Nursery Inspiration: Serene or Bold?

So now that I am halfway through my pregnancy and beginning to feel the little lad move around I have to get down to designing my nursery. And it turns out, this project is my kryptonite.  I have two schemes going- one more bold and one serene. And I CAN. NOT. DECIDE.  Since it was so difficult for me to get pregnant, who knows if I will get to do another nursery again? And since it was such a long, highly anticipated journey I feel so much pressure to make it AMAZING. So it’s got me a little freaked out and incredibly indecisive. But let’s face it- this kid’s room will be redone a few times in his choldhood, so if I go more babyish and soothing for the nursery, I could always make it more bold when he’s 3 or so….right?? :)

So I gathered up a bunch of boy nurseries in both varieties to compare and contrast. Let’s start with the serene and soothing:

Simple, bright and lovely.

This nursery by Christine Dovey  is the definition of serene- I’ve posted about it before I love it so much.

Caitlin Flemming’s nursery in Rue is a great example of serene-chic.


Love the neutral star wallpaper with the modern sconces in this nursery.

Allison K

This nursery implements neutral stripes on the ceiling and sleek furniture pieces for a modern touch.


I’ve had this one by Amber Interiors pinned for months- love the light, serene tones mixed with the vintage rug (the flatweave style seems to be a smart pick for babies room- cleanup is much easier).


Brass, wood and linen tones look great in this nursery.


Sarah Sherman Samuel’s baby boy nursery adds a couple colorful accents to an otherwise light and bright space.


Fellow blogger Camille Styles revealed her son’s chic nursery recently- love all the textures.


Love the slight nautical influence in this adorable space.


LOVE this one. The ceiling, the texture- masculine but light.


This one kind of bridges the gap between bold and serene nicely, don’t you think?


A bold paper mixed with solid green accents and light wood tones in this space.


Sarah Richardson designed this nursery with TONS of bold patterns!


This room is bold but yet still calming with it’s accent wall and small navy accents.


Emily Henderson’s nursery is the definition of fun and whimsical.


This one only uses bold color on the ceiling, leaving the rest of the space light and neutral.


This space has SO many windows (jealous) which makes patterned drapes a great choice.


This one uses a familiar rug pattern on the wall for a graphic focal point.


Red, black and tribal patterns make this room fun and bold.


This one isn’t TOO bold but does employ a fun wallpaper backdrop and hints of orange.


I like the black and white mixed with mint and gold! Funky and cool.


Love the blue wallpaper offset with the bright yellow in this nursery!


This one is very reminiscent of Jenna Lyons’ “nursery seen round the world”.


This one uses my favorite Woods wallpaper from Cole & Sons as a focal point.


So what do you prefer- a bold, fun nursery or a soothing, serene one? I’m SO TORN!!!!



  1. Hi, Erin!
    What beautiful rooms. My favorites are the first one, the Christine Dovey room, and the room with the patterned drapes and lovely windows. I like serene, but with warm and whimsical accents. The warm wood in the first space really makes a difference! And while I like the idea that a nursery shouldn’t be “too baby” and should fit with the rest of your home, I also think it’s the place to enjoy decor that you wouldn’t necessarily use elsewhere. I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be amazing and I can’t wait to see it. Best of luck and I hope you’re feeling well!

  2. Wall sconces with cords hanging down, anywhere but especially near the crib is a HUGE hazard! Also I caution against long drapes because that little baby will be a toddler in no time and sure to swing from them, likely tearing them right off the wall. Roman blinds are a smarter choice. Safety and comfort first.

  3. I like serene with some focal pieces. One thing to remember is that babies can’t see colors and beige, taupe etc… They need black and white, things that stand out to help focus on and grab their attention. A great bright mobile (and a video monitor) will save you hours of sleep!! Just wait until he wants his whole room decked out in super heros or Minecraft … Neither of which is very stylish!

  4. This is the first of many parenting decisions that will be driven by pure unconditional love (over more rational considerations, like good design!). Go bold (kid bold, not designer bold), make it fun and happy and lively! You will have many years when your child is grown to be quiet, serene and elegant. Your child will love seeing colors , animal pictures , etc, you will spend hours naming them, telling stories about them. A cream throw has never sparked a n impromptu game of “around the world in jungle animals!”

