There was part of me that always felt a little strange about decorating our nursery ahead of time, essentially ‘designing’ a room for someone who wasn’t yet here. The idea of trying to ‘create’ personality and envision what might suit our baby before we’d actually met them was a – fun, granted, yet – baffling task. We think about them daily – every kick and wriggle and somersault that occurs inside my tummy leads to excitable chat and questions over who they’ll look like, who they’ll be and what personality traits they’ll form, but really, until we actually lay eyes on them for the first time it’s impossible to predict (which is all part of the fun of course). For that reason we don’t really view this room as ‘completed’ as such, and is why I’ve named this post a ‘first look’ because, I guess, it never can be entirely completed until there’s an actual baby here, and we plan to add lots more personal touches and special details once that happens and we know who they are.
But having said that, we knew we needed to do something with the room, and at least starting the basics before mini came along seemed sensible. Having only moved into the house in October, the room was very much an ‘in progress’ space from the beginning so it wasn’t as if it was happily functioning in another guise that could have been left until our baby was old enough to need it. It was an empty box always destined to become baby’s room, and because it wasn’t being utilised it ended up being a dumping ground for all of the boxes we hadn’t yet unpacked and the surplus clothes and shoes of mine I couldn’t fit in the wardrobe, for those first few months.
We needed a clean and fresh space where we could assemble the cot, house some storage, unpack all of the clothes we were bound to receive and have somewhere a little less treacherous where we could change the baby in the dead of night without stumbling over a mountain of boxes to do so. We were also very aware that in those first few months of parenthood, where we will no doubt be existing in a bubble of newborn bliss/chaos and barely able to let our minds wander much further than the next feed or change, probably the last thing we’d want hanging over our heads was the thought of a painting and decorating mission. And so, it was decided that we’d tackle the basics and get the room up and running, with a view to letting it evolve naturally over time once mini had arrived.
As it happened, my Pinterest addiction and shopping habits made the progress from plain magnolia box into gender neutral baby zone a fairly natural and relatively easy one. Before we knew it, the room had a whole new purpose and style, and is closer to a finished state than we’d ever dared imagine we would achieve by this stage, so we’re feeling relieved and proud to have got this far without mini making a surprise arrival. The room now feels calm and inviting and we’ve aimed to fill it so far with the colours and products we love, in the hope that mini will enjoy it as much as we do!
First things first, if you want to see the progress of the room from start to finish I created a vlog of what we did, with the hiccups we faced along the way, so you can watch that above to see the full transformation (I’m really not a fan of seeing or hearing myself on camera which is why I’ll never be much of a Youtube star so be kind). Read on to take a look at the room as it is now, with all the info on the steps we took and the products we’ve chosen (all product links at the bottom of the post).
As I’ve mentioned, the room was an empty box when we moved in – no personality, a dodgy blind that reminded of me of the windows at school and the dreaded magnolia walls (if you’ve followed any of our decorating journey so far you’ll know how much I hate magnolia walls!). Obviously as we don’t know whether we’re having a boy or a girl we wanted the room to be neutral yet fun – suiting either gender. To be honest even if we had known what we were having, this would have still been the case as neither of us were that keen on typically ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ stereotyped decoration. We wanted a soft pale grey for the walls which would hopefully offer longevity and suit whatever colours ended up in the room through the furnishings. If you watch the video you’ll see that this wasn’t as simple a task as we thought it would be, and our first attempt of ‘pale grey’ ended up baby blue! Certainly not a colour we wanted regardless (always do a tester folks!). It was then back to the drawing board and we settled on Dulux matt emulsion in Polished Pebble, which was basically the lightest grey we could get without it being white. At first I was concerned it might be ‘too grey’ and darker than I’d imagined (actually at first I was still concerned it looked blue!) but actually once everything else was in, it came together and is a lovely calm shade to have as a backdrop. The picture rail, skirtings and radiator were then freshened up using a Homebase Satinwood paint, and the magnolia box was gone!
