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Preparing A Home For Babies: Designer/Mothers Share Their Tips

For expectant parents, preparing the home for a baby is a design challenge all its own. But, designing for kids doesn't have to be difficult! We asked four interior designers - who are also mothers themselves - for some key tips on prepping for a little one. Kaylan Kane (Chicago), Alexa Stevenson (Atlanta), Kate Taylor (Chicago), and Kara O'Connor (Chicago) all had incredibly useful insights to share; read on for details!

Alexa StevensonAlexa Stevenson (view profile)

What is your mindset when you are designing a nursery?

Kaylan: Nurseries are so fun, because it isn't a room that has to be too serious. However, many parents have strong ideas about what the nursery should be for them. Some clients want a calm nursery, and others want maximum storage or play space. I think it is especially important to listen to what the parents are expecting to find in the nursery.

Alexa: Think ahead. The baby days go by fast (though they might not feel like it), and you want the nursery to grow with your child. Some of those baby perfect wallpapers, while adorable, will look top, well, baby-ish, once you have a toddler. My 2-year old already demands sports posters on his wall! I like the crib bedding and art to say "baby", but the rug, walls, and window treatments need to be versatile to adapt to a growing child.

Kara: My approach to designing nurseries, children’s rooms, and playrooms is to focus on the functionality of a space first. The idea is to select furnishings that far outlast the nursery stage, and will transition easily from baby to toddler to “big kid” room. Babies need a lot of gear, especially in their first few years of life. Finding pieces that are multifunctional, such as a dresser that can also act as a changing table on top, is important - as opposed to purchasing a separate changing table that will be of no use in 3 years. Dedicate dresser drawer space to store all those diapers, wipes and innumerable other go to non-clothing items your little ones need during the diaper years. Convertible cribs that transition into big kid beds are also wonderful multifunctioning pieces that transition as your child grows. Comfort is another must for my children’s spaces. Get a chair that you actually want to snuggle into with your little one. Trust me, you’ll spend a lot of time there!

Kate: I like when a nursery is comfortable and inviting for both baby and parent. I prefer to use a mix of neutrals with a pop of color as opposed to an entire space of pink or blue. Some of our most interesting nursery designs have included unique art or vintage furnishings that transition with the child throughout the years and potentially when they leave the nest. 

Kaylan KaneKate Taylor

Kaylan Kane (view profile), Kate Taylor (view profile

What are some of the most helpful changes you can make around the house to make life easier once the baby is home?

Kaylan: Once a baby enters a home, so does a ton of baby "stuff". It is important to declutter and purge any items you don't use, so you can use any storage space for the new items that will soon be taking over your life. In fact, I encourage people to declutter their homes and donate once a month. Things accumulate before and after kids, so it's important to give away or lend old baby clothes or toys once your child has out grown them. It's hard, but you have to let it go!

Alexa: I tell my clients over and over and over again: it IS possible to have pretty things and children in your house. They are not mutually exclusive. Fabrics are so smart these days. I love the performance textiles from Schumacher, Kravet, and Thibault; I use them for my hard-working upholstery pieces. No worries about spit up, sticky hands, and all the other joys that come with small children. Also: you don't need as many toys as you think you do! So spare yourself the clutter and when a new toy comes in, donate something in the toy bin.

Kara: I always try to select soft materials that can take a beating but are still visually appealing. This is easy to do with the abundance of durable fabrics, and kid & pet safe stain-resistant treatments these days. Speaking of treatment, have your sofa, rugs, ottomans, etc. treated! It’s a wonderful insurance against inevitable spills and messes, ensures the longevity of your furnishings, and gives you peace of mind that you don’t have to police your home quite as much. 

Kate: Luckily, there are numerous baby-friendly fabrics on the market that are not only durable, but beautiful as well. It is helpful to include a Trevira CS or similar fabric in the baby's room and in other high-traffic areas. My daughter and I spent a lot of time cozied up on our sofa during those early days, and I was happy to have a place that could withstand all that new babies bring. 

Kara O'ConnorKara O'Connor (view profile)

Is there a surprising or unexpected design tip you have for new or expecting parents?

Kaylan: I would suggest for them to try purchasing large items or toys in neutral colors instead of bright tones. People love to purchase baby mats, blankets, swings, walkers, and bell time contraptions in loud colors. These items end up in your public spaces and become an eye sore. Many companies have started making toys in toned down colors such as grey, white, and black. They can be harder to find and can be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.

Alexa: Honestly, just relax. I hear so many people say "I could never have a huge plastic jumper in my living room," and yes, I said the same thing. But as I said, it goes by fast, things like that won't be taking up space on your floor for that long. So if it makes baby happy, let him have it. After a couple of years, you'll miss those days.

Kara: I tell every client the same thing when we are designing their homes: this is not a photo shoot! You live here, so let’s settle in and live beautifully! It’s so okay to let the baby gear occupy space in your living room; it’s okay that your once pristinely clean kitchen is now filled with a bottle drying station. It’s all but a moment in time that will someday be something that you wish you could get back. Now, that being said, don’t let your living room turn into a space that is only geared towards small children - you live there too! There is a happy medium between embracing the changes that a child brings to the décor of a home and still living in a beautiful home that you also enjoy. That is what designing for families, including my own, has taught me.

Kate: I didn't realize how much stuff a little baby needs until Ruby came into our life! Having a place to store her toys, books, blankets, etc. in our main living spaces became essential. I purchased large woven baskets for the living room that don't look out of place and are a catch-all at the end of the day. I would suggest planning out some storage solutions prior to your bundle of joy's arrival. 


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