Photo: Jean Allsopp

While keeping a budget in mind, these parents wanted to use furnishings their children could grow with. Nurseries can later be adapted into children's rooms by using versatile furnishings such as this chest, which is currently used as a changing center. Collect cheerful art children can enjoy for years. These parents chose folk art as a companion for their daughter's neutral bedding.


A baby's belongings grow exponentially, so storage space is always at a premium. Closets, floor space, and wall space can all be used very efficiently, thanks to the boom in storage devices and planning services. Most of the items mentioned here can be found at specialty storage shops, home centers, and large discount outlets.

Closets

Chances are, your nursery closet was designed for an adult's clothes and has one long pole hanging about five feet above the floor, with perhaps one shelf above that. Whether you do it yourself or hire a closet-organizing service (look under Closet Accessories in the yellow pages), you can make the space work more efficiently for your baby.

Early on you will need only one small pole for hanging clothes, and then only if you have a little girl with dresses. The pole's height should be adjustable, so that once your child is old enough to put clothes on a hanger (two to three years) she can reach to put them away herself.

Install shelves or sliding wire drawers on glider tracks below or next to the pole. Hang a clear shoe-storage bag over the back of the closet door for shoes, socks, hats, and other small items that are easily lost.

Save some space in the closet to store clothes, equipment, or toys that the child has outgrown (if you are saving them for another baby) as well as the clothes he has yet to grow into. Also, keep a large, clear plastic bin in the closet for toys that you "rotate" off the shelves in your baby's room every month or so; when you bring them back out, they'll shine like new again.

Shelves and bookcases

Bookcases, though one of the most practical furniture items a parent can invest in, are seldom sold as part of nursery furniture sets -- yet another reason to shop at adult or unfinished furniture stores. The longer you intend to keep the shelves, the more durable you'll want them, and the more you may have to pay. Solid hardwood will hold up better in the long run than less expensive laminates or veneers.

As with dressers, if floor space is at a minimum, go for height (and be sure to anchor the bookcase to the wall). You'll want easily adjustable shelves, as toys and books range and change in size over the years. A 12- to 14-inch depth will accommodate most toys and books, yet is not so deep that things get lost.

Built-in shelving allows you to maximize space from floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall. Modular units -- combinations of shelves, cupboards, and drawers -- are often available in a wide enough range of sizes to offer the look and function of built-ins at a fraction of the cost and with much more flexibility. They are sold at many value-oriented furniture stores.

While closed cupboards may keep clutter out of sight, they make it harder for a toddler to see, get out, and put away his toys easily. Open baskets, bins, or clear shoe- or sweater-storage boxes on low shelves are easy to find and actually make maintaining order easier. Label containers with a picture of their contents to make them even more child-legible.

On the walls

Wall space can provide another dimension to your storage solutions. In addition to being practical, a variety of wall shelves, peg racks, and display cupboards add a decorative element. Small, high shelves are ideal for displaying framed photos, and glass-fronted display cupboards are a dust-free way to show off precious collectibles and mementos. Peg racks can be purchased everywhere from hardware outlet stores to baby-furniture boutiques, depending on whether you want plain and practical or cute and decorative. Use them to hang sweaters, bonnets, and christening gowns, or to hang drawstring bags full of toys.

Toy chests

While many parents-to-be think a toy chest is a nursery essential, this notion is mostly nostalgia. In fact, toy chests are more like toy "black holes": They are deep and big, and encourage disorder. They are great, however, for storing baby blankets or linens.

An important safety note: Heirloom toy chests and chests not designed for children's use can actually be hazardous, as the lids can slam down on fingers (and heads) and can entrap children. As you evaluate toy chests, look for ventilation holes, lids that are free of latches, and hinges that are spring-loaded to support the lid open in any position. Corner risers that create a finger space between the lid and the box are also recommended.

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