Bare Walls and a Bun in the Oven
June 1, 2005 9:18 AM   Subscribe

We are expecting our first child within the month and have yet to decorate the baby's room.

Our landlord has prohibited us from painting and we have precious little spare cash. One idea we have is to buy an oversized book of modern art (Pollock, Chagall, Hopper, etc) and hang color plates in the baby's room, but I'm curious what other MeFites in our predicament have done. We want the room to be colorful without being too baby-fied. Short of going completely Baby Einstein, what intelligent and bright decorating schemes would you recommend to new parents who want to create a vivid environment for curious new eyes?
posted by mds35 to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd check out a thread similar to this that was posted a month or so back.
posted by itchie at 9:47 AM on June 1, 2005

My wife and I framed pictures from a trip to the zoo in dark frames. Good contrast with the pale walls early on, interesting colors and shapes later.

We used inexpensive curtain panels in contrasting colors, too.

I think the key with babies is contrast. At least, when we go into Finnegan’s in downtown Portland, the expensive infant toys seem to place a premium on lots of black, white, and red vs. the pastels that are more common elsewhere. I’ve also read that distinguishing between shades of color doesn’t come for a few months, and that the main thing newborns can see is contrast between dark and light.

With that in mind, there’s probably not even a need to do the art book thing. Black and white construction paper and a pair of scissors might go a long way.

Whoozit was his favorite toy for a long time, too. Same thing: very contrasty.
posted by mph at 9:52 AM on June 1, 2005

Do babies even notice room decoration? While I am unencumbered by knowledge and fact in this area, my personal observations sure seem to indicate that pre-six-months the little wrigglers don't seem to notice anything more than 12 inches past their eyeballs with the possible exception of things in motion.
posted by phearlez at 9:57 AM on June 1, 2005

I like the color plate idea; but before you destroy your books, try color xeroxing the pages you like--this way you can duplicate and enlarge your favorite images... Create Basquiat wallpaper!
posted by ibeji at 10:38 AM on June 1, 2005

I went over the top with my daughter's room. Did she care? Not really. But at age 5, she still talks fondly about her first room, gets excited when she sees the lion-head mirror in storage "That's from my baby room" or the fake leopard skin rug. She doesn't have much memory of it, but knowing it was there seems to make her feel special.

In our new place, I can't paint, but we do have picture rail. I hung rainbow ribbons all over the place and am mounting photos, her drawings and various things she collects on foamcore and then sticking it on. We get full wall coverage.

As everyone else has said, babies like high contrast. Lots of colors don't actually seem to interest them as much as the black and white stuff.

However, since the primary use of the room will be for sleeping, I would keep the high contrast stuff out of the room. You'll be amazed at how much babies freak by being overstimulated and the nursery should be a safe haven from that. Make sure you can make it dark even in the day, put soft goods in there like throw blankets, drapes and etc to suck up sound and get a good rocking chair or glider. Keep the contrast to the living room or wherever you want the baby engaged and excited.
posted by Gucky at 10:42 AM on June 1, 2005

Calendars are great for big simple pictures, and you should be able to get them discounted this time of year.
posted by mischief at 11:52 AM on June 1, 2005

I, too, went over the top in my daughter's nursery. I'm a builder/designer, so naturally I wanted to put my talent into a labor of love for her. Funny thing, after all my time into the project, she's most fascinated by the ceiling fan! For her, motion, light, or vivid color gets her attention. That's a good and a bad thing, though, depending upon how and when we want her stimulated. So, a little plain might not be so bad.

Have you considered trying to find a nice shade of gift-wrapping paper to apply on the walls? Perhaps even a collage of tissue paper? Most party stores would have this, and there's an affordable solution for you, with lots of color choices and room for creativity.
posted by Jeff Click at 12:03 PM on June 1, 2005

Speaking from complete ignorance I'd suggest plan with the assumption that you might not find the time to redo the decor every few months to keep up with the baby's development, so while considering whether stuff would be of benefit to a very young baby that is just learning to see, also consider whether stuff is so babyish it would bore the stuffing out of a 2-year old.

