Monday, May 11, 2009

How to get a designer nursery look on a DIY budget

In this week’s baby bargainista column, you’re in for a treat as Rebecca Atkinson shares how she and her husband decorated the nursery.

One of the first things my husband and I thought about when we found out I was pregnant, was space. We had a room in the house which could be converted to a nursery, but it meant getting rid of our prized Foosball table, and also creating a new linen closet somewhere else if we wanted the baby to have somewhere to put her clothes.

After convincing hubby that we couldn’t just put the crib on top of the Foosball table (much like the old ping pong/billiards combos), the nursery renovation launched a giant project of our bedroom to create more storage so baby Atkinson could have her closet. We were forced to redo two rooms simultaneously, meaning our nursery budget shrank considerably.

Being big fans of the show Sarah’s House, and having recently watched the nursery episode we decided we wanted to recreate something similar (complete with two-colours and the alphabet on the wall), but on a DIY budget.

First stop was Michaels craft store, where I fell in love. I’m not normally a very crafty person, but it is full of so many cool things to get your creative juices flowing. First thing we looked for were letters. We found several options, but went with styrofoam ultimately because it was half the price ($1.50 per letter) of the same sized wooden letters.

We got very lucky with this project as my husband’s aunt was coming into town for a few days and she is one of the most creative people I know. We immediately asked her to come help show us the light so she gets a lot of credit for this post too.

Back at Michaels, we filled up our cart with several things: acrylic paint (because we learned this would go a long way, be easy to clean up and have virtually no fumes, meaning I could paint letters to my heart’s content). We also found the cutest vinyl wall art of safari animals which would be easy to remove without ruining the paint, should we decide to change the room down the road.

Having already found a bedding deal at Pottery Barn the colour scheme for the room was pretty much chosen for us; yellow and green. We then decided to add orange and light-blue accents. Although we’ve been told we’re having a girl, we also know you never know until the baby comes out. So we opted to still go as neutral as possible without making it gender specific – just in case.

As we were showing my husband’s aunt everything, she declared we’d found a theme – Alphabet Safari. This prompted Mark‘s next brilliant find, alphabet flash cards using animals. With all the fun stuff bought, it was off to buy the room paint and material for the plate rails so we could get started on this project.

We were excited to be able to recreate the designer’s look for less and to be able to say we did all of it ourselves (with help from said Aunt). Overall with paint and supplies (tape, brushes etc), we spent less than $350 on decorating (not including window coverings, furniture, shelving or accessories). You can see the finished look in my Flickr album and read our lessons learned below for some additional tips.

My next post I’ll tell you how we saved more money by reusing several pieces of hand-me-down furniture and updating them.

Lessons learned:
1. A trip through Wal-Mart later showed us many of the same items we picked up at Michaels for less (especially for paint and brushes), so when the budget is tight, make time to look around before buying everything at one store
2. If using Styrofoam, gently sand the letters as it will heanlp the paint stick better, and get rid of the cast lines.
3. Buying primed (MDF) which we did for the plate rails, doesn’t cost much more, but saves you a whole lot of time and fuss. And use a combination of industrial glue and nails to keep it on the wall. It’s also a lot cheaper than “real” wood options
4. Wallpaper paste can be used for so much more than wallpaper – and a little definitely goes a long way. It’s also not expensive and cleans up easily with water, too.
5. Allow plenty of drying time between coats – especially for letters; drying times suggested on paint are just that and depend on a whole lot of factors (including humidity).

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Love the look you've created for the nursery! I think I might need to hire you for a consultation as I'm the most uncrafty person. (REally, I once hot glue-gunned my fingers together).

    I'm sure your babe will be very comfortable in the new room!

  2. Thanks Kathryn, I'm really impressed it turned out. I never used to be crafty and I still can't cut a straight line if my line depended on it :)

  3. The room looks awesome!! Baby Atkinson is a very lucky girl -- or boy. :)

  4. Rebecca and Mark, the room looks amazing. Wish I had known you when our kids were born. I hired someone to paint a mural on my first-born's wall. It looked great but baby Atkinson's room looks just as professional and you have the satisfaction of knowing you've done it yourselves.

    If you're still up to DIY decorating before the little one arrives, I have a house that needs some work. ;-)

  5. Thanks guys. We've been slowly working our way through each room of our house (and outside) for the last four years. Some projects haven't turned out nearly as nice; but I guess we're finally getting the hang of things.

    Plus we did have some help... I have a few more things we've just done to show in other posts - like how to make your own customized lightswitch plates for less than $5 :)

  6. Thanks Kathryn, I'm really impressed it turned out.
    Thank you.

  7. My friend and I have been talking about designing a nursery for his niece and this would help him so much! Thanks a lot. And I love the elephant and trees. Cutie pies <3

  8. Thanks Jae! I'm glad you liked it. It really is fun once you get started. If you think back to when you were 5 and use your imagination, there's a world of possibilities out there. For us I think that's what was the best, we felt like kids again just exploring all the possibilities!

  9. This blog is very nice.Looking for billiards accessories? Arctic home living offers quality Brunswick billiards equipment and accessories in Alaska, Anchorage and Fairbanks.


Thanks for visiting my blog. Your feedback is important to me. I read every single comment and do my best to reply.

Note: Anonymous comments and spam will be deleted.