DIY nursery


Creating a whimsical space for our soon to arrive little girl has been such a fun time! Although we didn’t set out with any particular “theme” in mind, we did have a few ideas about what we wanted for the space. Budget was of course a consideration, but we were confident in our abilities to make something really special without spending a ton of dough. The result is a mix of handmade objects, DIY decor projects, second-hand finds and hand-me-downs, and a handful of brand new items too.

Looking to create your own special place for a young one?  Here are the steps we took to transform a plain, white room in our rented apartment into a relaxing whimsical retreat for us and baby.

First we had to decide where to put the baby’s room. We live in a two bedroom apartment and have always used the smaller bedroom for our own because it has the bigger closet. In the past the larger bedroom was used as a [mostly nonfunctional] studio space for myself, so it only made sense to re-purpose this room for the baby. With a little creativity I was able to find homes for all of my most frequently used supplies and tools throughout the apartment, which has actually proven to be more functional these past few months.



The next step was to start looking for furniture. Let me just start by saying that my name is Emily and I am a Craigslist junkie. But it payed off! We found all of the furniture (except for the cedar chest that was mine since I was a teenager) on Craigslist.

The crib was the first thing that I found. Like most cribs these days, it converts into a toddler bed, thus giving it a longer life.  Of course, safety was a huge concern with buying a crib second-hand, so we made sure that it wasn’t a drop sided crib or one that it had been recalled for any other reasons.  We also did not buy the mattress used because of the possible link between SIDS and using old mattresses.

The next item I found was the dresser.  I knew that we wouldn’t have the space for a changing table (in an ideal world I would have a changing table, but it would be in the bathroom), so it was important to choose a dresser that could also double as a changing table.  The key was finding one that was the perfect height.  The changing pad on top was found after the fact at a yard sale, and it was a happy accident that it happened to fit perfectly on the dresser top.   I made a removable cover for it that matches the drawer liners that I mentioned how to make in this post.

After the dresser I found the cozy shag rug, which is hand-woven and made of all natural fibers.  Then came the rocking chair, which is probably my favorite piece of furniture in the room.  From what I’ve heard and read, a good, comfortable nursing chair is essential when breast-feeding.  I wanted something that was both comfortable and could be used for years to come in another space in our home, (such as our living room, which has a mid-century modern vibe) once I am no longer nursing.  The same can be said of the book shelf.  Right now it’s a great space for a small collection of books and toys, but in the future it could be used elsewhere as the needs of our child change.

In the midst of all of this Craigslist searching, we were deciding what to do with the blank canvas of the all white walls and trim.  As I mentioned before, this is a rental apartment, so we didn’t want to do anything permanent that would have to be “undone” once we move.  That meant painting was out, even though the walls really do need a fresh paint job.  This didn’t really bother me because I actually really like the brightness that white walls give to the room, and putting plenty of decorations on the walls meant hiding a lot of the imperfections left by previous tenants (scuff marks, patched nail holes, etc).


We started with a very fun DIY tree decal project.  You can read exactly how we created the look in this previous post.  Later I decided to extend the idea to the opposite corner of the room where we hung a very fun vintage growth chart.  The placement of the growth chart behind the closet door was very strategic by the way.  Now we don’t have to worry about it being covered by a piece of furniture if we decided to rearrange things in the future.


The idea to use a cluster of Chinese lanterns is not new or original.  I’ve seen this idea in nurseries over and over on the web.  But it’s such an inexpensive and easy way to add color and dimension to a space!  We decided not to use the mobile that I had made previously because we thought the scale was just too small for the baby.  But the lanterns are big and sway gently when the cycling fan is on or the windows are open, thus we thought they’d be a bit more visually stimulating and appropriate for a baby.