The furniture and Storage
The next step was to assemble the furniture, give our lovely new cot a home, and create a workable changing area. Choosing a cot is like choosing anything in the baby industry – a bit of a minefield – and you can easily do a lot of research and still be no closer to finding the style that suits you. For that reason I was pretty happy to rely on recommendation for this one, and after consulting a few of my Mum blogger friends and seeing both Rosie, and Milly unveil their gorgeous nurseries, the brand Boori was top of my list for furniture. We chose the Lucia cot, which is a stylish Scandi style with a simple white frame and quirky angled legs that keep it raised off the ground, and we knew from the minute we unboxed the pieces we’d made the right choice. It was very easy to assemble, only requiring a few steps and successfully avoiding any arguments along the way, it’s light yet sturdy, is beautiful quality and really looks the part.
One of the best things about the cot (and most of those in the Boori range) is their adaptability, which was ultimately what won us over. The cot assembled as it is, is suitable for a newborn baby with the mattress raised higher, but once they reach standing age and are beginning to get curious we can easily lower the mattress to it’s second stage by simply changing a few screws. The front panel then removes to be replaced with a shorter guard come toddler age, before coming off completely to form either a single bed or sofa style day bed for a children’s room. As if that wasn’t enough, should we ever move or be in need of another bed, with the addition of a couple of extra sections we can turn this humble cot into a full size double bed too – genius right? To see all the amalgamations better than I’ve described you can watch this great video on the Boori website. Buying a cot isn’t a small investment but in this case it seems entirely worth the spend considering you’ll be able to use it for years to come. The Lucia is a slightly more affordable style from the brand’s Urbane range – made to be more lightweight without using solid wood and designed as a more modern look. We haven’t felt that the lower price or wood variety has made any difference to the quality of the cot however and really love the Scandinavian simplicity of the design.
We decided against a specific changing table and instead opted to utilise this chest of drawers that we previously had in our room. With 5 drawers it offers a great amount of storage for mini’s every growing clothing collection and being white, matched the cot well. It is higher than most changing tables or dressers tend to be, but as we are both tall we’re hoping it should be ok for us, but we’re just going to see how we get on. We did consider getting an additional sunken changing unit to sit on top but couldn’t find one that fitted the exact dimensions of the chest, and were also worried this would add even more height. For now, as we don’t plan to leave our baby wriggling around on there without one of us always being there, it shouldn’t be a problem. But again it’s one of those things that you can’t really practice for, so we’ll just need to see how functional it all is once we’re using it regularly.
It brought me an embarrassing amount of joy to unpack, fold, and arrange all of the clothes we have so far for our baby into those drawers and I admit I’ve gone slightly OCD with it all and have everything arranged by size (the first two drawers being all newborn, the next 3-6 months and so on) so that we can easily find things while we’re changing and dressing. At first it seemed like we’d never fill all the drawers, but the clothing, blanket and nappy collection seemed to grow each and every time our parents came to visit and soon we were struggling to find a suitable space for everything so knew we needed more clever storage in the room. Enter the modular cube storage unit. You can buy these pretty much everywhere and in any sort of shape, height and shelf count that you need. Ikea have the Kallax range which goes from a single cube up to huge 16 cube units with add on drawers, doors and boxes. Mothercare have them, Wilko and The Range offer affordable versions and we chose ours from B&Q which offered the dimensions we wanted at a good price. We settled on a three tier tall unit so that it would sit around about the same height as the chest of drawers, and opted for a couple of add on doors. It doesn’t take up a lot of room, and gives us a neat way to keep things like nappies and wipes handy yet out of sight. We’ve filled the middle shelf with nappies, wipes and cotton wool, and the bottom one with towels and bath products.
We then bought a couple of white baskets from TK Maxx to sit on top of the unit and filled those with nappies, wipes and wool too so that we’d have some to hand during a change. Storage wise, we found we really couldn’t have enough as, the more time that passed, the more ‘stuff’ we seemed to accumulate (which is no doubt only set to grow). So we also picked up a few larger white baskets which slot nicely under the cot, and we use these for blankets, grobags and spare sheets. Boori do also sell under cot drawers so further down the line we may invest in one of those.
