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Adapting Your Home for a Baby

Just when you think you’ve got your place decorated, you are faced with the greatest design challenge of all: baby’s arrival. Making a home baby-friendly is not just about installing cabinet locks and wall anchors. It also means reassessing your existing furniture choices (prioritizing safety) while incorporating your new baby stuff in a way that doesn’t make your living room feel like the inside of a preschool.

Of course, I’ve made a few unstylish choices for the sake of our comfort or convenience (hello: jumperoo in my living room). Ceding some territory to your baby is unavoidable, but here are some of my favorite baby-friendly options for the style conscious:

Rethinking the Layout Many New Yorkers do not have the option of turning a spare bedroom into a nursery. In some larger one bedroom apartments, a dedicated baby space can be temporarily and inexpensively carved out, usually without the need for extensive building approvals. Temporary wall companies can install a pressurized wall and your choice of door in a matter of hours. These are just like ordinary walls -- drywall attached to wood studs/frame -- but the frame is held in place using pressure against the floor and ceiling rather than screws and nails. Most buildings will not consider this to be an alteration -- in those buildings, as long as you use a company that is reputable and insured, you simply inform management and then schedule the installation. If you’re in a rental, you should always check with your landlord beforehand to be safe.

The Nursery

I wanted a nursery that was suitable for a newborn as well as a toddler or older kid. For visual impact we installed a wallpaper mural -- ours looks like a scene right out of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Wallpaper murals can be cartoon-y but some vendors -- like Rebel Walls (which we used), Society 6, Anewal, and Anthropologie -- offer some great options that are more artistic. For only a few hundred dollars, we styled Teddy’s nursery with a beautiful wall mural, whereas a custom wall painting would have cost us thousands of dollars.

For flooring, carpet is king. Wall-to-wall carpeting has come a long way from the 80s rec room, but it can be costly. For a more budget-friendly option, Flor floor tiles can be cut to fit the space and are easy to install and customize. A big benefit to these is that each tile can be washed, or in the case of more serious stains, cheaply replaced. We ended up going for an even more cost-effective option as our room is almost exactly the size of a standard 8x10 rug -- a thick (¾” rug pad) topped with a stain-resistant rug from Overstock.

For a dresser/changing table, we went with the Keekaroo Peanut Changer, which can be wiped down rather than washed in the laundry. We keep the Changer atop a dresser we already owned instead of buying a dedicated changing table.

was hesitant at first, but the final piece of our nursery which we couldn’t live without is the glider/recliner. There are sleeker options out there, but comfort should take precedence over style here.

The Rest of the House Pre-baby, we had a sleek Platner coffee table, but a thick glass sheet on top of a crown of spikes is not exactly baby-friendly. After searching for a safer table that was affordable, stylish enough to work for a few years, I decided to go in a different direction and just get an activity table. We chose this unobtrusive black and birch table with a chalkboard surface. Its rounded edges are great for Teddy, and it doesn’t scream “kid’s table.” In our dining room, we opted for the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair in a neutral gray-wash, which looks modern and tucks under the table like a regular chair.

While much of baby-proofing (like outlet covers and corner protectors) is not terribly fun or exciting, overall I’ve enjoyed adapting my home. If you have any other ideas or suggestions that you’ve found worked for you, please share them! I’m always looking for innovative design ideas that evolve with our changing lives.

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