Instead of wallpaper, Liz Lipkin, a designer with Homepolish, sometimes opts for removable decals, like the Love Mae arrows she recently used in a Brooklyn nursery. “They’re an inexpensive and low-commitment alternative that can easily transform a space,” she said. “When the room and its occupant are ready for a refresh, decals peel right off, making way for new décor.”
SPLURGE ON FOUNDATION PIECES Avoid themed furnishings like treehouse-shaped loft beds and child-sized furniture like miniature desks that toddlers will quickly outgrow. “We try not to buy furniture and art that has an expiration date,” said Allison Abney, who founded Abney & Morton Interiors, in Charleston, S.C., with Boo Morton. “We believe it’s smarter to invest in furniture and artwork the kids can use throughout childhood, and even in their first apartment.”
Instead of spending on a changing table, for example, Ms. Abney and Ms. Morton recommend buying a classic dresser that can be used in any bedroom, and placing a changing pad on top. For a 165-square-foot nursery for twins, for example, they chose the six-drawer Fiona dresser from Redford House ($2,234). “The diapers and wipes will fit neatly in the drawers below,” Ms. Morton said.
As for art, she continued, “Abstract paintings, framed botanicals and large-scale nature photography all work well for a child’s room. It doesn’t have to be all ABCs and zoo animals.”
In the twins’ nursery, she and Ms. Abney hung side-by-side pieces created by Alex Mason. “The ‘Ribbon and Eucalyptus’ diptychs are whimsical enough to be featured in a children’s room,” she said, “but also have a timeless quality that will allow the children to use the paintings in any room as they age.”
SAVE ON ACCESSORIES When you’re decorating for children, don’t forget how messy they are, advised Donna Mondi, an interior designer in Chicago: “Keep the rug, bedding, lamps and accessories affordable, so you won’t freak out with the first nail polish spill.”
As time goes on, and children’s interests change, they will want to personalize their rooms to incorporate their favorite things. “My rule,” Ms. Mondi said, “is to do it in a way that isn’t so permanent or expensive.”
In her son’s room, for example, she created a feature wall using pieces of millwork arranged in a geometric grid, and painted it in earthy tones. “This backdrop lasted for years,” she said. “The changes came with the items that were hung within the grid. It started with colorful skateboard decks and later transitioned into guitars and Jimi Hendrix artwork. This was easily adaptable for a guest room once he was in college.”
SHOP SECONDHAND You can find deals on vintage and classic furniture, as well as gently used nursery gear, on sites like Chairish, Craigslist and eBay. But be sure to do your research before shopping for secondhand baby items, and check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalls and other safety updates. Most cribs manufactured before June 2011 may not be resold.
REUSE AND REPURPOSE To add color and texture to her son’s bedroom, Tali Roth, a designer with Homepolish, reused a $600 pink Persian rug she bought on eBay three years earlier for her living room. “You don’t notice stains and marks, and it’s perfect for now,” she said. “I chose to allocate money elsewhere.”
Instead of a traditional glider for nursing, she bought two vintage chairs online ($350 each) and reupholstered them in light-blue velvet (about $2,500) for her 2-year-old son’s room. “These chairs are forever chairs in my mind,” she said. “Even if my son tired of them, I know they are comfortable and beautiful and can be used in any space in any future home.”
As for the twin bed, if you have the space, some designers recommend skipping it altogether and opting for a full or queen instead.
MAKE A STATEMENT ON THE CEILING For a 13-year-old boy who wanted “a more grown-up bedroom,” Amanda Reynal, a designer in Des Moines, painted the walls in Benjamin Moore’s Bunker Hill Green, laid a blue carpet on the floor and covered the ceiling with a striking zebra palm design from Schumacher.
“Palm wallpapers are a classic and have been used in a variety of interiors for decades,” she said, noting that the green palm wallpaper on the ceiling “adds an organic element to the space” without feeling juvenile.
For artwork, she said, “he loves skateboarding, so we hung painted skateboard decks on the wall.” And for furniture, she selected a queen-size rattan bed from Serena and Lily and a two-tone chest of drawers that “he can use for years to come.”