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Nursery School: Choosing the space & improving it

Making a haven for the baby-to-be is one of the first ways you can make her seem real, months before she actually arrives. But before you do or buy anything, make a plan, and consider your lifestyle, your finances and your future.

Picking the Place

Whether it be a corner of your room, alongside your other child or a nursery of her own, you will need to decide where she is going to sleep and where you can store all the baby paraphernalia. After you have chosen a place for the baby, spend time there at different times of day and night. Keep in mind where the sun shines brightly into the room, and where streetlights might be a problem after dark.

List everything you think you will need and work out a budget and a schedule. As a rule, you should complete all major room renovation at least one month before your due date. This isn't just to give you peace of mind, but to allow your new room to air out and get rid of any dangerous fumes.

Themes

There are hundreds of different themes you can choose when decorating your baby's room -- from warm and cozy, with wooden furniture and rich yellow hues yellow -- to bright and bold, with white furnishings and bursts of vivid colors throughout.

Have a good look around several different stores and through a few catalogs before buying anything. As you look, you'll probably find yourself attracted to variations of the same theme over and over. This gives you a place to begin, though keep in mind that personal attention, imagination and inspiration is far more important -- and often less expensive -- than having any one theme continued perfectly throughout the room.

Feel free to mix patterns and colors, and consider trying something new, like painting a mural on the wall or sponging or stenciling letters or animals on the wall in a contrasting shade. Also, remember that your newborn isn't going to be a baby forever - before you choose a pastel bunny motif for the entire nursery, think about how soon you're going to have to retire it. Similarly, fewer and fewer of today's parents are decorating the nursery pink for girls and blue for boys. Staying gender-neutral also ensures the setup can be re-used if another baby comes along, and also makes it simper to later convert the nursery into a guest room or a den.

Paint

You can use color in a child's room like nowhere else in the house, so be creative and have fun. Consider painting two walls in one color, and the other two with a complementing or contrasting paint color or decorate with wallpaper. Keep the ceiling light-colored or white to create the sense of a larger room. Latex-based paints are best because they're easy to use, wear well, are often washable and are less toxic than their oil-based counterparts. However, even with a solvent-free paint (like Benjamin Moore's Pristine), there are no guarantees that painting during pregnancy or around a newborn is 100% safe. Have someone else do the paintwork, and ensure the room is well-ventilated. After the walls are done, try painting a wall mural, or use a paint effect (such as stenciling, sponging, rag rolling or glazing) to add interest.

Wallpaper, borders & beyond

If you choose to paper the walls, vinyl-coated wallpapers are the best bet for the nursery. Ways to cut down your wallpaper bill: use wallpaper on only two walls or divide the wall with a paper border or wooden chair rail, using wallpaper only above or below (or use a wallpaper 'set': coordinating papers with the same color scheme). Wallpaper borders can instead be used near the ceiling or at chair rail height (beware: this is also ideal height for kids to reach and tear the paper off) to add a splash of color. Self-adhesive removable borders and wall stickers are widely available, and feature a variety of familiar characters. There also are coordinating adhesive growth charts and other 'extras' in some product lines.

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