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No Nursery? No Problem: 8 Creative Tips To Make Space For Your New Baby (+ A STYLIST’S HOUSE TOUR)

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Anne Sage and I have been internet friends for 10 years. I was a fan of her blog and style before I started mine, so I did what we had to do before social media – I emailed her an “I like you” note. That’s how we used to double tap in 2009, folks. She was kind and warm, and her style was and is so fresh and modern, with nary a “try-hard” cell in her body. She’s one of the good ones and I’ve admired her both in person and on the interwebs ever since. So when she sent through photos of her nursery, I begged to post about it and here we are. So without further adieu, here is blogger/styler/designer Anne Sage’s beautiful AND SMART “nursery” solution for their small but wonderfully warm, home.

Our 1954 Los Angeles bungalow is many things—bright, airy, welcoming—but spacious isn’t one of them. Not only does it measure under 800 square feet, it also has to accommodate two work-from-home adults and three snooze-from-home pets. Yet for all the patience and creative thinking our limited layout has required, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We love our tree-lined neighborhood, we value the lean environmental footprint that small-space living fosters, and we cherish the memories we’ve made in our little postage stamp-sized corner of the world. It might be tiny, but it’s home!

So when the time came to prepare for our first child, I embraced the challenge of adapting our current space for a new family member. Since the second of our two bedrooms serves as my husband’s office—with a built-in desk and shelving system that isn’t going anywhere soon—I didn’t have a whole room to dedicate to our new daughter. Instead, I carved out corners in a few different rooms to ready our home for her arrival. I admittedly had wistful moments of wishing I were designing “The Nursery”. But in the end, I’m proud to say that the finished result says “Welcome Home, Baby!” just as warmly. Plus, our friends have all warned us that kids take over the entire house anyway. I figure I’ve just gotten a proactive start on that process.

Here’s how I did it, using these top 8 tips to get a small space ready for baby in a way that’s functional, cohesive—and of course stylish.

1. Set Your Intention

Whether I’m designing an entire house or even just styling a coffee table, I always start with a few keywords to act as touchstones. Having a verbal filter through which I run all my decisions ensures that the final outcome feels edited and on-purpose. (This is especially key if you’re like me and easily distracted by all the beautiful furniture and decor options out there!) In this instance, my guiding phrase was “Elegant Whimsy”. I wanted to create a mood that felt playful and sophisticated all at once, appropriate for a child but not over-the-top sticky sweet. You can see this intention playing out in pieces like the cozy boucle swivel chair, which looks straight out of a Parisian atelier but feels like a hug from a cheerful polar bear.

2. Carve Out Functional Zones

I first considered the various activities I’d be designing for if I did have a dedicated nursery space: nursing and sleepytime, dressing and changing, cuddle and playtime. Then, I adapted areas in three different rooms where those activities could take place. Our master bedroom hosts the changing station and a bassinet, which makes good sense considering it’s safest and easiest to sleep a newborn near caregivers in those early months. In my husband’s office we placed a crib and nursing chair, giving us room to expand as she grows without eliminating his workspace altogether. And in a corner of our living/dining room, I filled a petite bookshelf with board books, blocks, and stuffies. All our functional needs are easily met, regardless of what room we’re in.

3. Incorporate Meaningful Pieces

That wistful feeling I mentioned earlier, the one that arose when I thought about not having a whole room as a nursery? Its source was a place inside me that simply wants my daughter to know how wanted she is, and how incredibly excited we are to make space in our life for her. So I set about adding meaningful touches to send that same message. With an X-ACTO knife, I cut stencils and painted a quartet of one-of-a-kind posters to hang over the crib. I also crafted the piece above the bookshelf, covering over an inexpensive framed canvas to create a movement-driven abstract that’s inspired by several artworks I’d saved on Pinterest. Homemade wall decor was my way of injecting heart into each vignette, but any elements with personal significance can have the same effect! Perhaps it’s a family heirloom piggy bank perched on a shelf, or maybe it’s a shadow box of mementos. Just select objects that tell a story of love, and you’ve made the perfect choice.

