Any new parent will tell you it’s almost impossible not to go overboard on shopping when you’re having a baby. But curb the chaos! Between all the registry items, the hand-me-downs from friends, and the must-haves your mother-in-law keeps insisting you take, your nursery can start to look awfully crowded for such a tiny little person.
If you’re worried about your newborn starting life in decluttering mode, consider taking a page from Scandinavian design. Like the minimalist rooms staged in IKEA stores, parents in Nordic countries focus on practicality and functionality when they set up the nursery for their new arrivals.
In other words, only keep what you’ll actually use, and style it so it can transition as your babe grows.
That doesn’t mean you’ll give up personality, though. In fact, you can create a nursery that’s Nordic chic with only a few choice pieces of artwork and furniture. Here’s how to do it.
What is Scandinavian nursery design, anyway?
Before planning your Nordic-chic baby room, it’s a good idea to understand a bit about Scandi-style and how it’s applied to kids’ rooms in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Instead of the bright colors and bins of toys you often see in American nurseries, Scandinavian parents focus on neutral colors, natural elements, and minimal furniture.
“Scandinavian style is, or at least looks, effortless, and the minimalistic approach also stretches to nurseries,” explains Lotta Lundaas, a Swedish furniture designer and the CEO and founder of Norse Interiors in New York. “Both furniture and decor are sparse, and the color palette is dominated by neutral colors, with calm muted tones of white, gray, pale green, and pink. These colors blend well with natural wood, which you often see in a Scandinavian nursery.”
And even though you might only envision a nursery in use for a few years, practical Scandinavian parents think long-term when it comes to design, adds Anki Spets, another Swedish-born designer at AREA in New York City.
“The main principle of Scandinavian design is functionality. This means practicality first: Don’t buy things that will not last,” she says. “Especially important when planning for children is that they grow fast, and ideally, the furniture should grow with them. Simple designs in good materials will last, and if chosen wisely, can, with small updates, work into teenage years.”
Thinking long-term goes for the colors of the nursery, too.
“Natural light is important, and paint or wallpaper can be used on one accent wall, keeping the rest white or neutral,” Spets says.
Add minimalist furniture that does double duty
You guessed it: When it comes to nursery furniture, Scandinavian parents again choose functional over fun. Even though Lundaas lives in New York now, she took that Nordic mindset with her when designing her son’s nursery.
“For me, the two core pieces of furniture for a nursery are a crib and changing table, and I’ve chosen ones that have storage underneath, where I keep clothes, diapers, creams, and all other things you need for a baby,” she says. “As a new mom living in New York, storage is crucial. That’s also a trademark of Nordic design: Form and function go together, to create an efficient way of living.”
It’s essential that the crib be able to transition from a crib to a toddler bed, Spets adds. Then she’d throw in a stylized bookshelf with a “few select items,” a dresser, and a few lamps with dimmers.
That’s really all you’ll need, Lundaas believes.
“But if there’s space, an updated version of a rocking chair is a great addition for nursing or rocking a crying baby to sleep,” she adds.
What to buy:
- Oeuf natural unfinished sparrow crib, $720, or Babyletto Mercer 3-in-1 convertible crib, $380
- IKEA POANG rocking chair, $219
Add some Nordic personality
Even though it’s a nursery, fight the urge to go crazy on the “kid-friendly” décor, Lundaas says.
“Even if a nursery is for a baby, it doesn’t need to include clowns, cars, and dolls,” she says. “Geometric prints can be playful while sticking to the Scandinavian, simple lines aesthetics. Right now, I’m obsessed with stars, which are gender-neutral and not too childish.”
The lighting you choose can also fit in with your décor and make the room look cozy (or hygge, as the Danes say).
“IKEA has a line of white night lights that create a warm yellow light in the shapes of clouds and different animals,” she says. “My son loves the owl, which is stylish and affordable at $17.”
As for art, Spets suggests simple prints. “Look for framed posters or other clean graphic art in colors that can be exchanged with age or interest,” she says.
And to tie it all together, both Lundaas and Spets agree: A sheepskin throw or cozy sheepskin rug is the Scandi touch that will tie the room together. Plus, they’re functional.
“A cozy carpet is a must, both from a design perspective, but also because it’s great for tummy time,” Lundaas says. “To prepare for the winter, I’m adding a faux sheepskin to the nursery, which is good protection for drafty windows and practical to put in the stroller when we go out. It’s also typical Nordic chic!”
What to buy: