This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Domino, titled “And Baby Makes Three.” Subscribe to be the first to receive each issue.
Like many city-dwelling parents-to-be, one of the first things I thought after hearing I was pregnant was: Where are we going to fit the baby? And not in the grander scheme of things, but on a practical level of living in a 400-square-foot Brooklyn apartment. My husband and I are lucky enough to have a small spare room that has doubled as both an office and a guest room (a queen-size blow-up mattress fills all available floor space). But rather than completely hand over the space to cutesy animal prints and primary hues, we hoped to find a middle ground—where cool art, warm neutrals, and vintage furniture created a place we would also want to hang out in (even at 3 am in a sleepless fog). Here’s how it turned out, with five takeaways on building your own babyland.
Sleep Some More
A crib feels like a splurge (and space invader) when you won’t be using it right away and your newborn is in your bedroom. Still, a convertible design gets you through the toddler years, so once you’ve found the right design and price point, “bed” can be checked off the to-buy list. And for all those middle-of-the-night feedings, dimmed, soft lighting in the form of sconces and paper lanterns brings in a warm glow.
Work the Room
As renters, rather than invest in painting the room, we preferred keeping things white and adding color with a sunny floral (removable) wallpaper. Other pops came from art and soft accents. I repurposed a dresser into a changing table that will transition beyond the diaper stage. Separating stuff into what you need on hand every day (wet wipes and lots of them) versus not having to access as often (seasonal clothing, baby’s and ours) is helpful when carving out storage areas. We installed a shelf above with larger baskets, while smaller hampers tuck easily into corners.
Rock Around the Clock
An heirloom crib seemed questionable for safety reasons, but I love vintage, so we went with a Danish teak design for the nursing chair. Turns out most mid-century styles have slimmer profiles than what’s available new (modern gliders and rockers can be weirdly bulky). And there’s just something comforting about sitting in a well-loved chair that’s been around longer than you have.
So Fresh & So Clean
As much as I like open and airy, having some closed shelving seemed pretty essential in a smaller nursery. We customized this simple pine cabinet by lining the back with the same wallpaper to tie in with the opposite wall. It gives us the option to throw stuff in, close the doors, and feel tidy—a real triumph for new parents.
Gallery in Training
The art shaped the vibe of the room—a surf-inspired print by Schuyler Beecroft, a meditative sound-bath piece, a whimsical work by the amazing Gordon Harrison Hull, a photo snapped at the tidal pool where my husband grew up in Southern California. Everything can ultimately move around and doesn’t need to be delegated to a kid-only space. That said, we kept the colors bright and shapes simple so the gallery wall is (hopefully) baby-approved.
The 3 Things to Get in Advance
I’m a minimalist to the core, and the thought of stocking up on “essentials” before I’d even met my little person seemed like a bad excuse to just buy more stuff. However, there are some things you need from day one and will use every day.
Because you need a carseat to get your babe home from the hospital, you basically want to decide which stroller “system” you’re going to use well before the big day. Most brands have interchangeable pieces—carseat, bassinet, seat—that click into the same frame. Uppababy became a fast favorite of ours for its slim design meets smooth control. (In other words, it’s the Cadillac of strollers without the bulk.) Bonus: The newly launched fabrics for the Vista model make it the most attractive option on the market.
A newborn does not need a playmat, but it’s amazing how quickly they start to wiggle around on their own and tummy time turns into rolling over. This nontoxic design uses certified organic latex foam and folds in two for simple storage—in other words, it’s a true dream cloud.
From lounger to upright seat, this lightweight bouncer is our go-to new baby nap station (a flick of a switch adds sleep-friendly vibrations, and soft straps keep little ones secure). Plus, it packs down completely flat, so you’re never without it.
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