DIY on a Dime : Baby Nursery on the Cheap

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A couple months ago, my wife came downstairs as I was making my morning tea, with a wide smile on her face. “I’m pregnant!” she said. “Really?” I asked. We had been trying for about three months, and she has a sense of humor. But she wasn’t joking – the second line was showing on the stick. “Fantastic!” I said. Outwardly, though, I felt a bit of dread – how were we going to make a nice nursery on a high school teacher’s salary and whatever I could make freelancing? Ah, the plight of the expecting millennial couple. Luckily, we have some DIY experience, especially in decorating, and making used items look like new isn’t terribly hard. Let’s take a whirlwind tour of our nearly ready nursery, and how you can do the same without losing out on your fun money.

I don’t have an actual ‘before’ photo, but just imagine it was an empty room except for some boxes and my wife’s hunting shotgun sitting in the middle of the floor.  

I’ve put together a store-bought crib and changing station, and repainted the cubbies and dollhouse to match. We’re going with a color theme of coral, which will be apparent soon. Let’s look at the decorative (but mostly functional) projects I have lined up.

1. It’s a seat! It’s a toy! It’s a monster!

I was a newspaper reporter for a few years just after college. The pay wasn’t great, and the common sentiment that newspapers don’t have money these days was certainly true for us. But, needing to wear a button-down shirt for court on a regular basis, and not having money for many shirts, I had to make them last. That meant learning to sew to repair the shirts.

I want to use those sewing skills to make a stuffed Loch Ness monster. It’s cute and my soon-to-be-born daughter will probably fall in love with it, but for me, it’s about value. The toy can also act as a seat, meaning I don’t have to buy another chair. Plus, look at that thing – it’s adorable, and that’s coming from a cynical, jaded piece of work who covered murder trials with a straight face.

Full sewing instructions here

2. Foxy Lamp!

The next project is a stuffed fox lamp, because I firmly believe my daughter should be surrounded by cute things. This is a bit more complicated than the pure sewing skills needed for Nessie. I’ve never worked with fabric stiffener, but it can’t be that hard. Throw in some LED lights and call it a day. An aside, LED bulbs are ideal for a nursery as they don’t get hot. What I’m trying to say is, not only will my daughter not burn her hands, she also won’t accidentally burn the house down.

Full Instructions here

3 . Going mobile

My wife just finished making an ombre butterfly mobile. It took a trip to three stores to find a punch that would work; the first punch failed to punch through the paper, and we weren’t going to try free-hand cutting butterflies because that would probably lead to yelling and frustration. I’ll let the photo speak for itself for how it turned out.

It’s a fairly easy process – get a wreath hanger, and tie some fishing line to the hanger. Cut two butterflies, glue on either side of the line. Cap the lines with fake pearl halves glued together. Randomly insert gold butterflies. Hang it from the ceiling.

The near-finished mobile. We also changed the crib sheets to match.

Full Instructions here

4. My wife really likes animals, OK?!

One of my wife’s favorite animals is the giraffe, so I present giraffe art on wood. While I’m good at woodworking, my wife has actual artistic talent. She’ll be doing the painting. My part’s easy: a few planks, some nails, some sawtooth hangers. A few nails in the wall. Hang it up, laugh at how easy it was.

Full Instructions here


6. Repurposing the old

My wife and I are huge book nerds, so our daughter probably will be, too. My wife also lugged her old dollhouse with us when we moved. We’ve used it as a bookcase before, but it doesn’t exactly fit the aesthetic of the room. So, we repainted it white to match the crib.


And after the dollhouse was painted.

If we didn’t have said dollhouse, it wouldn’t be too hard to make. The hardest part would be rounding off the edges to protect a kid from doing too much damage to themselves, and all you need for that is some sand paper (or, ideally, a belt sander, but let’s not get too crazy here).

On the subject of repurposing, a friend who lives nearby offered some used metal lockers he had in his garage. Slapping a coat of coral paint on them will be the perfect functional burst of color in the room. He’ll have those ready for pickup in the next couple of weeks.

6. And making new…curtains

Our cat loves using curtains to sharpen her claws, so rather than buying something expensive, I’m going to make them myself. To prevent cats and babies from ripping up or down the curtains, I’m going with suspender curtains. I can pull them up and button them, letting sunlight in while keeping them away from tiny creatures. On the topic of windows, I eventually want to upgrade to a triple-pane window. It’s expensive, but it’s an investment that will help with energy and heat efficiency in the room. Given that last year, Idaho had Snowmageddon with the most snowfall since the 1880s, while having multiple days in the summer over 110, the expensive window will offset heating and cooling costs.


7. Making sure my daughter doesn’t kill herself

There’s one step left to the whole nursery ordeal, which isn’t even really the nursery itself. The nursery is at the top of stairs, so I have to ensure the stairs are safe for kamikaze tiny humans. If my daughter is anything like her parents, she’ll be out of the crib in no time at all. Mostly, that means getting a gate for the stairs.

My dad once built a gate meant to keep the dog downstairs, so I figure I can use the same ideas. It’s essentially two sections, with a notched bar to adjust the width of the gate, pushing against the corner bannister and wall. I can even use it to gate the door, keeping the kid in while still being able to see into the room.

Meanwhile, I’m also turning my attention to getting the right car seat (safety, if you can’t tell, is pretty big in our household) and helping to plan a baby shower. One of my wife’s bridesmaids got us a nice car seat, but it only fits infants. I thought all car seats were convertible, so don’t make our mistake – it means spending more money on another car seat, which should at least fit the stroller.

Making this nursery and planning everything else for when our daughter becomes a juggling act – and I’m starting to feel the time crunch. In the meantime, at least our cat has a new place to nap.

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

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