Creating the room for a first baby should be a pleasurable experience. You have a reasonable amount of advance warning, and, as yet, relatively few family distractions.
Many parents will redecorate a child’s room at least three times before their offspring is 16 — for the newborn, toddler and teen life stages — says DIY retailer B&Q, and the average is four times, with some indulgent parents boasting five kids-room revamps, at a relatively modest cost of £168 a pop.
The cot and bedding
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot, Moses basket or crib in a room with you. Get more vital safety information from the Lullaby Trust at lullabytrust.org.uk (free parents’ helpline on 0808 8026869), which has changed its name from the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths.
Aim for a room temperature of 16-20C and have light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag. A room thermometer costs £3 (inc p&p) from the Lullaby Trust. Make sure the mattress fits the cot with no dangerous gaps. Read about different types of cot mattress at cotmattress.com. Go to capt.org.uk for more safety info from the Child Accident Prevention Trust.
Reputable cot brands should conform to British and European safety standards, but it’s wise to check, particularly with older “pre-loved” cots/baby furniture —watch out for loose bars and peeling paint or transfers. Most new cots have variable mattress heights, to ease bending, and drop-down sides, but check you find the mechanisms easy to use.
A cot that grows into a bed takes up a little more space and budget, but will last until a child is around five years old, when they could go straight into an adult bed. See a good selection at roomtogrow.co.uk
Blinds are cheap and easy to fit into or on the outside of the window recess by screwing the brackets either into the wall or ceiling. Many can be cut down to size. Note that strings, loops and cords are very dangerous and must be kept safely out of children’s reach. Follow safety rules set out by the British Blind and Shutter Association in its Make it Safe campaign (bbsa.org.uk).
It’s best to buy blinds without cords or that have concealed cords or an in-built safety device. Move cots, beds and any furniture away from windows and blinds — remember, children love to climb.
Blackout blinds may still allow light in at the edges, so add curtains for total darkness. John Lewis sells pencil-pleat blackout lined curtains from £60-£85. Hillarys (0800 916 6516) will visit and advise, measure and install blinds and curtains. Find temporary removable blackout panels for £27.50 at gltc.co.uk
Walls and floors
Hard floors are not kind to young bodies. Consider fitted carpet, which also keeps out draughts. John Lewis offers free measuring and estimates and suggests Mohawk Comfort Twist, in 20 colours, with built-in stain resistance, at £29 a square metre. Or add rugs to wooden floors. A sheepskin is ideal and can be moved downstairs — try whitecloud.co.uk — as can a large playmat.
Painted boards in white or cream are a quick and cheap nursery fix but check for splinters. You may want a cute wallpaper but be prepared to paint it out later. Removable stickers can be added to a painted wall, while posters and prints for babies are appealing and look special framed.
Fit a dimmer switch, using a registered, competent electrician. A night light is also good — animal shapes are cute. London’s SKK, now in NW5, has the widest selection (eg rabbits in six colours, £69). Call 020 7434 4095 (skk.net). Miffy is a favourite classic at £109, at lazybones.com. Some lights throw intriguing shadows on the wall, or phase through different colours.
Check all electrical connections/shades/plug-in appliances are safe, particularly with second-hand lamps. You can have an Electrical Condition Report on equipment at a local electrical store. Ideally, have a periodic whole-house safety check (consult esc.org.uk).
You need a robust, good-size surface at a comfortable height to change your baby. Ikea does a changing table for £20 that fits on top of a £125 chest of drawers. A sturdy cot-top changer can save space but check it is easy to remove. Where will you store it? Storage drawers are useful under cots.
A comfy chair is a must for feeding and companionship. If space and budget allow, many parents choose a full size divan. Tot-scale storage is soon outgrown, so it’s best to have full-size cupboards or racks from the start, with lots of compartments. Fabric or wicker bins with handles are cheap and portable. However, a little later, your child will love their own tables and chairs. Try Ikea and John Lewis.
At the top end, Dragons of Walton Street helped design Princes William and Harry’s nurseries. Their hand-painted furniture with, for example, Beatrix Potter characters or Flower Fairies, is pricey but the pieces will become heirlooms. Visit dragonsofwaltonstreet.com.
You’ll need an efficient, reliable and preferably quiet washing machine. The extra outlay for Which’s best brand, Miele, is well worthwhile. A microwave is good for sterilising baby food, while a light, quiet vacuum cleaner that removes allergens could be a boon.