Help to design a nursery around my husband's favorite chart?
July 17, 2015 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Because baby needs to learn not to invade Russia

We're expecting a baby girl in the fall. My husband's one requirement for the nursery decor is that it contain a print of his favorite graph: Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812.

I'd been thinking more along the line of baby ducks.

Dear husband is very excited by the prospect of teaching our new baby about the world, and this chart is meaningful to him because it symbolizes that aspect of parenthood. So: any suggestions on incorporating it into an adorable nursery? Suggestions for complementary wall art, color schemes or decorations? Husband is adamant that the chart be displayed as-is (no making it pastel or adding adorable baby animals frolicking along the curve).
posted by helen_of_tron to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Aren't high contrast things supposed to be good for baby's vision and brain? The chart looks like it would be neat on a wall with a black and white bold graphic print wallpaper. Looks like you could have fun with that.
posted by angelchrys at 8:27 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd start with the colors and have crib sheets made with that pale pink on Etsy.
Then go with whatever for the rest.

To be honest, I would not decorate too hard. That infant will quickly be a toddler, then a preschooler, and so on. I'd suggest going for the most neutral paint color and furniture and decorate with semi plain bedding and then rotate out the art.

Also see spoonflower for getting a blanket or sheet made with an image... If you don't mind the intellectual property violation. Edit: public domain. Go nuts.
posted by k8t at 8:36 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Vinyl wall decals are the absolute best for decorating baby and kid rooms cheaply and reversibly. Maybe you could find some (maps? International landmarks?) or just foresty stuff that could kind of segue into 'baby' on another wall.

Go for a legitimate theme if you like but our nursery decorating has consisted of: painting the wall (blue for one room, lilac for the other), affixing a combination of vintage airplanes, butterflies, dinosaurs, and jungle animal vinyl decals around the inexpensive furniture, and calling it a day. RoomMates makes a massive selection of decent, cheap options, and there are lots of custom ones available from etsy and various other places.

In your shoes, I'd put up the chart and some baby ducks and declare victory, but then again I'm typing this with my feet propped up on a 10 year old garage sale coffee table so I might not be the best to give decorating advice.
posted by telepanda at 8:58 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, many nursery themes come from coordinated baby bedding sets, but those are kind of a scam, because you aren't supposed to use the bumper and babies don't sleep under quilts. So just get some neutral color crib sheets that don't clash with the walls. No need to hunt for the exact bedding set that meshes neatly with Napoleon.
posted by telepanda at 9:01 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Seconding vinyl decals. You could maybe even have that chart printed largely by someone on Etsy.
posted by k8t at 9:02 PM on July 17, 2015

I like the idea of international landmarks. I would suggest a colourful map of the world on a different wall, and then maybe some airplane decals to pull it all together. Maybe you could find Snoopy/ Red baron ones. Best of luck w new baby!
posted by leslievictoria at 9:18 PM on July 17, 2015

Have a print of it as one element in a group of pictures, including maps, maybe some colorful charts, and some more kid-accessible elements like animals or, I don't know, silhouettes of great military leaders. Tiffany Ard has some cute "science as nursery decor" items. Then you can swap out pictures that end up being too babyish (I know! It seems impossible! But the cute duckies will seem too babyish by 18 months and by 3 she will want only firetrucks driven by ballet dancers). If you put them all in similar frames they will seem cohesive.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:37 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, okay, my husband actually had this chart up on the wall in his office at work for a few years. And I would have been fine with it being displayed in our home. Thus I know that men who geek out over the visualization of military data can be terrific and sexy people.

I'm offering one helpful suggestion and one WTF suggestion.

Helpfully, could you add other beautiful mathematical visualizations, like cross-sections of a nautilus shell or fractals or snowflakes?

Tongue in cheek with a helping of WTF, what about a lovely mobile of kangaroos that plays "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"? That's a super-depressing anti-war statement also, so it goes with the poster.
posted by puddledork at 10:03 PM on July 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

(Whaddya know, this is my favorite chart as well. Is your husband, by chance, a big fan of Edward Tufte?)

The graph is moreso general vintage in theme, not military. Those colors go well with warm greys and antique whites. The chart could hang on the wall, or lean against the wall on a shelf. Some ideas:

White walls, shelves and cute + random vintage accents

Several vintage looks

Similar style large chart with walls in a complimentary color. Replace navy stuff with random bric-a-brac
posted by Wossname at 10:10 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

How about a "world" or maybe "travel" theme? You could have a globe lamp on the table...a hot air balloon mobile above the crib (like this adorable IKEA one with cute animal friends peeking out of the basket which may unfortunately have been discontinued)...maybe toy ships or planes or buses. Vintage suitcases as furniture? Or knickknacks from various travels / models of world monuments. Or Noah's Ark if you swing that way. I'm not suggesting these all at once, just throwing out some ideas of various ways you could interpret a 'world' theme.

