4 Tips for How To Design a Nursery for the Future, According to a Designer Mom

published Sep 22, 2023
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Botanical wall paper in nursery with large stuffed animal giraffe near dresser.
Credit: Layne Dixon

A nursery — whether it’s a corner area in your bedroom, a transformed closet, or a private room —  is where you’ll likely have a lot of firsts with your baby, so it’s fair to spend a lot of time designing the space. And while the bedroom needs a lot of baby-related items, like toys, a crib, and changing necessities, you might want to consider the room’s future uses when mapping out the area. 

Take it from interior designer Michelle Sturgis, who designed her future daughter’s nursery (she arrives in November!) in her family’s charming Chicago worker’s cottage. Sturgis calls the original room a “blank canvas” that boasts a lot of historical architectural charm, like angled walls and ceiling, and a huge window, and she designed the space with future uses in mind. Here she offers three tips for designing a future-proof nursery:

Choose pieces that could easily be used in a grown-up room.

“My biggest tip would be to choose versatile things that work beyond a nursery,” Sturgis writes. “A dresser instead of a changing table, a rocker that could be used in a living room later on, wallpaper that could work if you turn that space into an office, etc. I just think it makes your investment last longer since the baby stage is so short!” 

For example, when Michelle was visiting Savannah, Georgia, she discovered Cole & Son’s Palm Leaves Wallpaper and thought it was perfect for the nursery. “I just loved the simplicity and timelessness of the design, and I liked that the colors weren’t typical nursery colors,” Sturgis shares.

Credit: Layne Dixon

Stick to a neutral color palette — but that doesn’t mean no color!

Thinking about her future with a newborn, Sturgis “stuck to a muted color palette of seafoam green and burnt orange, with lots of creams, whites, and woods layered in,” to foster a tranquil feeling in the space. The sophisticated, calming shades that Sturgis chose also help to highlight the architectural details. 

“I also wanted to choose elements that blended well with the age of the home (built in 1892), so adding the picture frame molding, the vintage-inspired sconces, and the wallpaper made it feel cohesive,” Sturgis writes.

Credit: Layne Dixon

Add some sentimental items.

Even though the room had stunning architectural elements, it was a relatively small space. To make the room feel, well, roomier, Sturgis bought a mini crib and a smaller glider so that they could utilize their square footage. The furniture also has sentimental value, too. For instance, the crochet baby blanket, which was made by Michelle’s mom, makes Sturgis smile every time she thinks of it and the dresser is the couple’s proud DIY accomplishment. 

“I went through a big mid-century phase about 10 years ago, and this vintage dresser from Craigslist was one of our first ‘real’ furniture purchases as a couple,” Sturgis explains. “My husband and I sanded the outside of it and painted it white, and also added some vintage cup-style pulls we got on eBay.”

If decorating a nursery stresses you out, just get the basics!

As a designer, Sturgis loved every second of designing her child’s nursery — from picking the wallpaper to repurposing the furniture and finding hacks for their small square footage. However, she realized that not everyone feels the same about the experience. 

“I think women feel a lot of pressure to have a Pinterest-worthy nursery, and there are already enough things to worry about when expecting a new baby,” Sturgis says. “…If it stresses you out financially or otherwise, just get the basics on Facebook Marketplace and call it a day. You are not more or less of a mom based on your nursery. Capitalism’s gonna capitalism.”

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