How To: Set Up A Nursery In A Small Apartment

Q. Hi Jordan,

My husband and I are expecting a little one soon, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for creating a nursery. 

We live in New York City, where (as you know) having an actual separate room for baby is hard to come by. We’re lucky enough to have a big bedroom, so we’re rearranged it to feel (kind of) like two separate spaces. Any advice on how to make things modern, eclectic, kind of funky, all while meshing with the adult space?

(Our walls are currently cobalt blue, FYI.)


A. Before we get started, two things: 1) When I was pregnant, I spent a decent amount of time freaking out about whether we would be able to fit our newborn and all of his stuff into our apartment (which the three of us lived in – along with two excitable dogs – for a good nine months after he was born), and 2) I am so excited to be able to tell you that I could have easily skipped the whole “freaking out” thing, because it is totally doable. While the truth is that our apartment definitely got to feel a little too small once our son started crawling, in those early months bringing a newborn into a small apartment is no big deal…so long as you look for creative ways to maximize your space.

Our apartment was sorrrrrt of a two-bedroom, but the “second bedroom” was actually “a wide-ish section of the hallway.” There was no door between our bedroom and the nursery, so in essence we were sleeping in the same room as our son. Complicating matters further, our nursery area also doubled as a home office, so it was important to us that the nursery feel like a distinct space but also blend well with the look of our home.

Here’s how we set up the nursery in our old apartment (if you’d like to see more before-and-after shots of the room makeover, click here).

(Product info here.)

If I can give you one big tip before you start shopping: create an inspiration board. I know, it feels sort of silly…but it can be incredibly helpful in terms of letting you mix and match and see how the pieces you’ve chosen will look together. You don’t have to get crazy with this: a few pages torn out of magazines and color swatches are totally sufficient.

Above is an inspiration board I came up with for you, featuring your cobalt walls and a grey and white nursery (with splashes of yellow to add interest).

– Separate out the “nursery” using an area rug (just go for something that’s easy-to-clean, because there is a very good chance that you will have the occasional changing table-related disaster).

– Go for a clean, contemporary look so that the style of the nursery blends with the style of your bedroom. Layered whites and creams are always pretty, and you can add in splashes of color to mix things up.

– Choose pieces that pull double-duty. The crib pictured above, by Oeuf, comes with a changing station that attaches to the top rails, eliminating the need for a separate changing table.

– Don’t go overboard with the buying: A newborn needs about one-eighteenth of the things that stores will tell you that they need when you’re putting together a registry.

– Go for space-saving styles: Instead of a bassinet, we chose a “snuggle nest” (the mint-green matress-y thing pictured above) that went right in our bed in between us. And rather than a large swing, we went for the Fisher Price Luv U Zoo SpaceSaver seat – as a bonus, this seat both swings and vibrates, so you don’t have to guess which your baby will prefer before he or she is even born.

– Get creative with storage: Pick up baskets that fit under the crib to store things like towels and blankets. Stash toys and books in pretty storage cubes that easily blend with your decor style, and pick up a diaper caddy to organize your wipes, lotions, and diapers.

– Install shelving units and decorative wall boxes to display mementos; these let you show off books, toys, and photos without taking up floor space.

One note on sleeping: while this arrangement comes with its challenges – our son is a light sleeper, so he didn’t sleep through the night until the day that we moved and were able to put him in a room with a door – there are definitely ways to work around them. Consider picking up a noise machine to help mask the sounds of you and your husband puttering around when the baby is asleep (we used a free website called and loved it).

Good luck, have fun, and congratulations!



powered by chloédigital