    1. Yes! Totally in agreement with Sophie. Bright colors, big, graphic patterns and fun accessories will spur his development and sense of adventure. Take note, tho, every parent has an opinion and many are happy to share even when it’s not solicited. This is only the beginning of people telling you “how ypu should” do things. Ultimately, do whats best for you and your family.

      1. Definitely agree with Sophie and Maggie. Go fun and bold for a kid’s room! Kids are energetic, fun, happy, loud, crazy little beings. They want their room to reflect their personality! You won’t have time or energy to completely revamp the room in three years. Pick simple furnishing and fun accents. Good luck!!

  5. I would stay away from “bold”!
    Too busy. I like serene with black and white accents…. and whatever you decide, a rocking chair is a must. This from a 75 year old grandmother of 13!!

  6. I would suggest a serene “canvas” that you can change up with bold and bright in a year or so. Those first few months, you will be spending so much time in that room and really the baby doesn’t have eyes for anything but you for a while so decorate that room a bit for you and not baby because as you spend hours in there feeding and rocking and lulling him while you are so tired it hurts, the room will become the backdrop for all those memories (that will be dear to you over time :) ) and you will hopefully feel soothed your self by the space. Then, as they grow a little and become more independent, crawling and playing, the colorful baby books and toys and animals will start to add your bold color and you can complete it with other bright pieces as you like. Don’t forget that object accumulation is only beginning! ;)

  7. As a mother of 2 and a lover of well-designed kids rooms and someone who tried multiple options from babyhood through toddlerhood (until I was no longer in charge of picking room themes!) I will chime in that there is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions, whether it’s what will work better for a baby theme-wise or safety concerns or anything. It’s just going to depend on your kid if it matters at all.

    Therefore, go with what speaks to YOU, make some reasonable adjustments for safety where appropriate, then know that you may need to change things up based on your kid. My first was so chill that her whole room could have been B&W and it wouldn’t have phased her, whereas my second was so distracted by things that we had to take down a bold/graphic mobile I made so he would sleep. My first never even tried to touch the long curtains in her room and backed off whenever we told her not to touch something. My second would have been swinging from them if we left them up through toddler years.

    So go with what feels the most like a nursery you want to spend hours and hours in now, you’ll have at least 1 or 2 opportunities to do a redesign if you want before they’re “in charge” and once that happens you’ll be spending less time in that room compared to the first year. Don’t shy away from things you like (long curtains, sconces) when they’re this young, provided you’re accounting for safety, but be prepared to see the type of kid you have and if there’s a possibility of posing any risks. But right now the room in my opinion is more for you, so do what you want and update it in a year to keep up with the personality of your little one!

    1. I completely agree Rachel.
      Also wanted to mention that the first few months after birth a woman is usually very fertile. ;-) Not that you will want to even see that for a while. LOL I’ve had friends get pregnant quickly after births, even friends who’ve had problems conceiving and were breastfeeding. Just throwing that out there.
      I’m sure whatever you decide will be lovely.

  8. I love both the serene and bold options. However, toys, books, and future toddler art is anything but serene. It’s much easier to incorporate all things baby/toddler into a bolder (read colorful) design. I started off with a very neutral nursery that quickly became filled with bright beloved objects ; ) Now he has a simple but brighter palate that welcomes fire trucks, books and colorful blocks. Go with something that can easily transition into a little boy room – it happens quickly! Whatever you do, I know it will be awesome. I’m looking forward to the reveal!

  9. Love all the inspiration…so fun. I’ve done 2 rooms for my littles. When they are little, you spend a lot of time in there, so make it comfy for yourself. They really don’t start “using” their room until they are more mobile. Get the pretty window treatments, the lamps, or whatever now, because as soon as they are mobile you will have to accommodate. Also, is the room a place where they will primarily play? We don’t have a playroom in our home…so my kids rooms needed to quickly accommodate playing and making a mess and easy organization of toys.
    One thing you never see/hear….the rocking chair. I bought a white wood rocker for about $129. I put a cushion in it and had a little stool for my feet if needed. It was not super comfy for a few reasons. First, I didn’t want to sleep in the chair in their room. Also I found myself wanting to nurse or snuggle with a different view during the day, so was really only there at night. Second, I felt NO guilt when I got rid of the rocker when we didn’t need it anymore. I didn’t have to worry about where we move this $3k glider to get our $$ out of it.

