When my husband and I found out we were having a baby, one of our first thoughts was, “Where are we going to fit him?” Having limited space is a common plight for New Yorkers, but making room for a whole other human being — and all of his stuff — was an entirely new spatial challenge. Unwilling to move to the suburbs and unable to afford a 2-bedroom in an elevator building (I wasn’t about to schlep a stroller up and down a walk-up), we started to look for 1-bedrooms with just a little extra space that we could convert into a small nursery.
The result was an 850-square-foot pad in West Chelsea with a good-sized walk-in closet. After very detailed measurements and intense planning, we managed to fit a lot into that closet: a crib, a dresser-slash-changing table, floating shelves for storage and a little decor. We swapped the door for a black-out curtain, put down a foam playmat instead of a rug, and voilà, we had a nursery.
We were amateurs when it came to the design process, so I was curious to hear from an expert about how those in similar situations have managed. I reached out to Alessandra Wood, VP of Style at the online interior-design service Modsy. “In big cities, I’ve heard of people rolling cribs into hallways,” she told me. “But to make a truly dedicated space, you first need to look for nooks, corners, or, yes, closets that you can carve out to create a dedicated space for a few baby necessities. Our CEO even converted her breakfast nook into a nursery!”
“The nook was less intimidating to design than a full room,” says the CEO, Modsy founder Shanna Tellerman. “Sometimes full-room nurseries actually feel a bit empty — I love that this small space has everything we need, but nothing more.”
“Once you’ve found the area, then you just need to focus on a few key design elements,” says Wood. Here, her tips for creating a small nursery for your new family member.
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Integrate Baby Furniture Throughout Your Home
A “nursery nook” is, by definition, small. So, since your baby’s essentials can’t all live inside a large, dedicated room, try to integrate whatever you can into the overall design of the apartment: “Make swaps to your home design,” Wood says. “Try switching out accent chairs for a glider, or placing a dresser with a changing table topper in your own bedroom.”
Create Visual Barriers
If you don’t have a separate room for your nursery, you can use zoning to create visual barriers that signify different space uses. “For example, use area rugs to define the baby’s sleeping space as separate from a family living area,” Wood says. “You can also use room dividers to create a privacy screen. If you need to close off a room, you can install farmhouse rolling doors, which can be removed at a later date. You can even use heavy black-out drapery to close off a space.”
Choose Convertible Furniture
You need three key pieces, Wood says: a bassinet or crib, a recliner and a changing table. So choose pieces that can convert as your needs change, for longevity and easy transition as the baby grows. “Use dual-purpose furniture to get the most bang for your buck in a small space,” she says. “I am a big proponent of storage ottomans and benches. If you’re short on closet or shelf space, you can store books, blankets, and toys in these pieces, all while using them as extra seating when friends come over.”
You may not have a lot of square footage in your nursery space, but you can make the absolute most of it by going up. “One of our favorite narrow-space design ideas is using bookcases in creative ways,” says Wood. “They make use of your space vertically, so you can maximize storage while minimizing the use of limited floor space.” Floating shelves and hooks are also great ways to add more useable space in a tiny area.
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