Or you could seize on the general Frenchness of the chart itself, although I'm not sure how to make that a decoration theme without getting too stereotypical / weird if you don't have any French connection yourself.
posted by spelunkingplato at 11:41 PM on July 17, 2015

You could also just keep coherency through the color scheme if that's important to you and not worry about the elements not being more related. Is there a burning interest/favorite graphic of your own you'd like to share in the same way your husband wants to share this? Maybe you could get that [rock collection / blueprint of the Sydney Opera House / periodic table of the elements / 18th century botanical drawings / Fender Stratocaster] made up in complementary colors and go with it. It could be a lovely symbolism of this new person who will be made up of a union of the two of you, yet someday with her own passions and interests, still unknown.
posted by spelunkingplato at 11:50 PM on July 17, 2015

I had to look for this inflatable globe toy - the globe, it's topography, history and contemporary politics is a great nursery theme - bound to be original and fun!
posted by mumimor at 3:32 AM on July 18, 2015

Paint walls red, white, and blue: one wall in the French tricolor and one wall in the Russian. Or hang flags.
posted by rikschell at 4:40 AM on July 18, 2015

You could get the nice print to frame at that Edward Tufte sells. There are plenty of great other information-laden and beautiful posters there as well. I think some of the chart items are death, which may not make it the best "my first infomatic display" to teach with.
posted by nickggully at 5:44 AM on July 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Baby isn't going to understand it for years and if friends or family question it, well, it was your husband's decision, they can judge him, not you. Just hang it up, framed, anywhere on the wall and forget about it. You could also compromise by putting it in the hall across from baby's door, so that baby will see it every day without it affecting the overall flow of the room. It's kind of weird that he is putting his foot down on something so silly. If he isn't also getting you all of your weird food cravings and rubbing your feet in the evenings, you may want to have another father talk to him and explain to him that his number one job as a dad right now is to make certain that the woman growing his child is safe and happy, and that you having a safe and happy pregnancy will have more lasting effects than a historical print on a wall.
posted by myselfasme at 5:48 AM on July 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

So many great ideas, everyone! Lots of incredible inspiration!
posted by helen_of_tron at 6:53 AM on July 18, 2015

Black, white and gold is a very popular color combo for decorating (that pale color reads gold-ish to me) - the right black and white fabric could be used for bedding, then add some accents in gold around the room, and some great textured or fluffy white bits, and a pretty light. Painting a crib in a glossy black and adding lots of white (and bleach-able!) bedding would also work. Obligatory Pinterest search. And one with gold.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:51 AM on July 18, 2015

To me it looks very tree like. You could have a tree/branches theme in neutral colors with a mural or even papier-mâché tree in one corner. I agree that that is a great neutral palette. Whatever you do is rather soon going to be covered up with Fisher-Price brights and beloved ugly stuffed animals and blankies, and laundry, and eventually either (usually) princess or superhero stuff, so neutral is good.
posted by jfwlucy at 8:16 AM on July 18, 2015

Nursery Rhyme for the new Baby of Tron:

Baby, Baby, naughty baby,
Hush you squalling thing I say,
Peace this moment, peace or maybe
Bonaparte will pass this way.

Baby, Baby, he's a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on it
Every day on naughty people.

Baby, Baby if he hears you,
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he'll tear you
Just as pussy tears a mouse...


Yours will be the BEST most original nursery EVER. Pick up a couple of high quality prints of battle paintings from the Napoleonic wars and maybe a couple of faux Georgian furniture items. Use the beige (pink?) from the chart as one of your theme colours to tie the other colours in the room together.

Get someone to Photoshop a Napoleon hat onto your baby's first sitting up portrait. Add a few soft soldier dolls - you may have more luck searching American Revolutionary War rather than Napoleonic War. They are close enough in period that Baby of Tron won't quibble.

The architecture of the Napoleonic era was grandiose classical If you live in a large urban area you can likely find some battered old wooden furniture that has classical details such as the fluted up and down columns. Paint this with white glossy paint (easy to clean!)

The 1812 Overture and other Tchaikovsky classical pieces will make great nursery music. Other babies get Mozart buy your baby will bask in the deep and thunderous rhythms of a full orchestra. (For quieter times there is also Swan Lake by the same composer.)

As well as the pink (beige?) from the wall chart and the white classic marble combine that bring in the bright red and blue and gold used in the uniforms and flags. Don't forget a rocking horse and a toy sword and when Baby of Tron is older, a regiment or two of toy soldiers and a cannon or three and or a nice two or three master ship-of-the line (Later useful for pirate games too.) Try Playmobile for the ship.

Josephine had some lovely white lace frocks with little puffy sleeves. Baby of Tron will look adorable in a dress of that description. Search Kate Greenaway style children's dresses

Baby of Tron will grow up fast. If you decorate her bedroom with pretty pink ducks she will start to outgrow the decor within two or three years. A Napoleonic themed nursery will be suitable as she gets older and won't force her into the stereotypical pink baby girl mould that leads to Disney Princesses and Barbie, but won't prevent her from taking a run in the direction of Disney Anastasia should she want to have much in common with her peers in playgroup.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:53 AM on July 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

You could incorporate some Russian nesting dolls into the room somewhere, maybe actual dolls, maybe a print on the bedding or on a blanket (we had a blanket made for our son with the theme we were using), or in vinyl stickers.

Maybe hang a traditional costume somewhere in the room, either Russian or French.

Maybe do vinyl stickers of the world map, but do them in black to provide the high contrast that babies love.

Fyi, if you will send your daughter to preschool, her room will be taken over by Disney Princess crap somewhere between the age of 3-4. As much as you try to avoid it, it just happens. So don't invest too too much money or sweat equity into the room. Make it cute but make it easy on yourself.

posted by vignettist at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2015

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