There’s something so sweet about setting up a baby nursery. When you’re expecting a little girl or boy, the anticipation can make you eager to get prepared. And for a lot of us, our focus becomes the nursery.
For those of us on a budget (which I think is a lot of us!) we need to balance our desire for the ideal nursery with some practical considerations. Like not putting our family in debt because we bought 10,000 throw pillows at Home Goods.
As much as I wanted a great space for my sons and daughter, my family has to pay attention to our finances, and we’re not really in a “sky’s the limit” situation when it comes to decorating.
So, today we’re going to take a look at some ideas for setting up a really cute, practical baby nursery without breaking the bank.
Tips for Designing the Perfect Nursery – On a Budget
Tip #1: Choose a Style + Theme
Choosing a style or theme for the nursery can help keep you reigned in when it comes time to start decorating. Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself grabbing at anything Joanna Gaines wants to toss into your line of vision at Target (and I wouldn’t blame you, Joanna gets me too).
The theme for the nursery doesn’t have to be something really specific, like “Safari” or “Princess” (although it can be – it’s your design)! It can also be a more subtle style choice, or a “look” or “feel” you want to go for.
Consider styles you like – shabby chic, cozy/comfy, minimalist, vintage, modern, nautical, etc. It can help to make some Pinterest boards of looks that you gravitate toward, so that you can more easily hone in on a general style preference.
You might also decide on a style – let’s say, vintage – and look for a repeating element to accent the room. For example, model airplanes could be a cute accent in a vintage baby boy’s room.
Tip #2: Stick to the Style (Mostly)
Once you have an overall look and feel in mind, you’ll find that certain colors and patterns will make sense, and others can easily be ruled out. That can help you save yourself a lot of time and money by not getting distracted by every random, cute piece of decor you come across.
For example, if you like the idea of a shabby chic nursery, you’re going to want to stick with a more neutral palate (for bedding, curtains, even toys). You might also like bold patterns and the color red, but that’s not going to work with your theme very well. So save that for another room.
It’s ok to experiment a bit here – I have lots of eclectic stuff in my house and that works for me. But in general, you’ll get a better result if you decide on a look you want to go for and then seek out objects that work within that look.
Tip #3: Use What You’ve Already Got
This is a design tip I like for anywhere in the house, and especially for kids’ spaces, which are going to change so quickly as the kids grow anyway.
Before you head to the store, take inventory of what you have on hand. Some of the sweetest design elements are those that have some family history, like an old quilt, or even an vintage book that you loved as a child.
These elements can be incorporated into the room design to make it more cozy and personal. In fact – the more personal, the better! This is the room your child is going to grow up in. Why not weave some personal history and storytelling into the room that’s going to serve as a backdrop to their childhood?
When you’re “shopping your house” for items you can use, you may find that you have furniture in one room that isn’t quite working for you, but that would be perfect in another space. Or maybe something the fits great, but in the wrong color. That’s a design opportunity! And a money saver.
Lamps, chairs, throw pillows – all of these can be moved around! A lot of people get into a rigid mindset when it comes to furnishings in their house – like, if they bought a lamp for the family room, it must live in the family room until the end of time.
This is not the case!
It’s fun to try things out in different rooms, until you hit that sweet spot where it’s all coming together for you. Decorating a nursery from scratch is a perfect time to experiment with this, and to save some money as well.
Tip #4 Repaint, Repurpose, and Buy Second Hand
Believe it or not, the dresser below is a thrift store find. All it took was a fresh coat of paint, new knobs, and a stained top – and it looks like a piece that would cost well over $1,000. But my friend scored it for $40 at the Salvation Army!
You’ll be amazed at what you can do with second-hand furniture! Personally, I love the thrill of the hunt when it comes to second-hand pieces. Thrift stores like the Salvation Army, Savers, and ReStore are a treasure trove if you have the patience to look.
Same goes for flea markets and even yard sales. And Facebook Marketplace. And Craigslist. As you can see there are lots of places to scope out cool items for your budget-friendly nursery.
I especially like to look for second hand dressers. These are very expensive new, and you can often find something much nicer than what you could afford at a furniture store, if you’re willing to put in a little work fixing up the used piece (generally this consists of cleaning it and possibly painting it or changing out knobs).
If you’re hunting at the thrift shops, I’d recommend looking for solid wood furniture that will last, versus cheap particle board.
I was able to find two adorable Ethan Allen dressers at a thrift store for my son’s nursery when he was a baby – dressers I never could have afforded brand new. My mom painted them, we replaced the knobs – and they were perfect!