The butterflies were all Jon’s idea.  He drew each one individually on a piece of foam core than cute them out with an Exacto Knife.  The wings are scored at the body then folded up to create a 3-D effect.  They were then attached to the wall using Velcro.  Originally he had wanted them to be painted or colored in some way, but I pressed him to keep them white.  With the tree and the lanterns, we already had a lot of things going on and I didn’t want it to become too visually busy.  We are both happy with the fact that he left them white.  Now they add a subtle texture to the wall and the shadows that the wings make is very interesting.  Though babies can see only bright and contrasting colors at first, it is important that this be a pleasing space for us adults as well!  Besides, they will be something that she can “discover” as she gets older.  The sun and rainbow picture shown above is one of those plastic canvas and yarn kits and was actually made by my mom and I when I was around 4 years old.  Surprisingly it was still in excellent condition except for the mat, so I just covered the mat with some pretty pink fabric and it was good to go.


The last decor project that we tackled was the white canvas night-light.  It was an idea that I found online that I thought would be really fun.  For this project we used a hand-made painting stretcher from my college days, which is much chunkier than the modular ones that you can buy at the art supply store.  We stretched the frame with some thin blue fabric that was printed with flowers and butterflies then I stitched down a strand of very tiny twinkle lights.  These lights are much much tinier than regular Christmas lights and they also have a dial that lets you choose what you want them to do.  I like having it on a setting where only part of them come on slowly then fade away while some of the other lights gradually get brighter.  The printed fabric was then covered by some slightly heavier white fabric.  The result is that you can only see the pattern very subtly during the day but then very well at night when it’s on.  It gives the effect of fireflies and it’s very fun to watch.


In addition to decorating I also wanted to make some toys and some other every day items for baby Virginia.  In addition to the changing table pad cover mentioned above, I made four fitted crib sheets from various bigger vintage bed sheets, lots of reusable diaper wipes (tutorial here), a portable changing table pad, a pillow cover for the throw pillow on the rocker, the pink and brown granny square blanket, an owl softie and a couple of rag dolls, and most recently, a crochet cat designed by Nekoyama (free pattern can be found here).


So there you have it, our DIY nursery!  I hope you have enjoyed the tour and if you are in the midst of designing your own nursery space, perhaps you have walked away with a little inspiration!  If so, I’d love to hear what your own plans are, or if you’ve made your own version of one of these projects, I’d love to see some pictures!

by the way… we started creating this nursery on January 1st, and have just now finished completely with only one week to spare before my due date.  Now all we need is the baby!  If you are planning to tackle some projects like we have, or if you want to rely on finding the perfect items on Craigslist or at yard sales, I do recommend starting as early as possible; these things take time and you don’t want to feel rushed!  What really kept me going was the thought that once baby Virginia is here we will not have the time or energy that we do now.

Enjoy this post?  Please leave me a comment!  Thanks for stopping by and happy crafting!

This post has been added to The Inspiration Board: link party 58 on Homework, Wicked Awesome Wednesday #70 on Handy Man, Crafty Woman, Wow Me Wednesday #59 on Ginger Snap Crafts, Primp Your Stuff Wednesday Linky Party #53 on Primp, Your Whims Wednesday #67 on My Girlish Whims, and Make It Pretty Mondays- week 5 on the Dedicated House.



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13 responses to “DIY nursery

  1. Nancy

    Very well written, and enjoyable to read, and the room is just right.

  2. Jon

    Great Post as always!

  3. Jon

    Great pictures, Emily!

  4. dyefeltsool

    That night light is fantastic. Thanks for sharing your nursery project. You put a lot of love into that room and I’m sure your Baby will feel it!

  5. Lisa

    Looks great!

  6. Wow what an absolutely darling nursery, I love it! I also love how much you thought you put into every little bit of it! I’m currently trying to design a nursery for my son due in September but I’m having such trouble finding a good dresser here in Canada 😦

    • Thank you for your comment Pamela! I’m sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time in finding a dresser. Do you have Craigslist or something like it in Canada? Are yard sales or thrift stores common? The dresser was difficult find, and that’s despite liveing in a densely populated place. All I can say is not to give up and check these sources often.

  7. Oh, just perfect. Thank you for sharing this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Hope to see your prettiness again on Monday. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDediatedHouse

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