4. Embrace Toys as Decor

I must have been an elf at the North Pole in a previous life because I absolutely adore toys. It was, therefore, no huge stretch for me to incorporate the toys we’ve received as gifts into the decor of each baby-ready nook! Granted, I was mindful to register and shop for toys that were in keeping with my color and materials palette, as well as with my intention of “Elegant Whimsy”. Even before becoming pregnant, I’d bookmarked online boutiques such as Bitte for their selection of high-quality, sustainable playthings (that handsome linen panda is my personal fave). Decor stores that have a kids’ section—like Crate&kids—are another terrific resource for stylish toy edits. And when putting the 11th-hour touches on each space, I was thrilled to discover that Amazon is a quick resource for wooden toys, puzzles, and games in muted colors. Toys are just another means to explore the basic elements of design—color, shape, texture, proportion—and can be curated accordingly.

5. Take the Opportunity to Upgrade

I used the occasion of baby’s impending presence to make improvements throughout the house. For example, when considering the changing station in our bedroom, I knew it would ideally be placed atop our dresser. However, the one we had was too narrow to fit a changing pad and diaper caddy—as well as too short to comfortably stand at while wrangling a squirming infant. If I’d been designing a dedicated nursery, I’d have included a baby dresser on my shopping list. So I simply shifted the focus of my search to a new chest-of-drawers for our room. The one I chose is four inches taller than our old dresser (no stooping over poopy diapers!) and two inches deeper as well. It’s an incremental change but it affords us more storage for our own clothing, plus brings with it the bonus of an aesthetic update to the master bedroom.

6. Seek Out Crossover Pieces

For rooms that are doing double duty, it’s worth taking the extra time and thought to source objects that resonate for all the ways the space is being used. Case in point? In our combination home office/nursery, I wanted the artwork on the wall above the computer to feel appropriate for both a grown-up workspace and a child’s room. (Plus, I wanted it to be big enough to make an impact on that big, empty wall!) I was stumped until I stumbled on Gathre’s giant map of the world play mat. Not only does it measure a whopping 52”x76”, but it makes perfect sense as both office and nursery decor. Plus, I can brush up on geography during those long hours of nursing from the chair in the corner:)

7. Think “Evolution”, Not “Sacrifice”

There were certainly some poignant moments in the process of getting our small home ready for baby. For one, we waved goodbye to the piano in our living room to make room for the play nook. Handsome though it was, when I was honest with myself I was able to admit that I didn’t play it regularly enough to warrant keeping it. Even tougher was restyling the bookshelves in my husband’s office. I’d spent hours thrifting hundreds of white books to fill each cubby, but putting that shelving to work as storage for baby took priority. Also, getting some adorable pom pom storage baskets for those cubbies helped ease the pain, too.

8. Set the Stage, Then Surrender

Designing a space is one thing; living in it is another. I fully expect each of these thoughtfully designed stations to disintegrate the moment that baby arrives. The bassinet, which looks beautiful next to the dresser for photos, will likely end up next to our bed for easier nighttime feedings. The changing pad and diaper pail might travel around the house as the rhythm of our days develops. As for that beautifully curated selection of toys? It’ll probably get replaced by a collection of neon pink and purple eyesores when she starts making her own decisions—since it is a daughter’s job to give her mother grey hair, after all. Yet I’ll always have the foundation I’ve built to return to, a gold standard of tidiness and style upon which I can ground myself. I’ve been told I’ll need it in the days (and months! and years!) ahead.

Thank you Anne for sharing your beautiful and soon to be happier home. And now for our favorite part of the design process, the ever satisfying “before and afters”. Also, keep scrolling are all of the resources:)

Resources

Master Bedroom/Changing Station:

Dresser: Gia 7-Drawer Dresser in Cream

Bassinet: Rattan Bassinet

Lamp: Louis Poulsen Panthella Mini Table Lamp

Mobile: Simple Shapes Geometric Baby Mobile

Brass Mirror: Gerald Large Round Wall Mirror

Stuffed Hippo: Dusty Rose Hippo

Blanket: Pink Bunny Stroller Blanket

Diaper Caddy: Yamazaki Favori White Storage Box

Diaper Pail: Bubula Diaper Pail

Giraffe Toy: Sophie La Giraffe Teether

Changing Pad: Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad in Vanilla

Drawer Organizers: Canvas Grey Square Drawer Organizer

Office/Nursery:

Chair: Infiniti Swivel Chair, Upholstered in Lammy Winter White Boucle

Lumbar Pillow on Chair: Colorblocked Throw Pillow

Doll (on chair): Jess Brown Rag Doll

Crib: Andersen Maple Crib

Side Table: Kids Rattan Nightstand

Table Lamp (on rattan side table): Quinn Grey and White Table Lamp

Crib Sheet: Pink Hearts Fitted Sheet

Quilt: Hoppy Tails Pom Pom Baby Quilt

Rug: Presley Neutral Heathered Rug

Art Frames: Brass 18” x 24” Frames

Hanging Map Over Computer: Gathre World Map in Midi+ Size

Desk Lamp: Original BTC Hector Table Lamp 

Rainbow Shelf: Wall Shelf and Mirror

Peg Rail: Beaumont Peg Rail

Wood Rainbow: Wooden Arch Stacker in Desert Colors

Wooden Camera: Wooden Mini Camera

Dress on Hanger: Quincy Mae Organic Brushed Jersey Baby Dress

Sweater Jumpsuit on Hanger: Newborn Knitted Sweater Romper

Storage Bins: Pehr Pom Pom Bin in Natural

Stuffed Llama: Ride-On Llama

Panda Stuffy: Linen Panda

Hamper: Woven Bear Hamper

Hanging Koala: Koala Teething Rattle

Pastel Wood Stackers: Small Baby Stacking Rings

Elephant Toy: Elephant Pull Toy

Wood Dog Toy: Dachshund Puppy Push Toy

Bookends: White Marble Bookends

Ottoman: Pink Knit Pouf

Colored Blocks: Pastel Soft Blocks

Stuffed Bunny: Jellycat White Bunny

Stuffed Giraffe: Jellycat Medium Puffles Giraffe

Play Nook:

Bookshelf: Maze Small Bookcase

Bear Chair: Bear Animal Kids Chair

Felt Storage Bin: Llama Storage Bin

Wood Storage Bins (on shelf): Wood Bin with Fabric Sides

Rhino Toy: Stuffed Linen Rhino

Puppy Toy: Jellycat Grey Smudge Puppy

Arch Stacking Toy: Wood Rainbow

Alphabet Puzzle: Pastel Colored Letter Puzzle

Baby Gym: Plan Toys Play Gym

Hanging Animals: Woodland Animals Baby Rattles

Blocks: Etched Wood BlocksSheepskin: Ivory Sheepskin Throw Rug

*Design and words by Anne Sage

**Photography by Monica Wang Photography

Fin Mark

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Roberta Davis

Adorable! She may never choose pink and purple stuffies after this beautiful start!

My thoughts exactly:)

Hi Roberta, Thanks for your kind words about my home! And oh gosh, wouldn’t that be the dream if I can nip the pink and purple stuffies obsession in the bud 😉
xoxo
Anne

Kati

Absolutely stunning! Is there a source for the beautiful round mirror?

Hi Kati! Here is the link: https://rstyle.me/+-fxHFtBD0gDSWgsOjHW9Dw

Beth

It looks like a gorgeous house got even more beautiful. What a wonderful and warm home you will bring your daughter into…

Emily, thank you for sharing this wonderful tour with us!

I would be interested to see how 800 feet feels in a few months and a few years. I can imagine eventually needing at least a few hundred feet more since everyone will be at home all day for some time. Keep us updated!

Hi Beth, Thanks so much for your kind words about my home! And yes, I’m TOTALLY hearing you on how 800 square feet will feel very different in a few months and years! We figure we’ve got about 18-24 months left in this house before we need a bit more space…especially if we decide to add a second kid to the mix. Will keep everyone posted! xoox Anne

Suzanne

Love this! Those cubbies styled with stuffed animals are wonderful. I still have a few of my daughter’s favorite toys out and about despite her now being a teen, because some of the quality wooden ones make surprisingly beautiful decor. Her play spaces stayed nicely curated for about the first two to three years. We are passed the bright plastic toy stage, replaced with shelves overflowing with books, none of which she is willing to part with. So, yes, the stuff continues to accumulate. Best wishes to Anne on the arrival of her daughter!

