While it's always a blast to spend the afternoon looking at the gorgeously-designed nurseries on Pinterest, the truth is babies don't need much from a room to feel soothed, protected, and loved. In fact, what they need most of all is a relaxed, happy caregiver. So when you think about how to create a calm nursery for you and your baby, architect Merilee Meacock, a partner at KSS Architects, recommends prioritizing your comfort, and letting the nursery be a place that supports your needs, too.
"You have to be at peace for your family to be at peace," writes Meacock in an email interview with Romper. "Parents need a support system. Design becomes an important part of that support system." To best support yourself, Meacock recommends a nursery with a view outside to keep you feeling connected with the world, and exposure to natural light to help baby sync her circadian rhythms with the sun (you can use blackout curtains or wood blinds for naptime). She also recommends choosing a smaller size room in your house, because coziness is nurturing.
For the interior, Meacock favors soft textures, comfortable, ergonomic furniture, and natural materials like wood and wool. Wood, in particular has been shown to foster restorative, tranquil feelings in a 2007 study performed by the Journal of Wood Science, and rooms that incorporate more natural wood have even been found to lower pulse rates. "Wood is also warm to the touch," notes Meacock.
Because mom and baby will be in the same positions much of the time, it's crucial to ensure that your nursery furniture supports you. "Making sure that a changing table is configured at the right height, or that a nursing chair supports the mother’s back, is key to lasting comfort," explains Meacock.
In her work designing environments for children with special needs, Meacock found that cozy nooks are more calming than large spaces, so you can take that into account when you're choosing a nursery room. Meacock also stresses the power of uncluttered simplicity. "My nursery at home was located under an eave, a small 8x8 room with a small skylight and a window. A gable came down, angled such that one side was only 4’ tall floor to ceiling. This space was tiny, which also meant it didn’t have capacity for much," she writes.
In her own nursery, Meacock kept few toys and minimal objects beyond furniture. There were no word decals on the walls or stacks of objects, which "allowed for it to feel uncluttered and spare — a safe cocoon with few stimuli," she tells Romper. The few objects she did include had a sensory element: books with crunchy plastic, a Fisher-Price mock aquarium, and toys with high-contrast colors. "Until about 6 months, babies tend to see in black and white with a dash of red," she explains. "Where you want patterns, keep them simple."
To learn more about how to include natural materials and sensory experiences into your nursery plan, Meacock suggests reading Terrapin Bright Green’s "14 Patterns of Biophilic Design," a report on design choices that contribute to human health and well-being.
Of course, creating a calm nursery environment takes more than decor and design. According to Nadia Galloway, creator of Pillow Sheets — a fitted sheet that re-creates the way the womb cradles your baby — how you handle bedtime each night matters, too. Follow a consistent schedule, and your baby will feel soothed and cradled by it. "Babies and children thrive on routine," she tells Romper. So sing the same lullaby at the same time each night, and follow bath-time with a well-loved book. Remember, calm parent, calm baby.