They are now in my baby daughter’s nursery – and all I did to make them perfect for her room was repaint them an adorable shade of pink and change out the knobs. In my baby girl’s nursery I wanted the look of one long dresser, so we just pushed the two dressers together, and voila!
Tip #5 Use Every Day Items as Home Decor
It helps to think broadly about design, especially when you’re on a budget. Try to find toys and books that are not only useful, but that are also pleasing to look at and can actually double as decor.
I like to mix and match toys with collectibles and photos to make displays in the kids’ spaces.
The shelves below used to be inside a small closet, but I removed the door to make a better display, more like a bookshelf. Now the shelves hold toys and books for my daughter, as well as family photos.
If you get creative you can make these sorts of “vignettes” to liven up a child’s room. And they are very inexpensive to create!
Wooden trains, colorful blocks, stray pieces of felt or fabric, an old doll house – these items fit perfectly in a nursery, and if you place them strategically, they can easily double as both toys and art.
Tip #6: Find Some Inexpensive Wall Art
There are so many ways to grab wall art very inexpensively. I like to find cute greeting cards that I put in frames. I also pick up scraps of wrapping paper that I like, and frame those! I mix and match these with prints from mainstream stores like Home Goods or Target, and then sprinkle in prints from Etsy or other vendors.
A few well-placed family photos can add a nice touch, and you probably have lots of photos that are sitting on your phone, waiting to make a debut on the wall. So give them their chance!
Frames can easily be found on clearance at stores like Michael’s, as well as at thrift stores. I’ll use a combination of cheap frames, second hand frames, and possibly some full-priced frames if I really like them.
I don’t see any need to be “matchy matchy” with frames, I think the eclectic look seems more customized. But that’s just a personal preference – a gallery wall using entirely one frame type can work too!
Which brings me to….the gallery wall.
Tip #7 Make a Gallery Wall
Gallery walls are one of my all-time favorite ways to decorate a room on a budget. People get very fussy about gallery walls – spending days trying to figure out where to put each photo to make it perfect.
This is entirely unnecessary! What’s the worst that can happen if you need to move a picture that doesn’t look quite right? You have tiny little hole in the wall that you can spackle over in two seconds. Easy peasy. And most of the tiny holes get covered up by the frames anyway.
(I know this idea will make some of you flinch. My husband always says “If these walls could talk….they would say OUCH.” Ha! But unless you’re renting and have a real concern about the landlord, I wouldn’t give this a second thought. When we moved out of our last home I had to patch about, I dunno, 8,000 tiny holes and it took about an hour).
Tip #8: Save Your Money for Some Key Items
There are a few spots where I’d spend a bit more money and buy new – in particular for the rocking chair and the crib.
The rocking chair (or “glider”) will be getting daily, heavy use. You will log a lot of hours in that chair, so you want something really comfortable. I love the look of nice furniture, but for the glider, comfort is king.
Here you can find out the current price of a popular glider on Amazon.
You can find second-hand gliders, but personally I prefer to buy new. Mostly because I know how gross newborn babies can be! Unless it’s some sort of magic baby, there will be puke, spit-up, breastmilk etc. on an old glider. Sure you could clean it, but this is one spot I’d rather start fresh.
I would also invest in a new crib – but not an necessarily an expensive one. You can buy a convertible crib that transitions into toddler bed, and eventually into a twin or full bed. That’s a fine option, but no big deal if it doesn’t convert!
Over time your style will change, and your house may change! You may have more kids and rearrange rooms.
I like to take the advice from Gabrielle Blair’s outstanding book, DESIGN MOM: How to Live With Kids: A Room-By-Room Guide.
Blair suggest that you design a room that works “right now” rather than with future plans in mind. I like this advice. As she points out, “I can’t think of anything I’ve purchased for my toddler with the hope that he or she will use it into adulthood.”
I think Blair is right. In my experience, lots of pieces of furniture and items CAN be used again and again over time, but when you buy something with that as the plan? Well, plans change. A lot.
So back to the crib – I would invest in a practical, simple design that doesn’t break the bank. Ikea has nice, very affordable options, as does Amazon. You can check out the current Amazon inventory of cribs here.
Decorating a nursery should be fun.
There is nothing quite like the excitement of preparing for the arrival of your new baby. With a little bit of creativity and some patience, you can put together an adorable, one-of-a-kind nursery for your baby on a budget.
And the result can be something truly special.
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