Nursery Design Trends, Advice from Celebrity Designer Kenneth Brown
- Home Decor Drives Nursery Decor
- A Room that will Last and Grow
- A Comfortable “Mini Apartment”
- Interesting, Personalized Artwork
The other day, I had a great conversation about nursery decor and design with acclaimed designer and southern gentleman Kenneth Brown. The host of HGTV’s reDesign, new dad Kenneth spends plenty of time in his own baby daughter Harper’s nursery.
Kenneth’s clientele for his celebrated Los Angeles design firm, Kenneth Brown, is a Who’s Who of LA and Hollywood. Kenneth designs nurseries for celebrities like soccer star Mia Hamm, her husband, Oakland A’s first baseman Nomar Garciaparra and their twin baby girls.
This year, Kenneth also launched Kenneth Brown Baby, his signature collection of nursery bedding and accessories for Babies”R”Us.
We talked about the current direction of nursery design and Kenneth gave his advice for how parents can create a special environment for baby that functions well for baby and parents alike.
Q: Kenneth, what are the current trends you are seeing in nursery design?
A: We’re seeing a lot more use of home decor colors instead of the typical nursery colors. Very rarely do people want to do the pastel blues, the pinks and yellows. They’re leaning much more towards warmer colors: The richer blues, the olive greens, the deeper pinks, and the plum colors, purple, brown. They’re what I call the greyed-down colors, more toned down, more richness to the color.
Parents want the nursery to feel more like the rest of the house as opposed to the room that stands out. The warm rich colors are still very popular in the rest of the house: The khakis, the browns. Grey has been really big and present in a lot of home decor especially in the fabrics and furniture worlds.
The dark woods are still very popular for flooring and for the furniture. The nursery crib in a dark espresso finish is still probably the number one crib. When I was growing up, that was never heard of, it was always the white crib or the cream or the baby blue colored crib.
Another thing. We’re leaning a lot further away from anything that’s heavily character driven. While characters are cute and fun to decorate with, the whole character theme room is becoming a thing of the past. Parents are looking for more interesting artwork, that maybe isn’t exactly perfectly matched, that looks more like it’s collected over years, not a “pop-up” nursery.
Q: Is that what you’d advise your clients, to consider making the nursery more match their house?
A: It’s actually more of a directive from them as well. They are all looking for a way to personalize the nursery so it doesn’t look like a theme park, so it feels more personal to their home. Until recently, people have been spending more on the nursery. I think that’s driven by so many people waiting to become parents when they’re a little older and have a bit more income. We’re seeing a lot more custom work in the nursery.
Q: What other advice do you have for parents who are beginning to design their baby’s nursery?
A: You have to plan to live in that nursery because you are going to spend A LOT of time there. I always say floor space is so valuable in a nursery because it’s where you end up lying down, playing with your baby, doing “tummy time,” having a little area where they crawl.
It also needs to be comfortable for you; you need to have a very comfortable chair.
The furniture plan is different than what I would normally tell my clients for the rest of the house. In most rooms of the house I like to center the furniture in the middle of the room and let it float off the walls.
In nurseries it’s a little opposite. You want to maximize your floor space by putting the furniture against the walls and leaving a bigger space in the middle for a comfortable area rug to play on and lie down on, for reading, for sitting down and having your dinner while you watch the baby sleep.
The nursery becomes almost like its own “mini apartment” when you have a new one.
A: They are still emotionally driven to do it and do it sweet. I find they are not registering for as many pieces. It’s like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask for that (pricey) thing.” They’re very conscious of not asking for too much.
The flip side of that is they are being very conscious of doing a room that will grow with their kids, so that it can easily transition from infant to toddler to tween. It’s like they know they are investing in long-term real estate. Do it now because it’s easier than the mess of building some wall shelves while the kid’s living in the room.
It plays into the whole core theme of the nursery where it’s cute and sweet, but with a couple little changes here and there it becomes the toddler room then the tween room so you not wasting the additional expense.
Parents are being very price conscious, very aware that if they are going to pick a paint color for the walls that it’s going to be a color they know the kids can grow with, maybe even into the late teenage years.
It’s interesting. When I was developing my line for Babies”R”Us, I found a lot of people always get a matching wallpaper border. But the parents I talked with said that a wallpaper border always feels so permanent. So I came out with wall decals that you can just put on and take off instead. You’re able to very inexpensively create the look of a wallpaper border with the decals and yet so not permanent. You can always change up the decals.
Q: Where would you say parents should spend more money, where can they save?
A: I would say you can save your money when it comes to your flooring or your area rug. I suggest working with the carpet store and having a remnant bound for you. Spills happen, accidents happen. You don’t want to feel bad about having to replace that. Even if you have new carpet, it’s a good idea to protect it with an area rug.
I always say that you want to spend money on storage. You re always going to need that no matter how old a kid is. It’s a great opportunity if you can afford to do built-in storage wall shelves with a place to fit baskets and books.
