Fun and Affordable Small Nursery Ideas + Gender Neutral Nursery Tips

Last Updated: January 26, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Hey Mamas! Setting up a nursery is one of the most fun parts of pregnancy. With my second baby I was all about small nursery ideas and creating a gender neutral nursery that was calm and relaxing.

The funny thing is I almost didn’t do a nursery the second time around. The room was so tiny, and I knew we’d be moving soon, but in the end I’m SO GLAD I did. I just love the way it came out and the sense of organization and accomplishment it gave me.

After creating a small space nursery myself, I figured it’d be fun to put together a little small nursery guide for you guys!

Here, I’m compiling all my best advice and some inspiration on everything nursery – with a special emphasis on small nursery ideas and gender-neutral nurseries because I know how tricky it can be to make it work.

Small nursery ideas: My 10 best tips

If you’re like me, you’ve got a tiny room that you’re hoping to make work for your baby’s nursery. Or maybe you’re even converting part of your bedroom into a small nursery – a great option for many families!

So here’s the deal. The American Academy of Pediatrics officially recommends room sharing until baby is between 6-12 months old. Research supports that room sharing with baby can significantly lower their risk of SIDS. What does this mean? It means baby should sleep in your room for at least the first six months, but baby should be in their own, safe sleep space.

Because of this recommendation, more and more mamas are deciding to create a kind of small space nursery in their own bedroom, or they’re choosing a small additional room to be the nursery so that it’s ready for baby’s transition.

My small space nursery

Given that I knew baby would be sleeping in my room, I almost didn’t do a nursery. Like I said, I knew we were going to be moving within roughly 6 months of baby’s birth, and I just wasn’t sure it was worth it.

In the end, I decided to do one anyway. My biggest reasons were for organization and to have a special place to go with baby once he arrived. I LOVED taking my first baby up to his room and spending time in there. I really think the habit helped with his transition to his own room, too.

What’s more, I certainly didn’t have the space for all the baby stuff in my own room or down in the living room, so even though it was tiny, my small space nursery worked to organize all the baby essentials in one place.

As you plan, design, and set up your small space nursery, there are definitely some important things I want you to keep in mind. Let’s dive into my top tips.

1. Limit yourself to essential, space-saving furniture

This might go without saying, but as you design your small nursery, you’re gonna have to really think through the essentials when it comes to furniture in this room.

In my mind this is what every small nursery needs:

  1. A place to change baby (ideally with storage)
  2. A crib (but actually maaaaybe not…more on this in tip 2!)
  3. A place to feed baby (probably a chair of some kind)

Additionally, but not 100% necessary:

  • A small play/movement space
  • Book storage
  • A small table next to the feeding spot for a lamp and essentials

You also want to consider the type or version of a given piece of furniture that will work best in your small space. What do I mean by this?

Choosing a changing table for your small space nursery

Okay. So you know you need a place to change your baby. But you’ve got lots of options!

Choosing a crib for your small space nursery

The same goes for choosing the right crib and rocker or glider for your space. When deciding on a crib for your small space nursery here are some things to consider:

  • Would a crib with built-in storage underneath better maximize my space?
  • Could a mini crib be a good option? These guys are 24×48 vs. 28×52 for a standard crib! Serious space saving potential, and I’ve heard the can work until baby is 18 months to even 2 year old.
  • Would a crib that transitions to a toddler bed and then a queen headboard be a better investment? Even with the bigger footprint, I opted for this one! I wanted something that could grow with baby and transition to a bigger room once we moved.

Picking a rocker for your small space nursery

When picking out a rocker, glider or chair for your small space nursery, consider the weight of the item and the footprint it will take up. Remember that most of these chairs need space to move, so consider that when designing your room too!

The chair I decided on has a movable ottoman that’s really light weight. It doesn’t make sense to keep it in front of the chair all the time because the space is so tiny, but it’s super easy to move it into position when I want to use it.

2. Consider your long-term plans for baby’s room

While deciding what to include in your small space nursery, you need to think about your long term plan for baby and where they will sleep. When you first bring them home, they should have a sleep space in your bedroom. With that being said, you might not need a crib in your small nursery right away!

It might make more sense to have baby’s crib in your room and utilize what would be the crib footprint in the nursery for something else.

If you plan to transition baby to a different, bigger room once they are a little bigger or if you know you’ll be moving in the next 6-12 months, this should also impact your decision on what to keep in your small space nursery and what is non-essential.

Related Reading: Hospital Bag Checklist for Mama, Dad, and Baby!

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3. Utilize ALL. THE. BASKETS.

I gave this it’s own point on the list because seriously guys, this has been a key for me in my small space nursery – I have baskets and bins everywhere!

You’ll see baskets on the changing table shelves to store clothes and diapering essentials, and I use them to divide up drawers to better utilize that space.

They’re also in the closet, in the side table for the rocking chair. And of course for my portable breastfeeding basket and diaper caddy, too!

This is an awesome set of drawer dividers that’s absolutely perfect for all those teeny tiny clothes, socks, and accessories!

4. Consider multi-purpose rooms for small space nurseries

You can’t tell in the little Instagram tour of my gender neutral nursery, but it actually doubles as my work from home office! If you turn right at the rocker, you’d see my desk, computer and work stuff right in front of a window.

While your baby is so young, and especially while they’re not sleeping in their room at night yet, having your small space nursery double for another purpose makes a lot of sense! For me, that’s a workspace, for others it could be a guest room, workout space, or project area.

You might also make a small nursery within your own bedroom or an existing office or guest room. The possibilities are endless, and with some creativity you can totally make it work!

Head on over to my Pinterest – it’s got lots of additional inspo for you mamas!

5. Learn baby clothes organization hacks

If nobody’s told you yet: Babies. Grow. Fast. And with that, means they are constantly outgrowing they’re clothes and moving into the next size.

I find that my little ones don’t even transition completely out of one size at the same time (adding to the frustration) because no two brands are the same when it comes to sizing.

As you plan your small space nursery, get a good system in place for your baby clothes situation. Keeping baby clothes organized by size, and even further by type (long sleeved, short sleeve, PJs, etc.) will make it easier to locate what you need and maximize your storage space.

  • Because baby clothes are so tiny, adding a second or third pole across the closet can be a great choice (these tension ones make it super easy).
  • They sell super cute dividers to put on the rack to organize by size!
  • You might also want to add shelving to the closet, or do a stackable bin method. This makes the next size or two accessible yet organized.
  • I also know a lot of mamas only keep the current size out and store other clothes (organized by size) in the attic or basement to pull out as needed.
  • Another idea I recommend is a bin or hamper in the closet for outgrown clothes. This way as soon as you realize it’s too small there is an intentional spot for it to go. This eliminates precious drawer space taken up by clothes that don’t fit.

6. Maximize your walls with storage that doubles as décor

You’re probably sensing a theme here…when it comes to setting up a small nursery storage and organization are key! In a small nursery, try to have your décor double as storage for aesthetics and functionality.

Things like peg boards behind the changing area, decorative canisters, floating shelves, creative headband storage, and hooks for cute hanging rope baskets are all ways your storage can appeal to the eye.

Just make sure that anything you hang on the walls is hung safely and securely. A stud finder is important – especially for floating shelves! We need to make sure your nursery is cute AND safe ?

7. Remove closet doors to create more usable space in your small nursery

Okay. I’ve seen SO many cute small nurseries that do this over on Pinterest. It wasn’t going to work out for my small space nursery, but you can gain a TON of foot space by putting the crib in the closet cut out.

If the crib is too wide, you could create a changing space/dresser area in the closet spot too!

8. Or don’t, and really build out storage capacity in the existing closet

For some of you, it might make more sense to keep the closet as a closet and really maximize its storage protentional.

If you’re like me, you get pretty excited about all of the awesome storage solutions there are out there! Here are some of my faves for your nursery closet:

9. Color and design can help your small nursery feel bigger

I’m no interior design expert, but I’ve done some digging around and learned a lot about the way color, pattern, rug size, and even the way you hang curtains can make a room feel bigger or smaller.

In your small space nursery, you want to try to capture this feeling as best you can to create an illusion of space! Here’s a few tips I’ve learned:

  • Light neutral tones are your friend (white, cream, light gray)
  • Add mirrors to reflect light and create an illusion of space
  • Hang your curtain rod above the window and have it go out 6-12 inches on each side. By letting curtains hang next to the window it will feel bigger!
  • Pick light furniture colors, when the furniture contrast the wall color it breaks up the room and makes it feel smaller
  • Keep as much visual floor space as possible

10. Nursery must haves

This last tip applies to every nursery – small or big. I just wanted to make sure to include a few things that I think every nursery needs to create a better sleep and feeding environment your growing babe!

Gender neutral nursery tips: 5 things to keep in mind!

Alright, mama! So in addition to my nursery being small, it was also gender neutral. I’ve had the baby, and now know it’s a boy! But being team green during the nursery set up meant I was going for a gender neutral nursery.

This was actually a great fit for me because I love calm, peaceful and neutral spaces anyway. I’m not sure it would have been super different even if I did know boy or girl ahead of time.

Here are my top tips for designing your gender neutral nursery!

1. Pick a neutral color palette

So this was a top tip for a small space nursery, and is key for a gender neutral nursery, too! By choosing a neutral palette, your nursery will be relaxing, peaceful and calm for your baby boy or girl.

I love light grays and whites. I know light beige colors and warmer neutral tones can work really well, too.

2. But also you don’t have to be afraid of color in your gender neutral nursery

But if you’re the kind of person who loves color, you certainly CAN incorporate color into your gender neutral nursery if you want to.

Greens, yellows, black and white theme, and even oranges can work well for a boy or girl. I actually find light blues can work for gender neutral nurseries as well!

3. Decorate baby’s room like you would any other room in your house

This is SUCH a simple tip that I came across and think it makes so much sense. When you decorated the rest of your home, you (probably?) didn’t have a gender theme in mind. The kitchen isn’t a “girl” kitchen, you know what I mean?

So apply your natural tendencies towards design in your home to your nursery and you can’t go wrong! That’s kind of what I did, and I love how it came out!

4. Leave some wall space for personalized décor after they’re born

When I designed my gender neutral nursery, I purposely left some open space on the walls and shelves. I wanted to be able to add a few touches that were more gender specific once baby arrived.

5. Pick a gender neutral nursery theme that works for boys and girls

But you certainly don’t have to leave it open to add boy or girl touches. There are lots of cute gender neutral nursery themes!

Here are a few gender neutral nursery themes that I love:

  • Animals and baby animals
  • Woodland
  • Mountains and adventure
  • Storybook
  • Southwest
  • Trees and plants
  • Clouds and sunshine
  • Moons and stars

Setting up your gender neutral or small space nursery

Well, mama, hopefully you’ve found some inspiration for your own small space nursery or gender neutral nursery after reading these tips.

I couldn’t be more pleased with my finished nursery! And I did it all by myself, too!! No matter how tiny the space, there’s just something so fulfilling about creating a special space just for your baby.

As you begin to work on your nursery, I’m guessing you’re also creating a baby registry and getting ready for all that the third trimester (and birth!) brings.

Be sure to check out some of the other great articles here at Mommy Labor Nurse to help you prepare.

Happy nursery set-up!

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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