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PLANNING THE NURSERY

Phase One

There are two common scenarios when it comes to Baby’s room: The first involves turning a guest room or home office into Baby’s room and the second is adapting an area in an existing room because space is at a premium. Let’s start with the first one. I’d like you to go into that room now and have a seat. Be sure you have your baby journal with you, as we need to do some planning.

AVOID COMMON INDOOR CONTAMINANTS

Mattress and Box Springs

Petroleum by-products have found their way into the manufacture of these products. The typical mattress and box spring are soaked in some combination of fire-retardant chemicals, formaldehyde, and other toxic glues, stains, and coatings. These chemicals can release carcinogenic gases. If you don’t have an air purifier, order your baby’s mattress well in advance and let it air out before she ever comes in contact with it.
 
Rugs and Carpets

The issue here is simple: Do you get a wool carpet or rug or do you go with synthetic? Natural wool absorbs chemicals, while synthetic fibers will contribute to the chemicals in the room. Wool, unlike synthetic fibers, rapidly absorbs common contaminants in indoor air like formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Not only does wool keep the air free of many harmful pollutants, it will not re-emit them, even when heated.
Carpets (and rugs) also absorb something else: sound. This is a benefit to consider if you live in an apartment and have crotchety neighbors right under your designated nursery or if you live in a home and a sibling lives downstairs. Noise is after all another form of pollution, isn’t it?
 
Paint
As noted above, you want to purchase paint with low or no VOCs. There is, however, an additional consideration: When was your home built? If it was built prior to 1978, there may be lead paint somewhere in the house, even if it’s below several layers of newer latex paint. This is a concern because the paint can chip (particularly in areas like on windowsills), creating dust, and if the dust is ingested or breathed in, it can pose a danger to your baby’s health and development. But don’t panic! This is a very common situation and the health department for your city or your state will have guidelines for safely removing or painting over lead paint.
The low- or no-VOC paints are also good for the environment, as they are not designated as hazardous waste. (You should contact your local sanitation department to find out how to correctly dispose of all chemical products used in your home. You may not simply dump them in your regular trash!) These new and improved paint products also reduce ozone-depleting contaminants. Your choice may cost a bit more but you have the solace of benefiting the planet as well as your new baby. And yes the coverage is just as good as the less-expensive VOC-producing versions and just as easy to keep clean.
 
Wood Floors

The 411 on wood flooring is that it’s safe and doesn’t off-gas. Of course nothing in life is easy so you still have to be a Sherlock Holmes wannabe when you shop. Why? Because the adhesives used during installation might contain formaldehyde and VOCs! You need to shop with a reputable retailer you trust and request formaldehyde-free adhesives and finishes. These are water-based, are solvent-free, and do not off-gas. As you might expect, they are a bit more expensive but worth it in the long run.
If the room is currently a guest room:
 
If the room is now used as a guest room, are you going to divide the room in half, move the guest bed to another area, or donate the guest bed and use a futon when you have visitors? An inflatable bed works well unless of course your visitors are elderly and can’t sleep that close to the ground.
 
If the bed or any other furniture needs to be removed, what are you going to do with it? Common options include donating it to charity or someone you know; selling it through a service like Craigslist or your local consignment shop; putting an ad on Freecycle so someone will pick it up; or putting it out on the street (be sure you call your sanitation service so the items don’t languish on your sidewalk!).
 
Take a second look before you eighty-six any furniture: Could you paint something and use it for the baby? For example, let’s say you have an old dresser from your childhood home. You could paint it a lovely pastel color and use the top as a changing table.
 
If you have a garage, is there any room to store some pieces you are attached to and wish to use later?
 
With my clients, I’ve found that losing a guest room, a craft room, a workout area, or any other type of nonessential room tends not to be so hard. The difficulty arises if you are transforming a home office into the nursery and need to find new spaces for your office-related pieces. Clearly, if you work from home or run a business, you can’t share the space with a baby. Just as he falls asleep, you’ll be answering the phone and dealing with clients. It sounds like a scene from a Will Ferrell comedy, doesn’t it? If this room has been where you came to pay bills and run the business of family life, you can find ways to set up a work zone elsewhere.
 
