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The Perfect BeginningThe nursery is where you nurture, engage and soothe your baby, but because it must accomplish all these tasks simultaneously, planning and building one can be a challenge. It should be a calm place that’s dark enough for naps but also does double duty as a bright and colorful place for creativity and learning once naptime is over. Most important, it should be a healthy environment that’s free of potentially harmful substances.

Parents sometimes start with overambitious plans and then feel overwhelmed midproject. Take your time, do your homework and proceed with a plan. Then the real excitement will begin.

Getting Started

Set up an inspiration board—a corkboard or a folder that holds pictures of rooms you like and images that inspire you. Account for even the most obvious choices, such as a dresser, a crib, a changing station, a comfortable chair for nursing and reading stories, and storage space.

Draw a floor plan and take all necessary measurements, making sure your final design is conducive to movement, play and growth. Once the baby comes, you’ll be hard-pressed to do much more than catch up on sleep, and you’ll want every waking (and bleary-eyed) moment to be spent cherishing your child, not worrying about an inefficient room setup.

Choose a Style

A nursery is a great place to be a little more whimsical or creative in your choices than usual. Think about the room’s overall aesthetic. Theme inspirations can come from a collection of miniature vintage cars, a book character or a scene from nature.

Bear in mind that a soothing color on the nursery walls will allow you to change the look of the room over time with different drawings, furniture and fabrics. But happy colors always have their place and purpose. A glowing sunset-orange play area or a chalkboard paint wall can not only instill creativity in little ones but also provide them with great memories later on—after all, who doesn’t remember their very first room?

The Green Way

Your first move towards creating a healthy nursery is limiting the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the room. These chemicals, which are used in paints, furniture and cleaning agents, release fumes that have been declared toxic. Strive to use as many natural elements as possible.

  • Consider natural latex mattresses, which contain no formaldehyde, petroleum or PVC.
  • Choose natural floor coverings—hard surfaces like bamboo, cork or other FSC-certified woods with water-based finishes, wool and natural fiber carpet (www.ecorug.com). Or if you must use conventional carpet, look for the “Green Label Plus” certification.
  • Use no-VOC or natural paint such as Milk Paint.
  • Opt for wooden and cloth toys over plastic to eliminate exposure to hormone-disrupting pthalates and potential off-gassing (the release of toxic fumes) from plastic.
  • Install natural window coverings (bamboo blinds, for example). Cloth curtains can house allergens and indoor pollutants.
  • Minimize furniture off gassing. Choose formaldehyde-free furniture or reuse older pieces, such as utilizing an antique dresser as a changing table.
  • Use all natural cleaning brands, such as Seventh Generation and Method, which make eco- and baby-friendly products.
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