How to Design a Nursery on a Budget

by: Rachel Sokol
Babies are expensive even before they arrive. Preparing your baby's nursery shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. Two New York-based interior designers share their advice for creating a beautiful budget-friendly nursery for your little bundle of joy.
Modern interior of child's room with animal pictures

There are so many beautiful baby items out there you can use to decorate your little one’s first bedroom. From gorgeous, sheer-like curtains, to shag rugs, to plush rockers with slipcovers—decorating a baby’s room is an activity parents can cherish, especially as mom cruises into the “nesting phase” of her pregnancy.

However, all these baby accessories and wall décor items can add up and become pricey. One trip to Buy Buy Baby often results in spending way more money than you intended. (Although we do love their coupons!) Not to mention the cost of baby food, diapers, wipes, stroller, car seat, clothing, bottles…babies don’t come cheap. (Let’s not even think about those hospital bills piling up on your kitchen table…)

More: 5 Sweet Gender-Neutral Nursery Themes

Two New York-based interior designers share their advice for creating a beautiful but budget-friendly bedroom for your bundle of joy. Here are their top tips:

Decorate the walls with decals

Wallpaper is so 70s … but it’s making something of a comeback. “Decals are a great way to customize a room on a budget and are much more affordable than wallpaper,” says Jeffrey Mark of international design firm J. Mark Interiors, Inc. with locations in Long Island, NY and Israel. Westchester, NY-based designer Briana D. Tortoso of Budget Beautification likes wall decals sold on Etsy.com, Wallpops.com, Wayfair and Allposters.com. “They’re all very affordable places to look.”

Baby girl room with white rocking horse and play tent

Accept and embrace hand-me-downs

Not everything needs to be so ‘new.’ Work with the hand-me-downs you have. “We’ve definitely had clients that have inherited furniture from their family that either look looks dingy and old – or just outdated – and we’ve been able to spruce it up with some fresh paint,” says Mark. He once had a client that got mismatched pieces from a tag sale “everything for a few bucks,” including an old dresser and different pieces, in all different styles too. “We had everything spray painted white—a bright, shiny white so it all became very clean and cool-looking and also kept it unisex.” The client was so happy, Mark recalls, that they would be able to use this furniture for the long term. “We used nontoxic shiny white lacquer type paint with a technique similar to painting a car to make it look very clean and brand new.” Mark’s team used neutral colors and showed the fam how to stripe the room with taping techniques for a high-end modern vibe – “it was great and they really loved it.”

Maximize your small space

According to Tortoso, if your baby’s nursery is small, the first thing to consider is wall color. “You can very easily and inexpensively paint the room a light color to have it appear bigger.” In addition, add a mirror; this opens up the appearance of the room. Also, consider buying baby a rounded crib, as opposed to a traditional one. They’re not always cheap, but are gorgeous family heirlooms you can pass down from generation to generation. “Round cribs can go into different areas of the room more so than rectangular ones. You could also put a round crib center of room if needed!”

round white baby bed with gray pillows and plush rabbit

Opt for unique lighting

According to Mark, lighting is very important in the nursery as well. It’s a great way to be creative without burning a hole in your wallet. “We’ve done some very cool things with that, for a boy we once used a basketball hoop and dropped a light in it—it was very interesting and very inexpensive. For a girl’s room, we had a floral metal basket that we removed the handle from; we turned it upside down and illuminated it. It cost almost nothing to do.” Recycle, upcycle, go DIY. You’ll be surprised what everyday items you can turn into a lamp.

Think outside the ‘box’

If you’re pretty handy and into DIY, think about baby bedroom accessories you can make yourself. “You can create a canopy over a newborn’s crib using a hula hoop,” says Mark. “We once gathered some fabric around the hoop and then tied it back to create a canopy effect—it’s a very luxurious look with just some tulle and an everyday hula hoop.”

Stylish and happy baby room in marine style

Stick to the basics

Remind yourself the baby is just that—a baby. She won’t be ‘mad’ at you if her furniture isn’t some name brand. She won’t even remember what her first bedroom looked like. No need to splurge on extras baby probably doesn’t need, and quite frankly, neither do you. Stick with the basics. “I’d get a mini convertible crib from Bed, Bath & Beyond, Wayfair.com, or Target. Ebay is also great for cribs because babies do grow out of them fast. (Just make sure the crib meets safety standards). “A crib, dresser and a glider is all you need; add wall shelves for additional storage.” Don’t get us wrong, a 5ft giant stuffed panda is cute, but does baby really need one?

Baby nursery room design with green rug, blue walls and orange chair

Become a coupon master

Know where to look for great deals and don’t forget that coupons are your friend. Tortoso says to look for coupons and codes at RetailMeNot.com for the larger stores such as Ikea, Target, and Buy Buy Baby. “I love Zulily.com’s online Home section--great deals!” There’s also Weepea.com, which sells gently used furniture, gear, and toys.

More: 4 Parents Who Gave Their Kids the Room of Their Dreams

Scour social media

You’re already posting baby pics on there, so may as well join a local moms Facebook group and see what people are selling. “Local Facebook groups are also a great resource,” says Tortoso. If you’re looking for something very specific, such as a certain Wayfair.com crib, ask in the group if someone has one they’re willing to sell you at a discount. You never know whose child is moving into a toddler bed soon or when someone is moving away and selling off their furniture.

Keep colors in nursery simple and practical

“I did a baby boy nursery on a budget of $650-700 max,” says Tortoso. “I got a white slipcover for the rocking chair, to give it a whole new look for $100. I bought blackout panels for windows because you can find them very inexpensively; they were navy and white striped for $50.” She added a used crib and dresser from Sweetpea.com for $350 and spray painted the dresser light gray. (The non-toxic paint spray was just $10.) She added a changing pad topper for $20, switched out the knobs on dresser to a navy checkered knob she found on ebay for 35.00. “Finally, I found fun gray star bedding from Zulily for $50 and matched them with a navy rug with white border/trim from Rugsusa.com for $100.”

If you’re seeking inspiration, Tortoso recommends Pinterest. "Pinterest is great for inspiration pics. Often I ask clients for inspirations and Pinterest is where they come from. Sometimes I can also show examples of what I am thinking of from there. Pinterest has great “solutions.” Just run a search for “Budget Nursery” or “Baby’s Room Budget” and tons of wallet-friendly ideas will pop-up.

For more ideas and tips on how to prepare for your new baby, check out our Baby on the Way! Pinterest board: