How to Decorate a Small Nursery (Reader Question)

Sadie emailed me some photos of her baby girl's nursery and asked for some advice with her "small, bare, and random nursery." (Her words, not mine!)
In summary, she says: I like a clean feel. Even though the chair is big and bulky and needs to go, I'd also like something soft and comfy in there.

[Editor's Note: I'm all for big comfy chairs in the nursery, as you can see by my own space. I actually had a small cute little number in there before my baby was born, but one day after she was home from the hospital, I had my husband swap for the fantastically comfortable beast that's in there to this day...and we haven't looked back.] 

The art gallery was cute for a while but is so small and sad now. I like having the map in there but feel like it's maybe wrong with the color. Oh, and the room was just painted (Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage) a year ago, and repainting isn't an option.

Here's the room currently:

Opposite wall:

Chair (love that toile!):

 Sadie also included some inspiration photos in her email, here are two of them:

Sadie, first of all, I think your nursery is a sweet little room. I think with just a few tweaks, you can have a space that you - and Jane - love.

A couple of things I noticed: you seem genuinely drawn to simplicity and brightness. I think to achieve the serenity and clean lines of your inspiration photos, sticking to a fairly restricted color palette is the way to go. Don't worry, though - this doesn't mean boring. At all.

Here's an inspiration board that I created for you, full of greens and blues and light neutrals that will break up the solid feeling of your space and add some playful femininity:

Let's take each of these items and discuss, shall we? (Yes. Yes we shall.)

1. Almost all of your inspiration boards included poufs, which I think are so great in a nursery. You can go super colorful and soft, but I thought this flatter banana fiber version ($30) would work well doubling as an ottoman for your existing pint-sized rocking chair. Plus the natural fibers add texture and warmth. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can make your own; I happen to love this idea and want to try it out myself.

2. Wall-mounted wire baskets, filled with books or favorite stuffed animals Maybe rearrange the furniture: crib in front of window (I know the vent is on the floor, so pull it out about a foot from the window) and kid and grownup chairs in front of the map wall. I'd love to see 2-3 wire baskets mounted under your map, for easy access to reading books from either chair. Here are some options from Urban Outfitters ($40) and Crate & Barrel ($12-$20).

3. Sew some ceiling-to-floor drapes - great for adding a vertical line to this small room. Look for something colorful (preferably in cooler tones, since your walls are so warm) and maybe a mid-sized geometric. I like the vintage feel of this Waverly floral, on sale for $15/yd at (Addendum: Ohp. Drat. Sold out. But you can find similar stuff at places like Joann in their special order section.)

4. Whether draped on a chair or used as a rug in front of the crib, this Ikea sheepskin rug (RENS, $30) adds a sweet softness. Not too expensive, either.

5. Throw a ticking stripe ($15/yd on sale) pillow on the chair or use the fabric for a simple pleated cribskirt for neutral contrast to the brighter floral curtains.

6. Keep your world map. It's never too early to start a child's appreciation of maps, right? Global perspectives and all that. (Because that's what 2-year-olds excel at.) Plus, by moving the crib to the window wall, the map will actually help balance the larger furniture in the room.

7. Spray paint a simple chunky gold stripe to either the top or bottom third of your existing white boxes on the changing table. Inspired by this dresser. Maybe throw some stuffed animals or a blanket or something (that's okay for baby Jane to access) on the bottom shelf of the changing table as well, to add a little color and texture.

 8. I like your chair (and love the toile), but it is a little on the warm/dark traditional end of things. To lighten the space as per your inspiration photos, you could snag one of these Vinnie white cradle rocking chairs for just $90 on Overstock. Hi and hello there.

9. Use your same abstract/watercolor artwork (I have a feeling it has sentimental value), but get some larger white photo frames ($12 West Elm, or cheaper ones at Michaels or Target) and white mats. Vary the mat widths custom to each piece of art. This will provide a little more size and "oomph" to the gallery wall. (Yep. "Oomph." It's part of the vernacular of refined art critics, which of course I am one. So.)
10. This is a pretty wall color. Very soothing.

I had another thought: if you really want to keep your soft chair (I don't blame you), then choose a small-scale cool grey geometric print for the curtains (instead of the green-blue one in the inspiration board) and swap out the chair's texisting hrow pillow for a cool lavendar one with navy piping. Then spray paint the baby rocker a charcoal or deep plum color to balance the depth, and everything else can still apply.

Whatever you choose, just start changing one thing at a time and gauge how you're feeling about it as you go. I hope this helps with some ideas, Sadie! So fun.

Anyone else? Feel free to email me: brittneynsmart [at] yahoo [dot] com
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