11 Ways to Create a Modern Nursery
1. Strive for simplicity.
Clean lines and basic form-meets-functionality are hallmarks of modern design - and are especially appropriate for an infant's room, where they form a simple backdrop for the ever-changing array of toys, art and decorative objects that will take up residence as your child grows. Start with a pared-down look and use subdued colors for the walls, floor and major furniture pieces. Opt, too, for straightforward geometric and organic shapes and a minimum of extraneous embellishments, such as bedskirts, ruffles and ornate furniture. "For a baby and for new parents, serenity is key," says designer David Netto (www.davidnettodesign.com).
2. Add in pops of bright color.
If you like, accent this neutral backdrop with surprising flashes of bold color in bedding and other textiles, wall art, area rugs, window coverings and accessories. International orange, bright red, citrusy yellow and lime green all convey a fun, modern sensibility without being too boyish or girly - or, for that matter, too babyish.
3. Keep it gender-neutral.
Because stereotypes (pink and blue) are so old-fashioned - besides, a gender-neutral nursery is in keeping with the modern goals of sustainability and creative reuse: The more neutral its contents, the more likely you'll be to make use of them for a little brother or sister who shows up down the line.
4. Aim for adaptability.
In the nursery, "modern" often means multifunctional and multi-stage. So look for pieces that serve more than one purpose, that will grow with your child or that can be put to use in another room later on - especially when you're dropping a wad of cash. Good long-term investments include a bassinet that transforms into a toy basket, a crib that turns into a toddler bed (and later still, a regular head- and footboard), or a rocking chair that you can pull into the living room once your rock-a-bye days are done. In other words, "Look for things you'll never have to throw away," Netto advises.
5. Be space savvy.
Some of the chicest mod-baby furniture comes from Europe, where manufacturers are well-versed in designing for small spaces. If square footage is at a premium in your home, take a cue from our neighbors across the pond and look for streamlined pieces with compact footprints and clever built-in storage. Double-duty items come in handy here, too: "If you don't have a ton of space, a dresser that has a changing table on top or a changer that fits on the crib works better than a separate piece of furniture," says Melissa Pfeiffer, founder of Modernseed (www.Modernseed.com), an online retailer that sells a variety of mod nursery items.
6. Make it mobile.
In traditional arrangements, everything is static. Not so in modern design, where mobility (and changeability) is prized. Whenever possible, opt for furniture on casters for easy rearranging, pieces that can be reconfigured as you and your child's needs evolve (changing tables that morph into media stands, for instance), interactive art (such as "wallies" that can be moved from spot to spot), and reversible textiles that can be flipped on a whim.
7. Keep it child-centered.
"With modern design, there's more emphasis on ease of use for the child," explains Kristen Corsaut-Diemont, whose mod-mom blog tracks kids'-design trends. That means decor that encourages exploration and independence: Easy-to-grasp door cutouts on cabinets instead of hard-to-clasp knobs, for instance, or cubbies rather than heavy drawers. What's more, "most of the furniture in the nursery should be scaled down for your child and low to the floor," David Netto adds. "And hang pictures at her eye level-not yours.
8. Avoid themes.
A few subtly related decorative objects are sweet in a nursery - but a whole room that screams "theme" is overpowering, not to mention limiting. (That's especially true for babies' rooms built around licensed cartoon and fictional characters.) Better to wait for your child's own passions (whether they're for Elmo, tractors or fairy princesses) to develop on their own.
9. Leave room for imagination.
A lighted globe becomes a charming nightlight (and later, a virtual launching point for imaginary expeditions). A grid pattern on an area rug becomes a busy thoroughfare for toy vehicles to traverse. A wall of bark-textured wallpaper stands in for a pioneer's log cabin or for the Hundred Acre Wood. "It's interesting and tactile and feeds a child's imagination," says Netto, "but you're not committing to a set of specific visual images" - as you would be with a painted wall mural.
10. Don't blow the budget.
Unless you have a bottomless bank account, don't blow too much on your baby's room (after all, even adaptable pieces won't work for her forever). Instead, invest in one or two to-die-for items that will grow with your child, and furnish the rest of the room with simple basics that can work with a variety of schemes. "Ikea is great for real families," Corsaut-Diemont notes. A mod look can then be layered with clever, colorful and affordable linens, paint and accessories.
11. Create a room you adore.
No matter what the design-aesthetic du jour - be it ultramodern, eclectic or traditional - in the end a nursery needs to please only your baby and you. "Buy what you love," Pfeiffer urges. "The nursery should reflect your lifestyle and your home. So make a statement and have fun."
Leah Hennen, a recovering design traditionalist, is being dragged into the 21st century by her mod-loving kids, who are 8 and 11. A former editor at Parenting magazine, she has written for Real Simple, Health and The New York Times.