Dedicate at least half a wall in the nursery for storage. That doesn’t include clothes or diaper storage. Just for all toys and gifts. You’re going to get a ton of gifts and what the storage does is it keeps all of that from overflowing into the living and dining rooms.
You’ll feel like your life is organized even though you haven’t slept for three days.
Q: Kenneth, you just talked about this a bit. How can we best plan organization into the room?
I am a fan of storage within storage. Think about what kind of storage can fit on the shelves so that you can keep some sort of organization. When Harper was really little, I liked anything with a handle on it because the other hand was already full with her. There are a lot of great baskets with little handles. I used one for books, one for toys. At the end of the day I used one of the baskets for all the toys she’d played with. I’d grab it, bring it to the kitchen and wash them.
I saw a really clever idea lately where they incorporated a mural of a tree with branches that were actually the shelves.
Q: What are some of the coolest artwork ideas you’ve seen lately for nurseries?
I personally built my daughter Harper’s nursery around a vintage piece of art that I found in Palm springs. It had nothing to do with the overall look of the room that I wanted except for the fact it started off the color palette that I wanted.
People are using big canvas art to fill walls and vintage posters. Wall art always looked the same for babies, but now it’s about thinking about the whole tone of the decor. It’s like the ABC’s 123’s but it’s in vintage tones.
For Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra’s baby girls, we were looking for the right artwork for their play area. We found some really cool little stretched canvases on art.com that were letters with little animals, but they were very modern and had fun colors. We lined them up around the room; it created this linear design of 1’x 1′ canvasses of all these animal heads with the letters.
People also like stretched canvases that have the pattern of the fabric. It’s not art that has to be nursery art.
In the continuation of this article, Kenneth Brown gives parents advice about the best nursery materials and finishes and about eco-friendly design. He shares a great designer tip to help babies better enjoy their space and tells us a bit about his exciting plans and designs for his new Babies”R”Us collection….
Q: What are some of the best materials and finishes to use in a young child’s room?
Anything that you can Windex. It’s a double-edged sword because some of the easiest surfaces to clean are also some of the most toxic finishes. I always start with the paint. A lot of companies have come out with great products with low VOC; that’s the most important thing. Many have the scrubbable finishes which are nice.
I’d love to say that wool rugs are great in a nursery. I had a nightmare experience with my wool rug in Harper’s nursery and I had to return it. What happens with wool is it starts peeling, or “shedding” over time and I noticed she was putting it in her mouth. It was a major choking hazard.
Do a loop pile rug instead of a cut pile. It’ll last you longer, you won’t have that shedding. It’s less of a choking hazard.
For the walls, be sure that the bottom third is easy to clean. like vinyl wallpaper. You’ve got to be sure the first three feet up form the floor are “bulletproof” easy to clean but at the same time not toxic.
Q: How can parents accomplish more eco-friendly decorating?
It is huge right now. You’ve got to do your research. Just because something has that stamp on it doesn’t mean it’s actually eco-friendly. Fabrics for example, if it’s in your budget and you can use organic fabrics, great. Same thing with paint, look to be sure it doesn’t have off-gassing.
Everything is trying to be green because it’s trendy. Parents need to think smart, like ‘Is it’s something I can get made or done locally?‘ It’s the bigger picture of being environmentally friendly as well as raising your child in an environment that is healthy.
Q: What professional designer tip you can share to help parents with creating their baby’s room?
The one thing that I always focus on is not only think about floors and walls but also what’s on the ceiling. Your baby stares at it the first five to six months of their life. So I always tell people to unscrew the lightbulb on the ceiling, and to work more with lamps so it’s not this harsh lighting on your baby when you turn it on. Also consider painting the ceiling a color like a blue, green or yellow to complement the room, so it has a more soothing look to it.
The ceiling is often the most ignored. Sometimes it’s good for parents to lie on the floor and say ‘What is my baby going to see and what can I do to make that special?’
Q: Tell us about your baby bedding line for Babies”R”Us:
I have three current patterns I introduced at the beginning of the year. I am working on eight new patterns that are going to take the design of the nursery further beyond what you’ve seen ever before.
It will be re-launching and at a different price point, a little higher. It’s going to be fabrics that are more like home decor fabrics. We’re working on some fabulous embellishing techniques like great embroidery, 3-D leaves; it’s going to be just magical. I’m so excited.
Babies”R”Us wanted me to step out of the traditional nursery box and do something completely different and new. I just presented them with the new collection in New York the other day and they absolutely loved it.
I expect the new collection to be available at Babies”R”Us around January/February of next year.
Author’s Note 1/11/11: I thought you’d all enjoy seeing the photos below, that reader Anya sent to us. Anya’s daughter’s nursery is her “take on Kenneth Brown’s design for our little girl’s nursery.” Thanks to Kenneth for helping us point her to the same fanciful butterflies.
Anya’s baby is a lucky little girl – don’t you think?