If the room is currently a home office:
 
Are there any pieces of office equipment that you don’t really use? Pack them away for now, or sell them or donate them as is appropriate.
 
If your family room or living rooms are large enough, you may be able to create a work corner. Do you have hardwood floors? You are in luck, as you can use an area rug to mark off the office zone. If you can’t use an area rug and you like to entertain in this room, you can always use a decorative screen to keep the room’s functions separate.
 
No matter how many files we create, we usually use only a few on a daily basis. The decorative file box is best if you are going to be using a public room. Put a lamp or a decorative vase on it and no one will suspect its true purpose.
 
The last place to commandeer for your office is your bedroom. That room really is for rest, sleep, and fun. Introducing a computer and the energy of work invites you to wake up in the middle of the night to check e-mail. If this solution is the only one, use the trick of the area rug or screen. Your assignment is to decide what stays and what goes. Make calls and be sure everything that is scheduled to leave has a pick-up date. If a relative says they want something but can’t come for months to retrieve it, apologize profusely, but you need the space now. Don’t hesitate to donate the item to local women’s shelter or thrift store instead. If furniture has to be moved to other parts of your home, call in some burly guy friends to assist your spouse. Don’t try any heroics! You aren’t to do any heavy lifting.
After the room has been rearranged or emptied, return with your journal and let’s make some notes.
 
Phase Two
Now the room should feel very different. The energy of its former identity is giving way to something new. One day soon you won’t remember it as anything but a nursery! Let’s take a minute to examine the room.
 
Does the room need to be painted? Or are you going with wallpaper? You and your spouse should schedule a time to shop of course, but never underestimate the value of perusing magazines and online sites for inspiration. If you have some direction, the stores will be less overwhelming.
 
Before you make any final decisions, bring home paint chips and fabric swatches. Your paint store should have small cans of your favorites. Put a few patches of color on the wall. How does the light at different times of day play on the colors?
 
What about the floor? Do you need new carpet? Perhaps you have a hardwood floor that needs to be polished? Or did you want to use a few area rugs to make activity zones in the room? Rugs make it so easy to demarcate space.
 
How will you dress the window?
 
Is there a closet? Will you share with Baby or is this his territory?
 
Does the room have its own bathroom? If not, is one close by?
 
What is the light source in the room? Do you need lamps? They certainly create more ambience than overhead lighting.
 
Does the room have enough electrical outlets ? If you bring in an electrician to add a few, be sure she adds a light to the closet if it needs one.

WHEN BABY MAKES FOUR

If your first child is about to be asked to share her room, even if she is very young, you may find out it isn’t the most popular idea, unless you adequately prepare her. Think how you would feel if I marched into your bedroom and started rearranging your personal items and furniture because you had to share the space. Wouldn’t it be nicer if I talked to you first, invited you into the process, and perhaps even asked for your input? A friend of mine had her second child when her first was three years old. Throughout her entire pregnancy she and her husband told their daughter that the role of a big sister was an important one. Mommy was going to need her help. This little girl never missed a step. Her role as big sister made her feel proud, and she was excited to share her room and her things with her new sibling.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

As this week draws to a close, remember to have fun with all of these assignments. You are, after all, creating your baby’s first sanctuary, even if he will most likely be set up in your bedroom for at least the first few weeks. If you feel stuck as to how to transform the room, go through some magazines for inspiration. Cut out some pictures you gravitate to and make a Dream Board just for this room. This is a wonderful tool for anyone who isn’t highly visual by nature. Seeing can be inspiring! All you need is some inexpensive poster board from your local stationary supply store like Staples or Office Max along with a stick of glue. Paste the images that capture the look or feel of the nursery you’d like to create onto your poster board. You don’t have to have multiple nurseries on view. You might simply have eight or ten images of various aspects of the room as you’d like to create it. It’s nice to cut out words or phrases and add them as well. You might find them in ads or you could purchase a sheet of letters when you pick up your poster board. Use glitter or stickers if you wish. Just remember this isn’t a homework assignment. The idea is to have fun and unleash your creativity.
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