    Can’t wait to see what you do!

  10. I don’t think you can go wrong whether you choose a serene or bold scheme. It’s bound to be beautiful. From a practical perspective, I’d suggest putting a little table and lamp (or sconce) near your chair in the room where you plan to nurse. Water is an absolute necessity when you nurse – it makes you so thirsty — and you’ll need somewhere to put a glass. Also, some of my best memories of the newborn period are of reading novels while I nursed my daughter. It’s great to have a little table to hold a book while you get situated, and some light for reading.

    I also second the other comments about blackout window treatments. Double up on them – darkness really helps them sleep. (At one point we found ourselves taping the roman shades to the window molding just to block out the light around the edges!)

  11. You can’t go wrong because in a few months you won’t even care! But I would suggest go bold. The beautiful serene nurseries only work in magazines with all wooden and plush toys. Once you throw in a million colorful plastic toys, which is inevitable, you will lose the serene feeling. I wouldn’t even do a custom crib skirt again because you lose the skirt in a matter of months as the crib mattress is lowered. We painted our walls a deep blue/gray (black pepper by Benjamin Moore), did a navy and white diamond rug, and all white furniture and white shades. Looks great with yellow and orange toys everywhere!

  12. From experience I know you will be changing his nursery to a Toddler room once he is two years old, so I vote for a sweet baby nursery, because you won’t be doing your first nursery again, you might do another nursery later, but this is your one and only FIRST. I noticed many of the rooms had patterns on the ceiling keep in mind this is what your little guy will be staring at so you don’t want his eyes to cross with stripes or be confused by too much pattern, IMHO. I say go as baby as you love and use your Designer rooms in the other rooms in your home. I personally would start with the bedding and go from there. I am a huge fan of the baby animal prints and I would totally use those in a nursery of mine. Just enjoy this whole process, it is amazing!!! So happy for you and Andrew.

  13. I love that nursery by Amber Interiors! Its just the right mix of bold and serene… maybe something like that could be a happy medium for you? Something must be in the air because I have had several nursery projects for clients come up in the last few months.

  14. all such great images! it’ll come to you. maybe you need to find a fabric or piece of art that will show you the direction you want to go in. either way, you’ll do a great job I have no doubt. my only real piece of advice is a comfortable soft rocker or glider. sometimes you nod off, sometimes you’re there for marathon nursing sessions, sometimes the baby’s head rests on the chair arm rather than your arm. I still read to my almost 4 year old daughter in the upholstered rocker in her room. I love the eames rockers for style but for snuggling your newborn, not awesome. can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  15. Between 2 and 4 months (which FLIES by) your baby will be focusing better and seeing colors. Brain development thrives on stimulation – sights, sound, touch – so it makes me cry inside a little when I see all these bland white and gray nurseries that fit a popular aesthetic for adults but don’t consider what baby needs to grow his brain connections. A tired baby will sleep regardless of the color of wallpaper … but please consider giving him interesting things to look at in that room while he awake!

  16. I like the Emily Henderson baby room. You can tell that a baby/toddler lives there. It’s kid friendly and radiates happiness. Some of the serene rooms are just beautiful, but I can’t see a little one having fun in there.

  17. I think you should go serene with comfortable chair with a foot pouf , distressed Persian rug in the room and since you love stripes incorporate them on the walls or ceiling in gray or tan. Because you will be changing the room for a toddler you can go bold then – when your son will appreciate the bright, fun colors! Whatever you do know that you will enjoy the room more than him until he gets older.

  18. I had the same dilemma. They say babies can really only see bold patterns and then only bright colors for a long time. Therefore, I chose primary colors for my son. That might be something to consider when picking a palate. Good luck! Nursery is the one room I feel like you can really have fun with and think like a child!

  19. Do two mood boards for yourself. Pretend you’re your own client and you’ll be able to let Andrew decide for you. I have a few nurseries on my website you can check out!
    Good luck!

  20. I am partial to serene with masculine/feminine accent colors. Things are so hectic with a baby, it is nice to walk into a peaceful space. Some color and accents make it interesting for everyone. My kids loved having a mobile and there are so many cool ones. My best advice for the nursery is a comfortable rocker/glider with an ottoman! You will spend SO much time in the rocker so make it a comfy one. You’ll thank me after you spend the night in it!

  21. Love them all for different reasons. It’s hard because there is SO much you can do. I’d start with pieces you care about most and build off of that. A comfy chair is priceless, maybe start with that? The crib also is a very important piece. Have you found one you loved? You can’t go wrong really.

  22. As a mommy to 4, I learned the hard way that children will show their personalities and have likes and dislikes by 3-4 yrs. I like starting serene and then adding all the color and boldness that compliments their uniqueness in a few years when their little person starts to shine through. Serene for babies is so nice- especially for all those late nights and early mornings when you need help relaxing.

  23. As a MOB (Mom of Boys) I will say a few things about functionality and leave the style to you. A lot of your rooms showed rugs on hardwood. This is a great idea. Go with something inexpensive and easily cleanable early. Between spitting up, throwing up, nosebleeds and potty training, your floors may take a lot of abuse.

    About the time that trains and trucks will rule their lives, go with something plush and comfortable that their knees and your rear end can handle endless hours on. My husband wrestles with the boys on the floor, so padding is key.

    Finally, never underestimate their ability to climb and reach. Anything that is hung within reach of the crib, even if you think they can’t reach it, is fair game. Keep this in mind when you think about the height of artwork, mobiles and the tops of any dressers that will be near the crib. Boys are part monkey, I swear.

  24. I love all the photos, but feel like serene wins. It’s much easier to add bold touches to a serene room than the other way around. You can start serene and then as Baby Gates begin to show his personality add features that reflect him. Another alternative is to go mostly serene and then do one bold wall – with wallpaper or the light fixture or the print you pick out for your nursing chair. I do agree that a small table next to the nursing chair is a MUST. You will want something onto which you can place a glass of water, your nursing pump or the baby’s bottle. The other thing that was necessary in my nurseries was a foot stool to prop my feet on while I was nursing. It made all the difference in the world to my comfort. Reclining options on the chair are another element I loved having. Sometimes when my babies fell asleep on my chest I just reclined and enjoyed a nap with them. It was so peaceful and I miss it….

  25. Feel like I want to chime in on this one…SERENE!! I have two kiddos (ages 2 and 3) so I’ve been through this recently. Do the room once, do it beautifully, and you won’t have to/want to change it. I picked a gorgeous , neutral French wallpaper for my older daughter’s room, and it transitioned nicely when she got her big girl bed last year. All her other pieces remained the same. (dresser, bookcase, etc) Changing around a kid’s room, especially during these big transitions (crib to bed) isn’t a great idea. Let them live in it and create that wonderful childhood patina around their space. When they’re old enough to have an opinion, or when the walls are too full of crayon drawings, then you can switch things out. One other thing to keep in mind: a pre-baby nursery looks lovely, but babies come with a host of gear that can create a major eyesore, not to mention toys. So your perfectly designed nursery will look a bit different with the diaper pail, boxes of diapers, garish mobile, etc. Keeping it neutral will tone all this down and won’t fight with any ‘bold’ color palette. Finally, my three year old rarely plays in her room yet. So think soothing, rather than simulating, because the majority of your child’s time in his room will be spent sleeping! Good luck…can’t wait to see the finished product!

  26. I have a three year old son, and from the time he was very little he has loved playing in his room. Think about the things that will make the room a special place for him over the next couple years and how his room will look once he has really started living/playing in it. Most of their toys have some color and unless you want to be crating everything up after every play session I have found that it helps to incorporate some amount of bold in your design as it allows the toys to work into the design vs seeming out of place in a beautifully serene room. – Britney

  27. This is a tough one because all options are so cute but I’ve learned that bolder colors tend to be favored as they get older so maybe go for more serene as a baby and then when he’s older you can always add a bold window treatment/wallpaper or stripes on the ceiling. Remember you’ll be the one staring at everything in the middle of the night ;) whatever you decide will be gorgeous!

    Do you have a separate bathroom for him? Maybe do that a fun graphic wallpaper.

