Nurseries grow up

Lilah Hand can't really appreciate her room just yet. She's only 3 months old. Maybe one day she'll cherish the cemented tree limb that her parents collected from a winter storm or the handmade birds.

In the meantime, her parents, Emma and Carter, are enjoying the nursery. It includes a cherished maple dresser that has been passed down through Carter's family and lyrics from a U2 song, Emma's favorite band.

New parents spend anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to decorate a baby's nursery, according to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, resulting in a $7.3 billion industry. That's a lot of money to spend on a room that the baby can't really enjoy until he's crawling. So, like the Hands, some parents are side-stepping ducks and bunnies and, instead, incorporating their own styles, interests and personalities into their babies' rooms.

"What you see in a catalog is typically the first thing you go for," Emma Hand says. "I decided to lock myself in a room and think about what we really wanted."

Nesting became the inspiration for Lilah's nursery.

"With the taupe walls, it feels very natural, very much like a nest," Hand says. "I like birds, those kinds of silhouettes, and the symbolism behind birds -- they are monogamous and family oriented. And a nest is a place where you feel very comforted, yet you're getting ready to fly."

Comfort for the parents should be a goal when decorating a nursery, says Elizabeth Maxson, a designer in Maplewood, Mo. "The first couple of months are so tiring for the parents. When you're sitting in a nursery at 3 in the morning, you want something soothing, so that can soothe the baby."

Hand says "Right now, our nursery is a place where we cuddle and hug, but eventually it is going to change and grow, and I am going to encourage Lilah to do whatever she wants with her room."

"Parents are older and more sophisticated," Elizabeth Maxson says. "They have their own style, and they know what they want. And sometimes, they want a nursery that is going to flow with the rest of the home."


When they don't know the sex of the baby, many parents end up painting their nurseries in soft yellows or greens, and choosing conventional furniture.

Yet, gender-neutral nurseries don't have to be limiting.

Parents can use a design direction that works with the rest of the home, or they can introduce a theme, such as aquatic or zoo, or choose quotes from their favorite nursery rhymes. Parents can also incorporate ideas from a big brother or sister, such as their handprints beneath a chair rail, so that they, too, can feel engaged in the space.