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Baby Makes Three

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Jan 20, 2011

The arrival of a new baby signals a fresh start and the opportunity to celebrate with excitement and exuberance. But it’s important to balance the needs of a tiny little human with thoughts of the future.
Baby Makes Three

I’ve always been a proponent of taking a long view towards nursery decor and of trying to avoid the urge to festoon the room in cutesy motifs – decorations that will soon feel outdated or juvenile for the room of a rapidly growing child. Instead of embracing all things adorable in nursery decor, I try to branch out and create a collection of fun yet flexible pieces that will stand the test of time.

The Save

We’re told that newborns only see black and white and that stimulating their brain development with bold patterns is important. Why not make an artistic statement while embracing the early development of your baby? Take a trip to your local bookstore or stationery shop and see what you can find to frame up. How about a fabulous set of flash cards depicting all your favourite animals in bold black and white? At less than $3 each, I couldn’t pass them up. They’re easy to finish in custom or ready-made frames, and add an immediate hit of bold contrast.

The Splurge

I can’t resist the opportunity to make the most of every surface and every element of an existing space. When thinking about a baby’s room, I found myself occupied with thoughts of staring at the ceiling, which morphed into imagining how to apply the principle of “blue-sky” thinking to this room. Before long, my musings of clouds drifting along in a bright blue sky had transformed into a plan that involved applying bold blue and white paisley wallpaper to the ceiling of this little guy’s room. Why not think of your ceiling as the fifth wall, and make it a feature instead of a non-starter? And if you’re still wondering why, I can explain it this way – if you put a traditional paisley pattern on the walls, I think the effect would be busy and formal and very traditional in feel. But, if you take a traditional element and apply it or use it in an unexpected way, it takes on a more fun, contemporary feel.

Baby Makes Three

The Signature Sarah

I’m all for re-imagining just about anything and feel that you shouldn’t be limited to selecting furniture that fits the exact description of what you “need.” Many elements of nursery decor are simple short-lived necessities as opposed to long-term staples. Take the change table, for example. If all goes well in the world of potty training, you’ll only use this piece of furniture for a couple of years. Instead of wasting dollars on what’s soon destined to become a dinosaur in your home, why not branch out and select something that provides a more flexible solution? I found a solid oak server for under $150 that offered the ideal solution for a change table (for now), and will be a useful piece elsewhere in the home (for later). If you’re thinking of trying a similar solution, just be sure to check that the top of the piece of furniture will accommodate the size of a change pad and you’ll be off to the races in your own re-imagining revitalization.

Link The Eye Line

If you’re pondering pattern on the ceiling, be sure to create a visual connection that helps focus your sightline at eye level. By dressing the window in a strong blue and white geometric pattern, we were able to seamlessly connect the window to the ceiling and create interest at eye level.

Don’t Be Too Serious

Even if you’re trying to decorate for the long haul, remember that kids’ rooms need to fun and playful. Look to inexpensive fabrics and patterns to add a sense of whimsy. My sidekick, Tommy Smythe, is a devotee of ball fringe, so we invested a grand total of less than $30 to edge our fun and funky drapes with a band of black ball fringe. I know this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it makes me smile every time I see it. I encourage you to find the elements and embellishments that make you smile when you walk into a room, and then have some fun!

Baby Makes Three

Get Over The Glider

It seems that a glider or baby rocker is considered a must have. I have a pre-disposition to react against anything that I’m told I must use, and immediately want to find a better solution. The reality is that there will be late nights, early mornings, not enough sleep, and lots of nursing with a newborn. BUT there’s no rule that says you need to be chained to a decoratively uninspired piece of furniture during all these sleep-deprived days. Trust me on this one (I did the rocker for Baby 1 and never used it for Baby 2). If you can find a groovy chair that’s easy to get in and out of (so you don’t wake the dozing baby), with a high back (so you can rest your head), you’re golden. During my quest for an alternative solution I happened to find one that rocks AND swivels AND is covered in punchy orange felt, all for under $500.

Say It With Stripes

Even if you’d never consider embracing my idea of applying paisley punch to your ceiling, you might want to wake up your walls with some sporty stripes. Start by extracting a collection of colours that appear in one of your key fabrics, and then match them to paint chips and buy a quart of each. Use painter’s masking tape to mark wide bands in varying widths along the length of the wall. Don’t make the stripes too narrow as they will accentuate any unevenness in your taping job. Use a small roller or brush and you’ll have a dramatically dynamic wall of stripes in no time. Note: do try to enlist the help of a friend as it’s much easier to wrangle long lengths of tape if someone is on the opposite end to keep it stuck to the wall instead of you!

Baby Makes Three

Look To Dad’s Closet For Inspiration

I’m a tactile person, and am known for my need to touch and feel anything that I’m considering using in every room. Your home isn’t just filled with decorative objects that look good. Your nest should be feathered with elements that feel good, especially if they’re coming in contact with newborn skin. Shirting cotton that is commonly used for men’s dress shirts is some of the finest, smoothest fabric I’ve ever touched. It’s also reasonably priced at $12 a yard and under for silky-feeling, 100 per cent cotton, so why not take Dad’s shirt fabric and turn it into baby’s bedding? You’ll only need a few yards to create custom pillows, sheets and duvet covers, and your baby will have the best nest to inspire deep sleeps!


Wallpaper, fabric on bench cushion, fabric on chair pillow – Thibaut Fabrics & Wallpaper, www.thibautdesign.com | Crib, mattress, chair, storage benches, pillows, cowhide ottoman, sheepskin throw, accessories – Ikea, www.ikea.ca | Pendant lights, black storage stool – Snob, www.snobstuff.com | Animal flash cards, bookends – Indigo, www.chapters.indigo.ca | Flash-card framing of flash cards – Elgin Picture & Frame, www.elginpictureandframe.com | George Nelson clock – Quasi Modo, www.quasimodomodern.com | Toy car, books – Ella & Elliot, www.ellaandelliot.com | Baby boots, stuffed animals – Baby on the Hip, www.babyonthehip.ca | Blue storage bins – Moms to be…and more, www.momstobeandmore.com | Floor lamp, table lamp, dice – L'Atelier 416.966.0200 | Mobile – Art Gallery of Ontario, www.ago.net | Drapery fabric, bedding, drapery hardware – Designer Fabrics, www.designerfabrics.ca | Throw blankets, ceramic penguins – Elte, www.elte.com | Sewing of bedding – Dreams Bed, Bath & Home Decor, 416-596-8489 | Dresser – Arcadia Antiques, www.arcadiaantiques.ca | Spraying of dresser – Benjamen Furniture Refinishing, 416-745-2559Lacquer for spraying of dresser – Pro Glo Design Centre, www.torontopaintstore.com | Vintage glass dish – Eclectisaurus, www.eclectisaurus.com | Change table – Elegant Garage Sale, 416-322-9744 | Knobs on drawers, wall hooks – Anthropologie, www.anthropologie.com | Mirror – Union Lighting & Furnishings, www.unionlightingandfurnishings.com | Blue vase – Morba, www.morba.ca | Chalkboard paint – Tilano, www.tilano.net | Paint colours:Sarah Richardson Designer Palette for Para Paint. www.para.comwww.sarahpaint.com. Crib, change table, benches: Convertible SR55; main walls: Oxford SR61; medium blue stripe: Convertible SR55; light blue stripe: Fanfare P5159-34; beige stripe: Cashmere SR13; trim: Snowfall SR29; darkest blue stripe: Beyond the Sea P5155-73; dresser: Carved Pumpkin P5069-85.

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