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  • artfullyalissa

Creating a cozy & functional gender neutral nursery in your one bedroom apartment

It's hard to believe that I'm well into my third trimester, and I have to say, I am in full on 'nesting mode' before our baby arrives! While I typically focus more on entertaining, DIY and food & beverage tips, tricks and content, I couldn't pass up sharing such an exciting life update such as growing our family.

And, truthfully, with the crazy world of social media by no means am I an expert or would ever want to publish pregnancy or baby related content that's misleading, too personal or just inaccurate. So, instead I go right to the source with my doctor (ignoring social media and Google!) which I highly recommend doing with all the chatter that happens in the world and I found a more natural way for how I can share my own experience with our cozy and functional nursery corner!

Besides, home design is right up my alley and despite living in a one bedroom apartment, we were able to create such a special, magical and safe space to raise our baby in for the first few months of life. As some back story, George and I didn't know I was pregnant until a month or two after we renewed our lease and honestly, that's the way life goes sometimes! No matter how much you can plan for and despite trying to navigate the housing market, we decided saving and living in our apartment for another year was the best plan for us. Then, the surprise of a lifetime happened and we couldn't be happier or more excited for this next chapter.

Plus, despite being a tiny apartment, I wish there were more influencers or content creators that shared their practical houses or living accommodations vs. how creators with large mansions, beautiful houses, curated nurseries, and what seems to be endless budgets are shown or prioritized through Instagram. Yes, I love seeing their creativity and the 'goal' of what someday people can achieve, but sometimes, and for most in our day and age, it's not the reality we live in.

So, with all that in mind, I'm truly thrilled to share how our little space turned out for baby munchkin! Sharing tips from picking a theme to organization and how to configure a functional space.

Melissa & Doug Giraffe in baby nursery

Deep clean before you start

Before we even ordered or put together the nursery area, George and I spent several weekends deep cleaning our apartment and bedroom. We spent hours cleaning the carpet (which I find gross) in our apartment, organizing, and doing a deep clean so it was easier for us to get the baby items in order.

  1. Go through clothes and donate anything unused, old or just doesn't fit your style!

  2. Clean rugs are happy rugs! If you have floor to floor carpet, rent a rug cleaner from Home Depot - you'd be surprised how much dirt and grime is harbored over the years especially if your building complex hasn't replaced it for you.

  3. Clean closest and under the bed for items you don't need, and find storage solutions like bins, a metro rack, etc.

  4. Wash your mattress pad and find out how to clean your comforter.

  5. Vacuum, dust, wash walls and windows. Make sure to clean everything like wiping down base boards, dusting, etc. While I clean every week this way, once your organization is done, make sure to keep up with these tasks so it doesn't accumulate.

gender neutral jungle nursery setup

Picking a theme

Since we don't know if the baby is a boy or girl (we wanted to keep it a surprise) we wanted to make it as gender neutral as possible but also whimsical! The animal theme started with our adorable Melissa and Doug Giant Giraffe - we just loved its sweetness and George surprised me with it after I started the second trimester. From there, our animal theme took off!

So, needless to say, select a theme or color combination that speaks to you and even goes with the space you live in. Our bedroom has blue, gold and brown hues so for us adding in shades of green and white was a natural fit. You also don't have to be so literal with a theme, you can find complementing elements and color coordinated items that tie everything together. While I didn't start with Pinterest, sometimes the platform is helpful to get a sense of the aesthetic you are looking for followed by searches online for items that speak to you.

For example, with the giraffe, I started then to look into safari or jungle items and kept finding beautiful wallpaper, storage bins and decorative accents that were tying the theme together. So keep in mind:

  1. What are the primary colors of your bedroom and what will complement baby's items? If you know the baby gender, find accents to weave in like soft pastels or even stuffed animals.

  2. Pick a theme but make it subtle - it doesn't have to be over the top but can have nods to it.

  3. If you do move or find a bigger place down the road, think through items you'd want to then transfer into the baby's nursery that can grow with them as they get older.

Cuddle+Kind sustainable stuffed animals for baby

Stick to the furinature basics and functional setup

Truthfully, despite the desire for a lot of nursery furniture, you really just need the basics - a safe and certified place for baby to sleep, a changing area, rocker or place to feed baby and clothing/toy storage. And, aside from the bassinet or crib that you'll want new to ensure it's up-to-date on safety codes, you can find a lot of the other elements on Facebook Market Place, a local consignment store or even leveraging family or friends who have extra furniture or can keep an eye out for people giving things away.

