Bedtime Story

There’s a subtle pressure put on parents-to-be when it comes to decorating and outfitting a baby’s nursery. As you read the packaging and the signs while wandering the aisles of infant superstores or perusing the well-edited collections in the high-style baby boutiques, you get the feeling that the wrong choice will either physically harm your child or make him incredibly stupid.

I’m in the midst of finishing my son’s nursery and the process has, at times, led me through what I call the dark valley of decorating. It’s a place that, over the course of several years and during many remodels, I’ve visited often. It’s where you go when your husband points out that you can’t possibly afford the perfect material to complete your kitchen or when your contractor discovers, just as you are set to buy a new sofa and chairs, that your home’s foundation is made up of sand and a few pebbles and must be replaced immediately and at great expense.

But these obstacles have been surmountable thanks to this undisputable fact: There is an answer for EVERY design problem. I’ve found that if you come up against a challenging roadblock on the way to aesthetic nirvana, that the answer can always be uncovered by looking long and hard for alternatives, saving your money or cutting costs elsewhere in order to spend where it counts.

When it comes to baby’s room, however, a new and not very knowledgeable mother and father might be lulled into thinking that buying the most expensive and rarified item available might just help them raise the next leader of the free world.

This is where my husband and I were at when we started the process. After much research, I had picked out the perfect modern crib for our baby. It was made with sustainable materials and it was beautiful to look at—the kind of crib I would buy for myself to sleep in. It also cost around $1,600, not including the changing table and dresser, which I also planned to purchase. Then one weekend we found ourselves at a mega-baby store, as all parents eventually do, and there at the front was a big sign advertising a special on a classic, but clean-lined, crib: buy it for $399 and get the changing table for free.

I tried to hustle my husband past the billboard, but the tempting offer stopped him cold. Gently, he suggested we look at it. Reluctantly, I allowed myself to be shown the item, and to my frustration I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It is made of sturdy pine and painted with non-toxic paint, the trim on it mimics the molding in the nursery and the changing table is nice and high—we, both tall people, wouldn’t have to stoop over it, as we would with the mod changing table.

We ended up purchasing the set, and I had an instant case of buyer’s remorse. I saved my dream of a hip nursery by turning to my other tried-and-true decorating theory: You can make more from less by mixing in select items. The crib sits in front of a charcoal-gray wall (Benjamin Moore’s Whale Gray), making the simple white piece look more dramatic and interesting. I chose FLOR tile in Moon Regatta Stripe, and this sets a decidedly modern tone and establishes a contemporary palette of gray, mustard, khaki and white. True, I’m spending nearly $100 on a solid yellow custom crib skirt, but when you compare it to the cost of the original crib, it’s a savings (or so I tell my husband).

Will our boy grow up to be a dullard because I skimped on his crib? I’m not sure, but at least I’m able to add some money to his college fund. I’ll be finishing up the nursery in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more design drama.

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