6 Common Nursery Decor Mistakes Parents Make & What to Do Instead

baby nursery
iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

There are a lot of things to consider when decorating a nursery -- color, theme, practicality, and materials, to name a few. So we turned to the pros for their insight on what parents need to know to create a beautiful and practical baby's room. What we learned was eye-opening and inspiring. Turns out, parents tend to make some nursery decor mistakes that they later regret. Here's what to do instead.

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Mistake #1: Designing exclusively for baby's first year or two.

"I have always advocated for a nursery that a child would grow into, rather than specifically designing exclusively for the first two years of life," says Jennifer LaPorte of JKLaPorte Interiors. A newborn can't really play or see things far away from her -- but what will she want when she's a rough-and-tumble toddler?

"When considering a nursery, it's important to incorporate design for all the senses," says LaPorte. "Design details such as mirrors or murals that are low to the ground, and mobiles mounted on the ceiling (out of reach) create an interesting and exciting environment for your child."

This will save you money in the long run, too. You won't have to redo the room anytime soon! Plus, you can create a world of curiosity for your little one. 

Mistake #2: Making the room too "boyish" or "girly."

"It's very tempting when you hear the words 'It's a boy' or 'It's a girl' to rush out and buy any soft blue or baby pink item you can get your hands on," says interior designer Michael Zipp (who happens to be my cousin's son). But you don't really know your child will like them.

"Ultimately, kids will start to develop their own tastes and preferences within the first few years of their life," says Zipp. "It's probably not a great idea to assert overly gendered color palettes or motifs before a child has had the chance to decide for themselves."

Some elements of baby pink and blue can totally work, but mix it up with other colors -- soft cream, gray, or beige make great neutrals you can later pair with your kid's favorite color -- for a fresh take that you and baby won't get tired of.

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Mistake #3: Putting characters or other themed items all over the room.

Avoid over-theming a room with everything princess or everything superhero, for example. Overdoing it can make a room look too cluttered.

Instead, if you love a theme, choose a few key places to infuse it. Zipp recommends peel-and-stick decals that are inexpensive and allow you and your child to choose new styles as their tastes change without having to repaint or tear down pricey wallpaper.

"When a child is very young, focus on decor that doubles as teaching tools, which can help with early cognitive development and instill a sense of curiosity," Zipp recommends. "A good example comes from a friend of mine, who recently decorated her son's nursery with framed artist prints of locally indigenous plants and animals."    

Mistake #4: Going overboard with sophistication.

We know it's tempting to see a super luxurious nursery on Pinterest and want to copy it, but you don't want to go so far as to make the room seem stark, cold, or museum-like.

As sophisticated as your style may be, it's important to make the room feel homey to your child. And don't spend a fortune on top-of-the-line items that can't take the wear and tear.

"Personally I believe in creating a nursery space that is the embodiment of gentle and comfortable, one that will be conducive to play and exploration, not one that inhibits all that because you may be afraid that your future toddler will wield crayons and muss up the elegant bone inlay dresser and side tables you paid exorbitantly for," says Jenny Wonderling, interior designer and owner of Nectar. "If the space is decorated with simple creativity, neutral colors and textures, and natural, soft (ideally organic) fabrics, your child will ripen with her own bold and imaginative dreams."

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Mistake #5: Forgetting to consider yourself in the design.

"So much attention gets placed on the baby, but ultimately parents will be spending hours and hours every day in their child's nursery," says Zipp. "If the space as a whole doesn't function properly, or isn't comfortable, it's not going to be a happy environment to be in. It's important to make sure that any chairs, sofas, or gliders that parents will be utilizing are as comfortable as possible. Trying before buying is really key."

Wonderling also suggests including a bed large enough for Mom to be able to lie down with her baby. "Even a twin bed can accomplish this," says Wonderling. If you are short on space, Wonderling says to consider skipping the changing table and instead using the bed or a dresser or the floor with a changing pad. "A bit more efficiency of space and a calm environment goes a long way to staying close to your child's rhythms and raising a truly nourished, fearless, and curious child."

Mistake #6: Not looking for nontoxic materials.

Parents are often on top of baby-proofing everything in the room, but another important factor in child safety is considering how the mattress and fabrics in the nursery are made. "Beware of fabrics that off gas, especially on the floor, because our babies are on the floor playing for their first few years, and those odors can carry harmful toxins," says LaPorte. Organic fabrics for the bedding and curtains may be a better choice. Consider a nontoxic mattress, rug, and flooring when choosing decor pieces for baby's nursery too.

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