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Catalog Shortcuts for Nursery Design

Tips for decorating a nusery - quickly.

By Matt Fox
Home & Garden Television

I love decorating kid's rooms. You can decorate around a theme, and add great accessories, many of which can be purchased at the toy store (my kind of shopping).

I must admit, though, I'm not as fond of decorating nurseries. Pastels don't really do much for me, and stuffed bunnies and lambs just can't compete with action figures and remote controlled cars. Trying to think of the perfect theme gives me a headache.

Recently, however, my co-host, Shari Hiller, introduced me to a new way of shopping for a nursery items. Catalogs! No more traipsing through isles of diapers and bibs to get find the perfectly themed room. Instead, a catalog does most of the work for you.

If you do a web search for nursery furniture, you'll find there are numerous companies that offer furnishings, themed bedding and accessories to match. These catalog companies offer way more than the typical patchwork baby quilt. Of course, you can find the traditional barn yard theme, but you'll also find frogs, fish, and jungle animals.

There are small floral prints, but English Garden and French Country are also available. We know that teddy bears can make a cute nursery theme, but how about bugs and butterflies? Looking for a Wild West theme? No problem. Tired of nursery rhymes and fairy tales? How about a Hawaiian theme instead?

We gave catalog shopping a try recently when we decorated a nursery for a couple expecting their first child. They knew the baby was a boy, but wanted the nursery to remain gender neutral so that it could also be used for future brothers or sisters.

We decided on a jungle theme, and although we used many manufactured decorating items we were able to create a one-of-a-kind nursery through the use of color, a chair rail and window shutters of our own design.

I couldn't believe how easily the room came together. The quilt we chose had matching bumper pads and window treatments. We chose the unusual wall colors directly from the bedding, and created the look of a chair rail with a matching border. We even used a matching mobile and wall hangings.

The room looked great when we finished, but I wanted to add something special for the baby. I decided to make a giraffe growth chart. I used the following materials:

1"x10"x 6' and 1"x 4" pine boards
circular saw
jigsaw
straightedge
pencil
sandpaper
primer
latex satin paint

I copied the design for this project off the baby's catalog-bought comforter. To make the body, I measured 8 inches up from the base and made a slight curve toward the center of the board. I then started the neck, which was 5 inches wide. Using a straightedge, I made the neck 42 inches long. I then drew a head, which measured 12 inches in height. The head was basically an oval with antlers added.

Using satin finish paints, I first painted both sides of the body, and then added details like eyes, spots and a happy grin. I matched the colors I used to those found in the bedding.

The base was a piece of 1x10 board cut to a length of 18 inches. To form a back support for the chart, I used a 1x4 about 15 inches long, cut diagonally from one corner to the opposite center. I painted both of the pieces in the same color as the giraffe's body.

I measured the short side of the triangular back support. Using that measurement, I determined the placement of the giraffe on the base. I had Shari help hold the giraffe perpendicular to the base while I drew a line to mark the placement of the screws. Using drywall screws, I attached the giraffe on the right side of the base with the screws coming up from underside of the base. I set him up and centered the triangular support on the base and on the back of the giraffe. I attached the support with drywall screws from the triangle's angled edge into the back of the giraffe, making sure I started low enough that the screws didn't come through the front. I then attached the support to the base from underneath as well.

To finish the growth chart, I purchased a fabric tape measure and attached it with a staple gun to the center of the giraffe's body and neck, making sure to leave enough room on either side of the tape to mark the child's height and the date. It was the perfect addition to the jungle-themed nursery.

Do you have a nursery to decorate? Consider using catalogs to purchase bedding and accessories. You'll save so much time you'll be able to create your own growth chart. Although I used a giraffe for this project, you could easily adapt it to your own design; just use the bedding as inspiration.

Since Shari introduced me to catalog shopping, I'm beginning to change my opinion about decorating nurseries. But there's one thing that hasn't changed: Trying to choose only one design from all the great catalog choices really gives me a headache.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also are authors of Real Decorating for Real People and co-hosts of the Home & Garden Television show Room By Room.)

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