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Making room

Babies won’t say it, but they like good design, too

A stylish nursery in the making // Photos by Ashley Heider Daly

My business partner is pregnant. So are several other close friends, several adored acquaintances, and probably the dog next door to me. That’s at least a dozen babies recently born or baking to completion within the past year. I’m nearly 30—it’s just that phase of life, I guess.

I’m not quite ready to grace the world with my own offspring, but since I spend an overwhelming amount of time with my business partner, Ashley Palmer, I’ve delved deeper into the heart of baby talk than ever before.

One thing I’ve learned? For better or worse, the baby’s room represents the parent-to-be’s physical manifestation of their first hopes for their child. Here’s how expecting parents can express their deepest dreams for their kids through furniture and home decor, without destroying lives or paying for therapy later.

Some old/some new. Thanks to evolving safety regulations, an all-vintage baby room would probably be a death trap. An all-new baby room is probably a death trap, too, but for your child’s ability to ever be a deep and purposeful part of society. Striking a balance is key. Cribs, toys, high chairs? Let’s stick with new. Decorative details, rocking chairs, lighting, and dressers for changing stations? These are all great opportunities to add layers of meaning to your babies’ surroundings as well as save their souls.

Tie things together/use a discerning eye. You know how chili is often better the next day? It’s because the ingredients get all blended together and settle into glorious heaven soup.

More often than not, rooms in your home are put together over time. Nurseries are a rare moment where you start with a blank slate, an urgent purpose, and have to put it all together at once, or at least within the space of a few months.

Basically, most baby rooms are pots of newly made chili. You’ve gathered all the ingredients for a baby room. You probably have a theme or color scheme. Now you have to bring the room to a boil and give it time.

Go sit in that room every day for a week or more and stare, blankly, for thirty minutes. Look for ways to tie the room together. Each color, shape, or motif that is subtly repeated makes for a well-stewed room. Have a mobile made from your dad’s old walking stick? Put pinecones on a shelf on the other side of the room to slyly distribute the quiet loveliness of natural elements. Wooden squirrel bookends to keep this theme going but in a clever, fun way. Get it?

Layers of meaning. It’s true, the nursery is an opportunity to meditate on what you want and feel for your impending child. It’s also the room where you will spend many, many, beautiful-but-very-hard hours being selfless and tired. You should make the space meaningful, calming, and motivating for yourself. Bring in pieces that remind you of your family support system or of some adventure you went on with your spouse. Hang artwork a friend made, put figurines that are shaped like your favorite breed of dog on the bookshelf, ask your mom to make cushions for your rocker, or buy your crib fabric at a local shop you love (I like Owl and Drum, 2810 E. 15th Street).

When you decide which motifs to repeat, treat yourself to trips to a lot of fun shops to find just the right pieces. Ask friends to look for those elements, or see if you can find things to fit your needs while on your last sans-baby vacation. Finding pieces this way brings meaning to them and brings memories to you when you’re precious, parental self is exhausted and needs a little extra encouragement at midnight (and 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.) feedings.