Homes & Interiors

Style up your nursery design

Savvy decor ideas and tips that you can adapt to your budget

Lead image: Vox Milenne Baby Cot Bed 3 Piece Nursery Set at Cuckooland

By Jennifer Caira

I was daunted by the prospect of decorating our nursery at first. It was the first room we worked on when we moved into our flat (at that time the guest bedroom, so we could Airbnb it for the summer) and it was somewhat of a rushed job – so I knew it would need quite a lot of work. We were also doing it on a budget so I had to use some of what we already had, limiting me a little in how crazy I could go with a redesign and dampening my enthusiasm at the same time.

In the end, the ‘reused items’ ended up being an armchair stolen from my parents, art for the walls from other rooms in the flat and shelving that was already in the room, mixed in with some new things ­­– which in the end, really did give the space a fresh feel.

My top tips for decorating a nursery without totally breaking the bank:

Budget first, always.

Decide what is most important for you to get out of that budget. Originally, a new carpet was going to be the most expensive item. The existing carpet was inherited from the previous owner, and given babies spend so much time on the floor, I thought it would be nice for the little one to have a fresh new carpet to roll around on!

However, after getting a quote for refreshing the carpet, we decided to save our money and instead buy a really nice rug that covers most of the floor, saving ourselves £300 in the process. We went for this chic number from La Redoute (who I’ve found to be good quality and reliable) and I love it! Another good tip, if you are buying online most retailers give a first time discount if you sign up for their mailing list, and you can just unsubscribe afterwards.

If you have a large space, another idea is to get an offcut of carpet bound along the edges to make a nice rug, which ends up being much cheaper than buying a large rug, plus it’s made to measure.

Invest in pieces that can be reused in the future or moved to other rooms.

I didn’t want to buy a changing table, as I had seen a friend use a chest of drawers with a changing mat on top, which seemed more logical to me than buying a piece of furniture that would become obsolete after the first year or two. Obviously the height of the table matters as you don’t want to do your back in, and you’ll be changing a lot of nappies, but most three-drawer chests of drawers are the right height automatically.

I tried my best to find something antique on Facebook Marketplace (ever the thrifter!) but found most were too narrow to fit a changing mat on top – a good reminder to check your measurements before committing to something. In the end, we went for a chest of drawers and matching wardrobe package from Tutti Bambini. As with prams, sites like these will usually offer a deal on multiple items and having looked at lots of different sites, this one seemed to be reasonable and have good reviews.

Some places selling baby furniture are eye-wateringly expensive, so I think this was one of the best investments we made – the tray part on top can be removed in the future and the wardrobe has been really useful for hiding away all the baby paraphernalia which I didn’t think we would need until suddenly we had it! Also, there is nothing cuter than hanging up tiny baby clothes in a miniature wardrobe.

Rainbow Throw Cushion. Image:

Make it a nice space for you to spend time in.

Sound obvious? Perhaps, but you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in there, so I wanted our nursery to be a chilled room that I felt good in and a calm space to feed in the middle of the night that wouldn’t assault my eyes. I hope that our daughter likes it too – once she is old enough to appreciate it – and if she doesn’t, walls can always be painted or decals added.

I loved the beachy vibe of a hotel we stayed in recently in Corfu, so decided on a cool terracotta colour for the walls from Claybrook Studio. I wouldn’t normally spend so much on paint, but it really makes the difference ­­– you don’t need so many layers so spend less on pots of paint in the long run, and it’s durable. I also added some sentimental pieces that bring the room together and give it life, like artworks and a little ceramic octopus brought back from the Amalfi Coast. These are the touches that make a room feel special.

Try a little DIY.

One of my favourite things we did with the room was add panelling to give it a whole new look. I’d seen enough interior-influencers on Instagram making panelling seem like the easiest thing in the world, and it really does transform a room, so we decided to give it a go. Luckily, Homebase was on hand with a little trick – they sell ready-made panelling in chunks, so you don’t need to measure and get pieces of wood individually cut. They are thin, have a great wood-effect on the front and look amazing when painted. Definitely my favourite interior discovery of the year!

Whatever you decide to do to refresh the space – be it some cornicing, ceiling roses or storage – look into doing it yourself first. It may end up being easier than you think, and we probably saved about £500 in labour. Plus, the smug life skills points are an added bonus.

Nursery garland by Dottyewe on Etsy. Image:

Add some cute flourishes to make the room feel cosy.

These don’t need to be expensive. I like Sainsbury’s Reed Diffusers as they have some lovely scents and look unexpectedly chic or some quirky cushions – Urban Outfitters is my go-to for these and Oliver Bonas has good cushion game too. A friend of mine has used a couple of Ikea spice racks to create lovely little shelves for her wee one’s books – ingenious! Have a look at items you might want then go and see if you can find them second hand on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. There are always plenty of cut-price BabyBjörn bouncers to be had.

Also keep in mind you will be given lots of gifts, so don’t go overboard on decoration. People will inevitably give you presents like baby bunting or personalised artworks featuring the baby’s name. I’ve left a little room for these things as well, as they make all the difference in creating a room that feels lived in and special.

Whatever you do, make sure it feels like you and don’t be swayed by the spotless aesthetic of nurseries you see online (unless that’s your style!) It’s a room that’s meant to be lived in, so should feel homely and a place where you’ll enjoy watching your little one grow.