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How to decorate your baby’s nursery in 10 easy steps

You know it, and I know it. The best part about having a baby, besides the whole miracle of life thing, is all the fun stuff you get to do leading up to your baby’s arrival.

Creating the perfect baby registry can be thrilling, but decorating the nursery is where the real fun begins. We already know it’s pretty pricey to raise a baby — estimated at close to a quarter million dollars, not including the cost of college. And then there’s the pre-baby prep and accompanying expenses. According to the BabyCenter cost calculator, a fully furnished nursery could run you a cool $1703. With some savvy shopping and swapping, Our Freaking Budget estimates that it is possible to bring nursery expenses to as low as $399.

More: SheKnows spacelifts: Baby girl nurseries that inspire

This is great news if your third trimester is approaching and you haven’t done much in the way of nursery decor. But that still doesn’t factor in the time involved in preparing a nursery for a new baby. If the clock is ticking and you need to get your nursery together fast and cheap, these expert design tips will point you in the right direction:

1. Avoid a theme

Looks like you’re going to have to throw everything you thought you knew about nursery decor out the window — considering that every Pinterest board is loaded up with creative nursery themes. Nina Petronzio, mother of twins and cofounder of Plush Home, argues, “As tempting as it may be to buy that purple Barney bed or Little Miss Muffet nightstand, keep your selections simple and allow your furniture the flexibility to grow with your children. Don’t get me wrong, you can have fun with your room — but keep themes to accent pieces that you won’t lose sleep over when your kid no longer likes dinosaurs.”

More: Chevron-inspired room decor for babies and kids

2. Color me calm

Any new parent can tell you that your baby’s room is going to get loud and noisy fast, once all those clanging toys from the grandparents start rolling in. Keep things calm while you can, says Petronzio. “The first 12 months (at least) will be filled with excitement, lack of sleep, new experiences, lack of sleep, wonderful moments and lack of sleep.” She explains, “Your child will eventually have their decor opinion, but for now, avoid the bright, fast food colors and keep your wall colors calm and tranquil.”

3. Create a reading corner

This nursery decor tip puts the “fun” in functional since you’ll be creating an area that you and your baby can actually use together. Tiffany LeBlanc of LeBlanc Design explains that a simple reading corner is likely to get the most use in a nursery, second only to the crib. “Make a reading corner with a comfortable oversized chair that you and your little ones can enjoy for years to come,” she says.

4. Do double duty

A harmonious nursery is all about smart design — even more than the latest baby monitoring technology. Furnish your baby’s nursery with dual-purpose items now, says Petronzio, and you’ll be thanking your past self the next time you’re fumbling for baby wipes at three in the morning. “A clutter-free space is paramount for the first 12 months (and through your lifetime, in my opinion). Think of finding multi-purpose furniture to clear up space — like a changing table that sits atop your nightstand or an ottoman that has toy storage,” she advises.

5. Don’t forget flooring

With all the pictures, furniture and knickknacks that go into creating an adorable space, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important elements in nursery design: the floor. Lieve Saether of Turnstyle Design/Giggle Room offers her no-nonsense approach, “Because it’s always important to consider a little about longevity, keep the center of the room open and carpeted to encourage lots of crawling and future floor-playtime. An area rug will help dampen sound too, to help with all the tip-toeing in and out.”

6. Focus on one wall

Great news for all the exhausted pregnant ladies who feel overwhelmed at the thought of decorating the four walls of your baby’s room: LeBlanc says that choosing one focal wall to decorate is not only simpler, it’s more pleasing to the eye. “Add a focal wall with paint, wallpaper, architectural moldings — don’t be too predictable and gravitate towards typical baby murals or imagery. Try using a map or constellations, think outside of the box!”

7. Invest in a mobile
One of the quickest ways to tie your nursery design together is with a well-thought-out statement piece. Nancy Sunderland, mother of five and founder of Poe Wovens, suggests keeping it classic with a stylish mobile that will provide equal parts design appeal and entertainment. Sunderland adds that an imaginative mobile can easily be transitioned to a toddler or older child’s room: “Any design elements that can stand the test of time are a great investment.”

8. Keep artwork playful

Don’t make the common wall-hanging mistake so many expectant moms make — choosing artwork for a baby can be counterintuitive since it will only get a few years of use. LeBlanc recommends “playful artwork that all ages would enjoy” to get more for your money and for your design. She says, “Don’t just cater to the baby because in no time at all they grow up! We love prints by The Animal Print Shop and have installed these.”

9. Think longer term with bedding

It’s tempting to buy one of those baby-bed-in-a-box contraptions from Target, but Saether reminds us that baby bedding is yet another nursery decor item that should be functional enough to grow with your little one. “Use this opportunity to, again, think slightly longer term and invest in sheeting, blankets and window treatments that you will love beyond baby-dom. Window treatments aren’t always inexpensive, so you want to get them right since they are so important to a finished space,” she says.

More: 21 Incredibly adorable bedding sets for kids’ and babies’ rooms

10. Remember the golden triangle

The golden triangle is Petronzio’s go-to parenting hack that you’re not going to find in any “what to expect” book. She tells SheKnows, “In kitchen design, the ‘golden triangle’ concept places your refrigerator, oven and sink in close proximity to ease your cooking experience. In nursery design, my golden triangle places your crib, changing table and nursing chair close by to make your nights less sleepless. Once your child is old enough to eat meals with you, you’ll have more flexibility in your furniture layout. But while you are still doing night feeds, the triangle will quicken your process.”

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