It’s never too early to cultivate a sense of style, though whether a baby’s introduction to furniture and ambience has any permanent imprinting effect remains to be seen.
Retailers certainly have raised the bar in recent years with the offerings for nursery and toddler furniture. Safety, of course, remains at the top of the list. Just five years ago, for example, important changes were made to crib design with the outlawing of drop sides.
Some will argue that buying a crib or children’s furniture these days has more to do with parents’ styles and sensibilities. Those who like a continuity or design flow in their homes will also opt for similar quality and styles in children’s furnishings. It is a category that has taken off, and retailers like RH Baby & Child (Restoration Hardware) and PB Kids (Pottery Barn) offer pieces that appeal aesthetically to their core customer. Specialty retailers like the Land of Nod and Galt Baby (www.galtbaby.com), which bills itself as “a modern baby lifestyle shop,” further the choices.
When it comes to outfitting the rest of a nursery or child’s room, often with an eye to growing in the space, there are plenty of options for going the traditional route, retro or thoroughly modern, with dressers, storage and desks. Add to that the expansive choices for fun wallcoverings and bedding — well beyond licensed characters — and a child’s room can be fun, colorful, engaging and inspirational.
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“In the past few years, I’ve seen nursery design elevate to a high level of chic,” says Betsy Burnham, a Los Angeles designer. “Clients are asking for better quality furnishings, rugs, lighting — even artwork — for their little ones, and we’re having a lot of fun with creative design details.”
Manufacturers have recognized a hole in the marketplace — especially at the high end.
“There’s no longer the idea of ‘Let’s just make do with my sisters’ crib,’ or ‘Let’s do the nursery last.’ … The nursery (and child’s room) is just as hip and cool as the rest of the house.”
Increased demand for better style and quality has led exactly to those goods. It’s not difficult to find either high-end or well-constructed furniture in a choice of woods and finishes that are analogous to those in the prime real estate of a home.
And with that, there has been an uptick in prices, as the upgrades are not designed to be throwaway or destined for resale. At Nursery Works, whose clients include celebrities like Beyonce and Jay Z as well as Gwyneth Paltrow, price tags are not for the faint of heart. Some cribs cost as much as $7,500.
To that point, cribs, for example, are designed to last longer than the first few months of a baby’s life. Many can be converted to toddler beds, and some even transition into adult-sized daybeds.
There are cribs fit for princesses and princes, highly carved in provincial styles or even accented with 24-karat-gold plating, or acrylic cribs that are sheer or smoky. There are simple, modern silhouettes in playful colors.
One New York-based gallery, Kinder Modern, specializes in curated vintage children’s designs from the 20th century — with pieces from modernists like Alvar Aalto and Hans Wegner. Designers approach with an eye to intriguing form, color and needed function.
Lauren Larson and Christian Lopez Swafford of Material Lust like to think of their pieces as creating “subconscious heirlooms by injecting high design into the minds of growing children.”
“I actually don’t believe in toddler beds,” says Burnham. “I don’t design for the moment. I go from crib to bed. And larger pieces of furniture may need to change. But as the child gets older, you can change fabrics at the window or art on the walls. Get a rug. Get more sophisticated accessories.”
Even finishes have been expanded — from natural maples and whites to a range of colors and even “weathered” looks and grays.
“We are definitely going lighter, if not white,” says Burnham. “We like driftwood finishes and gray painted pieces. Ivories with taupes for a luxury baby vibe or white plus color. If a couple’s taste is dark or black, we might transition to something taupe. There may be a mid-century eclectic vibe. But no matter what the style, everything will be on a par.”
Burnham feels that traditional palettes of pink and blue have moved into brighter, bolder hues — just not necessarily primary color combinations.
Betsy Burnham Design, 323-857-1854, www.burnhamdesign.com
Farrow & Ball, 888-511-1121, us.farrow-ball.com
Kinder Modern, 917-979-2723, www.kindermodern.com
Notte Fatata, 786-332-4104, www.nottefatata.com
Nursery Works, 323-728-8988, www.nurseryworks.net
The Land of Nod, 800-933-9904, www.landofnod.com
PB Kids, 800-993-4923. www.pbkids.com
RH Baby & Child (Restoration Hardware), 800-910-9836, www.rhbabyandchild.com
Smartstuff Furniture for Kids, www.smartstufffurniture.com
Stokke Home, 888-299-9092, www.stokke.com