Hi Suzanne, Thanks for your kind words about my space and for your best wishes on baby’s arrival! Love knowing that your daughter’s decor has evolved along with her, that makes me so happy to hear! xoxo Anne

Suzanne

Also, I meant to say I love your artwork! I used to make my own to save money, but I can see that sometimes it’s good to do because it’s so good!

Brittany S

As a new mom, I appreciate her perspective on how decor will evolve depending on our seasons of life. Her sense that things will move around as they develop a routine (and then change again and again) is so refreshing. I love seeing a beautiful house that can also be lived in!

I completely agree!

sara

Would be so great to do a follow-up post down the line to hear how things have gone after her daughter’s arrival, too and get an update on what worked as they expected and what didn’t. Assume they are planning to have childcare out of their home if the office will still be functional during the day otherwise you’re moving your work in and out all day long when they’re little and napping three times a day…naps are such a blessing and curse haha. Gorgeous and creative solution shown here, love it.

Grace

So beautiful! Everything looks amazing and the art you made is perfect. I do have to say though, “professional clean only” sheepskin and a baby do not mix!

I love this space! We’ve definitely had babies sleeping in our walk in closets at times. They don’t need fancy bells and whistles, just a safe space!

Paige
http://thehappyflammily.com

Hi Paige, Thanks so much for your kind words about my space! Love that you slept your littles in the walk-in closet. Sometimes I joke that if we have a second child, we’ll just put her in a drawer hehe! It’s so true, they don’t need much—just lots of love and a cozy spot to snooze! xoxo Anne

Rupa

Such a genius use of space! I was especially drawn to the soft serene paint color in the office/crib room. Could you share paint colors used please?

Hi Rupa, Thanks so much for your kind words about my space! Absolutely happy to share paint color info: The brand we used is Farrow & Ball, and the color is the shade “Wevet” which is a lovely soft white with grey undertones. We love how it interacts with the natural light in our home at different times of day! xo Anne

Has Anne shared the source of the built-ins? Are they custom or CA closets, for example? Gorgeous—would love details on the wood etc.

Courtney

They are CA Closets! She has another post somewhere on the internet about the office that I pinned long ago. So gorgeous!

Hi Ashley, Thanks so much for asking about those built-ins! They are indeed California Closets, I’ve shared all the info about them along with some design drawings + before/after images on this blog post here: http://annesage.com/2019/05/18/california-closets-built-in-bookshelves/

Enjoy! ox Anne

Stunning. I love the soft colours Anne has chosen. Such lovely colours for a baby!

Happy Monday.

Renaud
http://blogbyrenaud.wordpress.com

Hi Renaud, Thanks so much for your kind words about my space and the colors I chose! Glad to know the soothing effect I was hoping for is coming through! Have a lovely week 🙂 xo Anne

Viks

Boucle chair and sheepskin rug can’t be practical for the baby.

Jessica

I have an 11 month old and two sheep skin rugs (white and grey). My baby loves them, she rolls in them everyday, and they are holding up great. Sheepskin has natural protective oils that make it really easy to clean the occasional mess.

Elissa Farrow Savos

She thrifted “hundreds of white books for the shelves”? Couldn’t fathom this sentence. I cannot imagine wasting that much storage on books that no one will ever read, in a home that is only 800 square feet! But I guess this is what works for someone who writes a design blog. In any case, it’s all very lovely and I hope they enjoy it until the baby comes and function inevitably overtakes form.

Hi Elissa, Haha, yes those white books were definitely my most frivolous design move ever—and certainly just for fun until we knew that the storage would need to be put to more practical use! We’re also quite lucky that we share some garage storage with our neighbors, so all those white books are now hanging out there waiting to be called into service on my next styling job. One of the quirks of my job I guess! 🙂 xoxo Anne

Cecilia

Clever and stylish solutions for creating “baby zones” in several rooms. Excellent approach! But please, “without further ado.” (You know that guy Shakespeare and his “Much Ado About Nothing”?)

Lisa

Cute! I know the feeling of wanting “the nursery,” but our small cottage meant getting creative too. Early on the big favorite was a play gym with clipped on toys dangling and (before he could roll) reading longer picture books. As they grow, I believe it helps to develop kid accessible storage and parent only. For my toddler, a room reset can mean resorting and putting back every single toy he can reach and scatter. We go less crazy, he helps clean, and plays calmer, when we rotate toys out of sight regularly. It has also made it easier to purge when he grows out of something.

Also, the nursing spot needs a place to set your drink- nursing is thirsty work!

Hi Lisa,
Thanks so much for sharing what’s worked for you in your small home as your baby has grown into a toddler. Taking notes on all of this! xoxo Anne

Nicole

Oh wow what an amazing post! We are expecting our baby later in the year … and in our apartment we’ve been wondering how we can make a nursery whilst also being able to work from home, so this is truly amazing and now we know we can do it and how. thank you!

Hi Nicole, Congrats on your pregnancy, such an exciting time! So happy to hear that my space gives you some ideas for how you can ready your own home for baby. Have fun nesting! xoxo Anne

Jessica

This was so fun to read and do relatable for me. I have an 11 month old that we squeezed into our 950 sq ft bungalow. Every style decision has to be so carefully made when you’re working with a small space. Dealing with gifts people give you that are not the style/quality you would choose has been tricky for me. I would say Anne that the biggest challenge you have coming up is when baby gets mobile. That’s when you’ll probably have to (hopefully only temporarily) rejig things (I’m looking at some of those heavier things, like ceramic lamps in grasping range!) You really can’t predict what changes will be needed because it depends on your kids temperament. You just have to go with the flow as they develop and adapt the space as needed. So much fun though, and all worth while for the giggles and smiles they will reward you with!

Ann

Love love love this sweet, airy, modern space. Brilliant job.

Just a note to add that sheepskin rugs are not safe for baby once she starts rolling over. They can cause suffocation. Not fun to think about, I know. Sorry to be that mom.

Holly Daws

What a sweet little space! We had our first baby while also living in about 800sq feet, and I really loved it. We had a big walk in closet that was large enough for the crib + a small dresser/changing table. Only downside was that our washer and dryer also lived in that closet (I thought it was convenient until I realized I couldn’t do laundry while baby was sleeping, ha). Anyways, I wanted to write because the idea to bring “a little bit of kid” to each room has served us well as mine have gotten older. The lower shelf in out living room has baskets for their books, our dining room has a tiny kid table in the corner for easy breakfasting, toys in different storage spots around the house, etc. The cynical side of things is, yes, your house will be overrun with kid stuff. But the house is theirs and I love the colorful signs of life kids bring… especially when I can make them beautiful with thoughtfully designed toys and pretty baskets 😉

Jessica

First, I want to say everything is beautiful, no shade here.
But now I have a critique. This seems like such a big overhaul when the baby hasn’t even been born yet. There are so many baby items pictured that the baby won’t be able to use until she is quite a bit older. Likewise, by that time, some of the infant things will be cycled out. I understand the impulse to buy and decorate when expecting (I’ve done it and made my own mistakes twice), but it breaks my heart to see that beautiful piano get the heave-ho in favor of age-inappropriate decorative toys.

Leonora B

I love what Anne has done in her home-the point is that it works for her.
And! She welcomed us, a community of strangers, into the sanctity of her hone. She can do whatever she likes to create spaces for her daughter. Anne’s toy choices are minimal / non hazardous (legos!) and appropriate for a variety of ages. Can’t we celebrate her choice to free up space taken by a lovely instrument that she admitted doesn’t get played? Also, pianos aren’t exactly age appropriate for toddlers either.

Well done! I love both the before & afters pics (of course), and the thoughtfulness and functionality you put in throughout the house is brilliant! If only I could get my growing kiddos to still accept the pretty toys — now that they have their own ideas I’m having to work with bakugan, pokemon and LOL dolls –not at all my idea of beauty HaHa!

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