For all the baby's items, we used the back wall of our bedroom to set up and organize everything. The bassinet will likely move closer to my side of the bed when baby is here, but for now, it's functional and organized. When setting up your space, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Source items ahead of time. While this may seem obvious, start to think though how you want your space to look and what you'll need, because ordering from a store or even hopping around to your favorite antique places doesn't happen over night.

  2. Find or clean an area in your bedroom that will be best for your baby items. Don't be afraid to move furniture around so the configuration works for your lifestyle.

  3. Try to keep your items together vs. the baby items together so it's easier when you need to move baby from the crib to changing table in the middle of the night to change diapers. Close in proximity will help navigation, so think through the routine you'll have and how to best accommodate it.

We were also very lucky my parents saved my sister and my beautiful changing table that has great shelving for storage as well as our rocking chair! While I'll share more in the organization section, we added natural bins from Home Goods to store changing and bathing essentials.

As for the dresser to store baby's clothes, we ended up moving my dresser to our closet to make space for the baby's - and I'm so glad we did. We have have one functional walk in closet that is a closet really for the whole apartment (with holiday/extra dish storage via a metro rack, clothes, shoes, etc) and while crowded, the dresser fit snug and was an excuse for me to go through my clothes to donate anything unwanted. Plus, I was able to hang a new antique mirror and it's a beautiful antique dresser my aunt's neighbor was giving away - so like I said, make sure to tap your resources or even look to see if your town has a "Everything Free" page, as you'd be surprised at what people are willing to giveaway!

Lastly, the one piece of furniture we did purchase was the Pottery Barn Kids Harlow Bassinet. I fell in love with the vintage-inspired piece and knew it would be practical for the first few months the baby is here until we move and purchase a larger crib (which will be around the time we need to transition to a crib anyway!).

Nursery inspiration for gender neutral setup

Organization is KEY

Bins and baskets will be your best friend. I used a lot of baskets from Home Goods to store things like books and toys, diapers, baby necessities and stuffed animals but purposefully chose neutral colors that went with our existing room furniture but could also be used in a future room. Given how reasonably priced everything was, it's also fun to find one or two themed basket shapes! I was coveting this elephant one from Pottery Barn and someone in my hometown was giving it away, so I was so excited to bring it home.

When organizing, make each basket or bin have a purpose - and organize by each item category. For instance, all your diaper changing items should be together to easily navigate while all your books in a separate basket.

As for the baby's dresser, I ordered bins on Amazon to keep the clothes, hats, swaddles and more organized. With baby clothes so small and also varying sizes, we used different drawers and bins for each different size.

baby clothes organization for nursery

Incorporate soft, whimsical elements

*Please note, for photo purposes I added the blankets and stuffed animals to the basinet, however, they will be removed to make it safe for the baby when they are born.*

Aside from organizing, my favorite part was finding sweet elements that tied our theme and room together. While I already shared the giraffe and adorable Pottery Barn Kids elephant basket, we also added items like a jungle themed mobile and framed wallpaper to bring the aesthetic to life.

For the wallpaper, someday my dream is to have our child's room with beautiful molding and wallpaper, but until then I found this adorable (and customizable color) Hand Drawn Safari Animals pattern on Etsy! WestCoastWalls made it so easy from ordering a sample to picking the color I wanted and fast shipping, plus they had beautiful textures to choose from. After measuring and ordering the amount I needed, I ordered two gold frames from Amazon that tied together the other gold framed accents we have in our room. Framing wallpaper or patterns is a unique way to stay away from mass-produced artwork and find something that is truly unique to your theme.

Other whimsical elements we included were gorgeous cuddle+kind stuffed animals we received as a gift. Not only are their animals soft and there are so many to choose from, each doll is handmade by women artisans in Peru, providing them with sustainable, fair trade income. And, since 2015 each purchase has helped provide over 29 million meals to children in need.

Tips for setting up a baby corner in a one bedroom apartment
Pottery Barn Kids elephant storage basket

Ask for help!

We truly couldn't have set everything up without the help of our parents! I knew because we had very limited space at our apartment that I didn't want a shower or to be overwhelmed by gifts or items we didn't have space for just yet. So, instead, George and I asked for our parents to come up for a day after all our items arrived (and before the holiday excitement) to set up the baby nursery area, move furniture and organize.

It was one of my favorite days because we spent it together, and everyone was excited to have a part in making this a beautiful and cozy place to bring our baby home to. My dad is the master at building furniture and hanging things, so while he and George handled that, my mom, mother-in-law and I organized the baby items in the changing table / toy baskets and the dresser.

Net net don't be afraid to ask close friends or family for help 'nesting'! Make it a nesting party, as you'd be surprised at how willing everyone is to help! After one day, everything was ready.

baby bassinet setup
gender neutral baby nursery


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