Plan a Small-Space Nursery

If you plan accordingly, even the tiniest spaces can be warm and cozy for your child.


Design by Posh Tots

Design by Posh Tots

By: Amanda Lecky

Many nurseries and kids' rooms are on the small side. They're at best a second or third bedroom, and often even smaller than that. In apartments, the "nursery" may be a large walk-in closet with the door removed, or one end of the parents' bedroom. Accordingly, careful space planning is always essential. The good news: Babies don't need much space at first, just enough room for a crib and changing area. Kids require more room to spread out, but a little creative thinking can go a long way in stretching the space you do have. Here's how.

7 Small-Nursery Design Tips

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Paint an Accent Wall

Don't assume pale colors always work best in small spaces. Painting one wall of this tiny nursery a deep shade actually made it look larger, because that wall appears to recede. Slim wall-mounted shelves all the way to the ceiling hold important supplies; replacing the door with a graphic curtain helps open the space to an adjoining room during the day. Design by Christie Chase

Get Rid of Your Closet Doors

Removing the closet door can help expand a small nursery. Look for adjustable shelves and rods, so you can customize it to your child's changing needs as he or she grows. If you plan to remove the closet door, choose attractive storage containers to hold shoes, folded clothes and other items. Photo courtesy of ClosetMaid

Make It Mobile

When your nursery doubles as a guest room, it's important to keep design elements modular. Attach casters to the bottom of your baby bed to roll into the master bedroom when guests need a good night's sleep. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Think Petite and Multipurpose

Choosing delicate-lined accent furniture works well for a small room because it doesn't take up much visual space. But don't forgo storage: Even a tiny nightstand can offer storage for books beside a comfy reading chair. Design by Small Shop Studio; Photo courtesy of Lindsay Dress

Go Vertical

Using otherwise-empty wall space around and above the crib added much-needed storage in this diminutive nursery. The reflective white surface of the cabinets keeps the look sleek and bright — the units don’t look heavy, but practically disappear into the surrounding wall. Design by Christie Chase

Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme

A pale, monochromatic palette — like the sophisticated mix of white and cream used here — is a smart choice for small spaces. Because the eye isn't distracted by strong contrast, it moves around more freely and perceives the area as more expansive than it is. Whenever working with a one-note color scheme it's key to layer detail and texture to inject personality and interest. Photo courtesy of Project Nursery

Use Every Inch of Space

This small nursery has an awkward alcove that's just right for a freestanding cabinet. More storage sits on top. Hooks, like the multicolored set above the chalkboard, are great for closets, but also for hanging dress-up costumes, art-center aprons, jump ropes and more. Photo courtesy of Lisa Wong Jackson

Consider Basic Needs

Sure, you'd love a nursery with an armchair and ottoman, a big dresser, a bookcase for your favorite childhood stories, a toy box, a swing and more, but when square footage is at a premium you have to prioritize the essentials. Think about what must go in the baby’s room, like the crib and a changing area. Determine what can fit elsewhere, like toy storage, books and a place to nurse or read.

Older kids' rooms are trickier, because children are more active than babies. Still, you can probably cut a few things from the "must-have" list. Perhaps the easel could stand in a corner of the dining room, for example, and the craft table could live in the kitchen. A few containers of toys could be condensed into one box of favorites.

Maximize Storage

"You can never have enough storage in a kid's room," says Pam Ginoccio, co-founder of Project Nursery. "And that's doubly true in a small space." Look for furniture pieces that do double duty, such as a crib or bed with built-in drawers, a bedside table with a cabinet inside or a desk with an integrated bookshelf. "In a tight space, I try not to bring furniture in that's purely decorative," says Houston-based decorator Christie Chase. "If it doesn't offer storage, don't buy it."

Just fitting storage into a small room can be challenging. After all, floor space is limited. That's why it's essential to think vertically. "Use the walls," says designer Barbara Tabak, CID, of Decorating Den. "Hang shelving all the way up to the ceiling, and take advantage of the space above the dresser and changing table." Don’t forget about the area under the windows. It’s perfect for a low bookshelf that, topped with a cushion, works nicely as a cozy bench.

The closet is prime real estate. Invest in an organizing system that will maximize every square inch, so you can store not only tiny clothes but also toys, bedding and extra supplies inside. Consider removing the closet doors, which can claim space by swinging too far into the room, and hanging curtains so you can hide a mess if you need to.

Kids' Closets: Clothing and Toy Storage for Boys and Girls

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Baby Boy Closet

Affordable, durable wire racks are easy to rearrange as your children grow. Many systems are designed with expanding shelves and telescoping rods to fit practically any space.

Closet Maid Pink Nursery

Wire or coated wood shelving systems can add beauty and functionality to a girl's room or nursery. Shelves and drawers can provide much-needed storage space for diapers, toys, blankets and more.

Colorful Boy's Nursery

Laminate systems tend to be more expensive than wire racks, but they can be more aesthetically pleasing and are available in greater variety.


Many wire closet kits offer the advantage of being easily adjustable to accommodate larger clothes as kids grow and storage needs change.

Closet Maid Bedroom Boy

For kids' rooms with shallow closet space, try a two-tiered approach paired with drawers and shelves.


New organizer systems go beyond the basic closet rod with a single shelf. Now you can customize based on your storage needs.


Keep in mind that kids' closets are used for more than just clothes. Designate spaces for toys and sporting equipment, school supplies, etc.


Consider color-coded canvas containers as a fun, creative way to help keep things organized.

Boy's Wire Closet System

Wire drawers are useful for storing socks, folded garments, toys and more.


Adjustable shelving allows you to keep a child's most important belongings within easy reach.

Versatile Wire Closet System

Extra hooks and rods can be added as needed to help store hats, ties and other accessories.


Pull-out wire baskets make it easy to access clothes and allow you to see what's on the bottom of a stack.

Wellborn Cabinets Boy's Closet

The right materials can provide a look that's just as mature as an adult's closet. Consider wood or laminate systems for a more polished appearance.


Use organization systems to designate different areas for shirts, pants, shoes and toys.

Mino's Closet

Baskets in bright primary colors are great for helping younger kids keep their things organized.


Pull-out shoe storage helps keep footwear out of sight but easily accessible.

Closet Maid Curtain Girl

Folding closet doors can pinch small fingers. Consider using curtains to conceal your child's storage space.

Teen Girl's Closet

For narrow storage, keep frequently used items where they can be reached easily. Put out-of-season clothes on the upper shelves.

Photo By: ClosetMaid

Closet Maid Teen Close Up

Try replacing a bottom drawer with a wire basket to make contents easier to see.

Think Creatively

When it comes to getting the most function per square inch, it pays to think outside the box. First, see if there's any way you can physically extend the room. For example, a large step-in closet can become an alcove for a crib or a twin bed; an adjacent hallway can hold a bookcase or even a dresser.

Next, when choosing furniture and storage accessories, keep an open mind and don’t stick to the kids’ section in stores. "Adult dressers are usually much longer than ones made for kids," says Chase. A coat of paint in a bright, fun shade can give that grown-up piece age-appropriate attitude, without sacrificing storage. Don’t assume you have to use a piece of furniture the way it was intended: Many shelves and cabinet units designed to sit on the floor can also be wall-mounted.

Finally, when decorating, find ways to trick the eye into experiencing the room as larger than it really is.

  • Horizontal stripes on the floor or walls create the illusion of greater width
  • Painting one wall a darker color than the rest can make it visually recede
  • Extending the wall color onto the ceiling can make the ceiling look higher, as can floor-length curtains hung a few inches below the crown molding

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