fabrics such as percale. You have to wash baby bedding so frequently they’ll last longer than cheap fabrics.
- Choose bedding that’s right for you. 100% organic cotton is lovely, but at the more luxury end of the bedding scale. Poly/cotton mix, on the other hand, is more affordable and might be better if you’re a busy mum as it doesn’t crease like cotton does.
- A swaddling blanket is ideal for comforting a newborn. Always choose one made of natural fibres – 100 per cent organic cotton is best.
- Go for a mix of sheets and lightweight blankets so you can easily add an extra layer or take one away. Remember that a blanket doubled over counts as two layers.
- Duvets, pillows and cot bumpers are not suitable for babies under 1 year. When buying your baby bedding, plan for three or four fitted and flat sheets, and two lightweight baby blankets for layering. This will enable you to have a couple of spare changes. A baby blanket can also be used as a swaddling blanket.
Make sure you invest in a good blackout blind. Trust us – you don’t want a 5am summer wake-up call, no matter how lovely it is outside.
“Get two table lamps for the room, and preferably one with a dimmer switch for when you see to your baby at night,” says designer David Netto. Low-level lighting is essential for late-night feeds so your baby doesn’t fully wake up with harsh bright light.
Get a nursing chair if you’ve got space. “It’s really important that you’re comfortable because you spend a lot of time feeding in the early days. If you’re comfortable, chances are your baby will be happier too,” says Lucinda Croft, interior designer to the royals.
A rug is a nice touch to place on your normal carpet. “Sheepskin is lovely and soft for rolling around on with your baby,” says David.
“Musical toys are wonderful for a nursery,” says Lucinda Croft. “Play the music to your baby in the womb, then, when he’s born, playing the same piece can soothe him.”
“When you’re planning to have a bigger family, it’s all about budget, and it’s all about recycling in our house. When my son Zain was born four years ago, we bought quite an expensive, quality oak nursery, and went totally neutral with creams and yellows. When Zain moved out of the room we kept it as it was. We just re-attached the panel on the cot bed, bought a new mattress and now we’re using it for Maya, my 7-month-old daughter. We also bought a unisex pram, car seat, highchair, travel cot, etc., as we knew we wanted more kids and tried to be a little money savvy.”
Shamaila Khan, 32, from Blackburn, mum to Zain, 4, and Maya, 7 months