Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baby T: The Nursery

Yesterday's post can be seen as a bit of a downer to say the least. Today, let's lighten things up a bit by talking about one of the happier elements of planning for a new baby: Designing the nursery.

When our daughters were babies, we were just teenagers struggling to figure out how to keep them alive. Designing a nursery wasn't a concern. The best lesson we learned from that experience? You don't need all the stuff you think you need. In fact, most of that stuff will either be destroyed or taking up valuable space by the end of Baby's first 3 years. I wish I was kidding.

With this in mind, Abe & I have chosen two themes for our nursery, but plan to keep it pretty simple. Our themes: Art by Chris Sanders (emphasis on "Lilo & Stitch" with a bit of "How to Train Your Dragon" for good measure) and Steampunk. At least no one can accuse us of being traditional.

Nursery Planning Objective 1: Identify Your Space

Only 3 of the bedrooms in our home are upstairs. We don't want our pre-teens to be in the basement, so they're going to be sharing a room. We are extremely lucky that these girls are best friends and have been asking us to let them share a room for the past couple of years. When asked which room they wanted, they chose Zoe's room. That leaves us taking Jaime's room (which is the better choice for a nursery, anyway) for the baby.

First we have to move Jaime out. Because the rest of this pregnancy will be during the school year, we will be using school breaks to our advantage. When Fall break comes, we'll be moving Jaime & Zoey out of their bedrooms and into the living room for the weekend. This gives them the chance to go through all their stuff and decide what they want to keep in their new room while we rip out the wallpaper and paint their room. So far, they seem to like the blue colors I've been looking at for the nursery, so we'll very likely paint both rooms the same color at the same time. When the paint has dried, we'll move the girls back into their new room just in time for school. This gives us November, December, January, and February to prepare the rest of the nursery for Baby's arrival in March.

In the meantime, Jaime needs to start figuring out what she'll be donating to charity and what needs to find a new home in the garbage can.


It's a zoo. The first item on the agenda is to get her to voluntarily choose items to get rid of. She knows that her new room won't have space for everything, so this shouldn't be too hard. We've spent the past month or so eliminating about a third of her wardrobe. The concept of downsizing her possessions is not new to her. While she sorts through and eliminates at least 25% of what currently lives in her room, I will be going through all of the stickers and art on her walls with my Nikon D5000. I intend to photograph everything that can't easily be moved or saved. I will then take these photos and have them printed in a small book for her. This should take away some of the sting of having her doodles & things taken down or painted over.

While we're on that subject... Do any of you have great suggestions on how to remove stickers from walls without damaging the walls? I'd love to hear them!

Nursery Planning Objective 2: Keep it Simple

My father was a history teacher and a collector of antiquities. Most of his favorites were furniture. In the past, we have found unique ways to incorporate these pieces into our decor. For example, we have an old ice box in our basement that works as a kitchen island for our roommate. My mother restored an antique buffet that had been passed down through my father's family. This buffet now serves as a dresser and TV stand in our master bedroom. These pieces of furniture will always have a place in our home. A cheap changing table, however, will not. Our last changing table was a disaster. It was such a complete disaster that by the time we had our second baby, we were using the top of a rubbermaid tote as a changing table instead of actually using our changing table.

This time around we agreed that we want to avoid spending a lot of money on temporary furniture - things we don't really need. Instead of acquiring a brand new changing table, we'll be moving the antique buffet from our bedroom into the nursery. We will use the storage space in the buffet for diapers, wipes, etc, and putting a changing table topper on top of the flat serving space. Voila: No need for a new piece of furniture that we would need to discard or sell later. 

Glider rockers are nice and, appropriately, have a rather hefty price tag. We have two beautiful antique rockers that can be used in the nursery instead. No, they're probably not equipped with the latest in anti-finger-pinching technology, but they've yet to kill anyone and the money saved can go toward baby proofing more hazardous things, like electrical outlets and kitchen cabinets.