Lastly on the furniture side of things is our lovely vintage rocking chair. A rocking chair was the one thing I was certain of for this room from the word go, and ever since getting pregnant it had always been my mission to find a second hand one to use as a nursing chair. Finding one wasn’t quite so easy of course, and I spent the first few months of living in this house, glued to eBay most evenings, watching and bidding on styles only to be left disappointed when I’d get outbid at the last minute with a crazy price that was way above our budget. I scoured local charity shops, antique stores and second hand furniture stores, but their popularity made them difficult to come by and usually very overpriced when I did spot one. I had my heart set on an original Ercol style, but the prices of them were getting ridiculous, and so when I spotted this one (which I think looks very similar to the Ercol design) on eBay and with a local address, I snapped it up. We got it for £20 in the end, were able to pick it up locally and it’s in great condition so I think it was worth the wait. I was toying with the idea of sanding and painting it to begin with but in the end, the wood was in such good nick that I’ve decided to leave it for now. It didn’t come with seat pads, but a giant grey pillow from Wilko (for a bargain £4), an Ikea fluffy throw and a DFS cushion make it more than comfortable!
The Accessories and Furnishings
Despite the video making it look like everything happened in one go, the rest of the room actually came together very slowly and I think because we didn’t feel any rush or necessity to add anything else to the room should we not want to, we were able to pick up things we loved along the way and furnish the room gradually.
We started with the grey chevron curtains and a simple white curtain pole from Wilko. The curtains were originally bought for our living space in the old flat, and were a real bargain from George at Asda. They’re probably some of the best curtains we’ve ever bought, and I sing their praises to everyone (My Mum now has the beige version in the living room at home) as the quality is great for the price. We planned to have them in our spare room, but when it came to it, sat alongside the pink wall, I personally felt like they looked too ‘young’ and didn’t fit with the grown up vibe of that space. I managed to persuade GB we needed to buy darker grey curtains for that room, with the promise that we’d make use of these in the nursery. I’m really glad we did it that way around as they worked immediately in this space. In fact up until we put these up, I was still worried that the walls were looking a tad blue, but as soon as they were offset with the curtains it made all the difference.
The floor in this room is laminate, which is strange as the rest of the house is fully carpeted other than the kitchen, but it may end up being a godsend in the long room if there’s any poo or vomit explosions. It can get a little cold though so we wanted a soft rug to cosy it up and offer somewhere comfy to lay mini down if needs be. Because of the shape of the room, we struggled to find one that was right – anything too big had to go under furniture and didn’t quite work, circular didn’t fit the angles of the furniture and we needed a thick one with a good backing so that it wouldn’t slip around. I loved the OYO adventure rug, which we might get once baby is a bit older, but the cotton would have slipped around too much so we settled on this small fluffy number which was only £12 from Wilko (favourite shop alert!) and warms the space up nicely.
A whale print grey changing mat from Argos was added, along with some soft grey sheets for the cot, at which point everything looked very grey. As much as I love the Scandi monochrome look, it had always been our plan to add colour to this room – it felt more us, both being bright colour fans, and we also felt like fun prints and bright shades would be more interactive and stimulating for a baby, wanting the room to engage them as much as possible as they got older. So at this, overly grey, stage, the need for those bright shades was evident and we set about figuring out ways to add some in. We’d originally considered some sort of mural for the wall behind the cot – perhaps painting a geometric pattern in different shades to compliment the grey – but after the extra time and effort that we’d had to endure with three different shades of paint in our spare room, GB was very keen to just ‘paint all the walls one colour’. As we rent our abode too, it seemed more sensible to keep the walls grey so that we didn’t need to change it again anytime soon. Instead I started looking into wall decals and stickers and after a bit of Pinterest browsing, I decided to attempt a wall design using geometric triangles to create a loose cloud of colour above the cot. We ended up buying the triangles from a few different places to get the various sizes and colours we wanted, and after faffing about trying to create some sort of template on the floor, GB told me just to ‘go for it’ without any sort of plan and let it take shape naturally. So I did. It’s not quite as polished as some of the pictures I was using as inspiration on Pinterest and involved a few days of sleeping on it, coming back, un-sticking, re-sticking, before I finally felt like I was ready to step away and call it finished, but overall I think it’s the vibe we were imagining and adds a bit of much needed colour to the wall.
By that point a few key shades had started to emerge as our main accents – a soft teal, yellow, coral and green – and so by a happy accident we continued in this vein. We found our animal prints from a seller on Etsy, and both loved them straight away. You can choose from a wide range of different animals – from safari to woodland to dogs and cats – and the backdrops came in colours that worked too. We’re big animal and wildlife lovers in this household, with GB holding a special interest in all things polar bear, and me getting emotional over any program documenting elephants or penguins so those were natural choices, with the cheeky monkey finishing the set off. They were very reasonably priced and the card quality was excellent.
Look at any nursery decor on Pinterest and you’ll soon feel like you can’t possibly decorate the room without some form of shelving. I was torn with which style to go for, as I fell for both the floating shelves with hooks underneath and the DIY approach of using a simple white shelf and attaching a spray painted branch underneath to act as a mini wardrobe. However by the time we reached the point of talking shelves I was 37 weeks pregnant and the idea of scouring the woods for a suitable branch and painting it white seemed like too much bother. Instead I turned to Pinterest again and came up with the – not at all unique – idea of the Ikea spice rack hack. The Bekvam shelf is advertised as a kitchen utility to house spices and cookbooks, but as Pinterest has taught us, is also entirely at home in a nursery setting too. Use it upright for books, turn it upside down to use as a clothes hanger. I painted the bars white, left the rest wooden and simply screwed them into the wall ready to house some of mini’s most stylish ensembles.
Then came the hexagon trio of shelves, which I couldn’t resist for our final blank wall. They’re more for show really, as their size makes putting anything bigger than a succulent or a teddy on them impossible, but they look pretty fab in my view. I bought a set of three plywood cubes from eBay and simply painted the insides in our chosen colours (teal, yellow and coral) using tester pots. A little help from the parents screwing them to the wall and the room was looking altogether more colourful.
The mini stool was a charity shop find back at the end of last year, the idea being that I’d use it as a practice for my Annie Sloan up-cycling mission. It was varnished to a scary degree but after a lot of sanding, I painted it in Annie Sloan antique white and English yellow chalk paint, and the adorable shape seemed to fit the nursery perfectly. It now houses a green angled lamp from TK Maxx (originally bought for our bedroom but moved to the nursery when the colours seemed to match so well) which we’ve placed an LED light bulb in, so that it can offer both bright and soft light depending on the time of day (or night).
My favourite addition to the room, is the ‘sleeping bear’ paper storage bag. GB wasn’t convinced when it turned up and couldn’t seem to get his head around the fact I’d spent £15 on what was essentially a piece of brown paper, but I knew it would win him over once unpacked and filled. These bags are all over Pinterest, especially in Scandinavian designed rooms and offices, and this one was from a brand called Tellkiddo on Etsy. He’s already pretty full with blankets and teddies people have sent our way (as well as the foam finger we got from our trip to see the Knicks in New York – GB will be making sure our baby is a Knicks fan from the off!), so I know he’ll be well used as a handy way to store toys and teds in this small room!
And that’s where we’re at at the moment – not bad considering how it started hey? We still don’t see it as fully completed and we’re keen to add a few more personal touches once baby is here but it’s also a lot further on than I thought we’d get to, and we both really love spending time in there. I just hope mini loves it as much as we do!
Find all the links to products below and shout if I’ve missed anything!
Walls – Polished Pebble Matt Emulsion by Dulux
Curtains – George at Asda
Lucia Cot – c/o Boori
Chest of Drawers – Ikea (old)
Modular storage unit and doors – B&Q
Rocking chair – Vintage via eBay
Small stool – charity shop, upcycled using Annie Sloan chalk paint
Green angled lamp – TK Maxx
Grey whale changing mat – Argos
White basket storage (on chest and under cot) – TK Maxx and Wilko
Shaggy rug – Wilko
Wall stickers – various, Ebay and Etsy
Animal prints – Modern Kids Gallery via Etsy
Wooden bookshelves – Ikea
Hexagon trio shelves – eBay
Throw (on rocking chair) – Ikea
Cushion (in cot) – Ikea
Blankets – Gap and Aldi
Sanitary nappy bin – Angelcare via Mothercare
Sleeping Bear storage bag – Tellkiddo via Etsy