As an example, mobiles (which you can make yourself for virtually nothing) move and are colourful - but rather than a bunch of colourful cut-outs fluttering from a metal hoop, maybe ones that are more interesting to a wider age range, such as ones that display physics and leverage via cascading beams with hanging models or further beams at the ends, the pivot offset appropriately, using a broader range of materials than flat colours (transparents, metallics, etc).

(I'm probably biased, as my dominent memories as a 3 year old were of frustration with how boring and simple the toys/surrounds were :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:10 PM on June 1, 2005

You could try Bliks - they're removable stick-on wall graphics. I have the space invaders on the wall in my office, and they look great! They come in a variety of child friendly shapes too. The only thing I'm not sure about is the removable part, as I haven't tried to remove mine yet. Unfortunately, they're not exactly cheap.
posted by geeky at 1:20 PM on June 1, 2005

There are a lot of theories about what babies need visually. Here's mine: beauty is good for the soul. Put beautiful things in the room; pictures you love and admire. My son's baby room had old wallpaper with roses on it. He was rather sad to see it go when we fixed up the room. (He picked the new decor.) We were given several handmade quilts which decorated the walls beautifully. Bookstores get gorgeous posters of children's books - maybe they'd be willing to give you some.
posted by theora55 at 2:59 PM on June 1, 2005

Try fabric on your walls- totally removable and it opens a whole new world of design and patterns! A girlfriend did it with cotton and it looked just like wallpaper. Really nice, non-tacky wallpaper.
posted by wallaby at 7:03 PM on June 1, 2005

we didn't really go too crazy with the nursery thing... figuring our daughter will someday want to do her own thing in there anyway, ya know... we decided to place a little emphasis on baskets full of books, and a few nice pieces of furniture that will hopefully grow with her a bit... but we did purposefully do the photo-frame thing, a little like mph mentioned above... however, we chose to put pictures of family, mostly headshots, each in the frames... one for grandma, one for grandpa... cousin, great uncle, etc, etc. hoping that, with her parents assistance, she will bond with and learn to identify her somewhat distant family this way.
posted by RockyChrysler at 9:54 PM on June 1, 2005

No matter how you decide to decorate now, within a year you'll be pinning up fingerpainting after fingerpainting. We bought a place that had a boy's room already painted (part of the reason we fell in love with the place) with a farmyard theme. But our two-year-old has already outgrown it and wants trucks and motorbikes or lions and bears on his blankets and on the walls.

Go with stuff that's easy to replace, like mobiles, lampshades, friezes (there are some beautiful removable friezes out there). Babies in the first three months see contrast best, as someone already said, so a mobile above the bed with black-and-white motifs and repeating patterns is great, or a black-and-white hanging toy. (We got this one which has the black/white spiral designs inside each piece, and plays Mozart, heh. Tiny Love have a great range of kids' toys and decorations and a good idea of what aids development best for each age group.) We also made hanging shapes out of plastic ice-cream containers and the like, and laminated pictures cut out of picture books stuck on the wall.

Also consider that your baby will be spending a reasonable amount of time on the floor. We bought a fluffy sheepskin rug to lie on and put a few pictures right down near floor level to encourage our son to move his head around and work those neck muscles, as well as the good old playgym, mirror, what-have-you. A mirror is a great thing for a baby to have access to at almost any age, because a big part of learning in the first months is experimenting with facial expressions: "So it feels like this when I stick my tongue out, and it looks like this."

Essentially lots of stuff that's easy to move around and cheap/easy to replace as they grow, plus those personal things that they will grow with. But expect to amass a forest's worth of scribbles and paintings and pastings as soon as your child gets interested in that sort of thing, which I think from memory was about 10 months. :)

And good luck!!
posted by tracicle at 1:31 AM on June 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone!
posted by mds35 at 7:31 AM on November 30, 2005

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