Bassinets are among the most overrated baby items I have ever encountered. Why? Because your baby will not be using them for more than a couple of months. After those first few months, that cute little bassinet unleashes it's potential as an accident waiting to happen. A mobile baby can get out of that thing and tip it over FAST. Rather than spend a fortune on a bassinet, we found a handmade wooden cradle in great condition at a local antique shop for just $30! Normally, we would have skipped the bassinet all together, but since this pregnancy is high risk and I have no option other than a C-Section, I want a bassinet or cradle that I can put beside my bed for those first few weeks when I'm still healing. This antique shop find needs a little care (some Old English and a new pad/sheet - both of which I intend to make myself), but after everything is said and done, I'm fairly certain I can sell it for more than I paid for it.

This is what the cradle looked like when we found it in the antique shop. Here's our secret for getting items like this at the right price: Gamble. Be willing to let the piece go and find another. Trust me, there will almost always be another. When I first saw this piece, it was $65 marked down from $80. It was in a tiny corner of the store and was being used as a display for various toys (see photo). At the time, I was only a few weeks pregnant and wasn't ready to commit to anything because of my past miscarriages. I didn't want to have to look at that cradle if this pregnancy didn't work out. I also knew what many people who frequent consignment & antique shops know: If it's dropped in price once, it will likely drop in price again. Sure enough, I brought Abe into the shop just as we were entering the second trimester and it was still there... and the price was down to a very reasonable $30.

If you're local to northern Utah, I highly recommend the little shop where we found this piece. It's called Abode and it can be found at 1720 S. 900 E. in Sugarhouse. It is a very small shop and the aisles are crowded with items, but if you have the patience and the drive, you can find some real treasures here. We found a great old black military steamer trunk for $60 here a couple of years ago and we've been hooked on the place ever since. My husband's favorite find from Abode was an $8 Carrom board that just needed a little love.

Tip for saving a lot of money down the line: If there's any chance that you may have another child, consider keeping the nursery gender neutral. Our nursery will be a dark blue with grey and white accents. Though it may appear to be masculine, we can dress it up to suit either a boy or a girl. This also allows us to plan for the nursery before our next ultrasound. 

Nursery Planning Objective 3: Make it Unique

This does not have to be a bank-buster. I wanted to fully embrace our themes without spending too much money. The Disney Store's website is currently selling a beautiful Stitch Giclee starting at $120. Let me be clear about this: I love art and I love investing in art. I do not believe that Disney is asking too much for this piece. I do, however, feel that it's too much for me to spend for a single piece of wall art in a nursery. My response was to try to find something I could love just as much as the giclee for a fraction of the cost. I went to eBay and searched "Lilo & Stitch Lithograph". As a long time art collector, I've learned that lithographs are often widely available and affordable. Sure enough, with a little work, I managed to secure a set of 4 "Lilo & Stitch" lithos in a cute little folder (which will be nice to store Baby's immunization records, social security card, birth certificate, and passport) for less than $20 including the shipping! For another $20, I commissioned artist and voice actor Sonny Strait to sketch a steampunk version of Stitch for our baby's room:

(Yes, I know the image is at an angle and my thumb is in the middle of it. Part of keeping it unique is ensuring that it hasn't been plastered all over the internet to be copied before Baby is even born. Maybe it's selfish, but I paid for it and I want it to be for my baby.)

Sonny is a friend. He travels the anime convention circuit and has been a guest at some of the conventions that Abe & I have worked. Abe & I run panels and events at anime and video gaming conventions and we've been lucky enough to befriend several voice actors. Sonny is one of the nicest. He often allows fans to commission custom sketches for affordable rates on Friday nights via his Facebook page.

Until Chris Sanders' official website shop starts offering more than just adorable coffee mugs, I'll continue watching his DeviantArt page and considering which prints I want to order directly from there. In the meantime, I'll let myself feel that warm glow of pride that comes from knowing that instead of spending $120 on one piece of wall art for the nursery, I spent $40 and got 5 pieces, including one that nobody else has or will ever have.

As we get further along with the nursery, I'll post updates. Stay tuned!

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