  28. Go serene and safe! Several of the images you posted included unsafe choices such as a lightweight end table topped by a breakable lamp that could easily be pulled over by a crawling baby. Whatever you choose, make sure it is easily washable. I was so excited to show a friend my new baby’s nursery when baby decided to projectile poop literally across the nursery 15 minutes before she arrived. It hit the designer bedding, rug, everything!!

  29. Starting simple and serene with pops of color and then transitioning into something more whimsical and fun seems to be the most logical decision. I was surprised with twin boys so I just did an all white nursery with dark wood floors – then added color into the mix. Now that they are almost three- the room took on a whole new look with splashes of yellow, light blue, navy and red. It sounds crazy but Don’t forget that you don’t want your decor to fight against their toys (my boys always preferred ugly plastic FP toys vs. the more modern cooler items sold at Giggle). I also wanted to creat a space that they really enjoy- your only a kid once I guess.

  30. As a pediatrician I would advise you to skip the serene theme. Babies not only love colours, they actually need contrasting colours for their eye development. If you don’t really want to do colourful at all, at least do a lot of black and white contrast, this helps, too.
    As a mummy of 2 boys I’d also like to chime in that later in life, it will be all about black, navy, blue and beige for your little guy. Allow him to have some fun in his childhood and go bold.

  31. as a mom of a toddler boy and baby boy I would definitely say serene. You will be ready to redecorate when he transitions out of his crib and into a big boy bed- not to mention you may need the room to function differently for the million toys and books they will have collected in 3 years.

  32. So many opinions here so I don’t know if I’ll add much to them, but my advice is to do what YOU want for the nursery. In a lot of ways, that nursery really is for you. You’ll be the one enjoying it most, after all! And enjoy all of the decision making where you get to call the shots, because all too quickly they start having opinions (CARTOON CHARACTERS NO NO NO). And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to redo things again pretty quickly anyways, especially once he gets to be 2 or 3 (big boy rooms!).

  33. We had a Vintage rug like the one in Amberinteriors in our boys otherwise neutral nursery. Later when they got into planes, trains, automobiles, and trucks, it was a perfect cityscape with main roads, side roads, and even an Interstate around the border!!!!

  34. calm!! Baby toys, art, books, etc have enough color. I have three boys and promise calm/neutral is the way to go for your sleepy brain and his!!!!!!! Save the color for toddler/big boy or add it later!

  35. Serene. ALL. DAY. When you reflect back you will enjoy the moments an photos more. If you need a bit of boldness. Do some interesting patterns but in serene colors

  36. I love serene that can transition to bold. I started with a gray and white base, not knowing the gender – ready to add pink or blue once baby was born. I splurged on a brat decor canopy crib, a beautiful long bed skirt, a flokati rug and a grey/silver damask wallpaper accent wall. It was so serene and perfect. We used white framed animal prints I found on etsy and some that we took ourselves while on safari .

    We were gifted with the most beautiful baby boy, and just as others have noted, they don’t stay babies long. We switched things up when he turned 2, by adding orange and grey/white stripe fabric toy bins, colorful throw pillows, bright art work (done by our little guy) and bright, bold animal printed bedding.

    I loved how peaceful his room was when he was a baby, and I love how we were able to update it to fit his personality.

    The beauty is… you can’t go wrong! (Though I’d be more practical with the rug next time around! They get destroyed :))

  37. He is a baby for a very short time. Infancy should be serene…peaceful. Holding that precious, little guy and rocking him to sleep, feeding him, reading him books and loving on him is such a serene time. A peaceful atmosphere will give you more peace. His room should be a sanctuary of peace and calm, a place of rest for those first months/years. You have all of his life for bold.

  38. Well, do you prefer your baby to sleep or stay awake???? The bold and busy pattern may look great, but they are stimulating and not restful……..

  39. i’m a bit late on chiming in, i agree w/all the peeps who said that at the beginning it’s almost mostly about “you”…. make the nursery a space that welcomes you to stay and breastfeed (if you choose that route) FOR-eva (so it seems at the time). the only “other” i would add is that Baby Gates will be staring up at the ceiling from the crib for quite a while, so i would do a ceiling treatment (wallpaper, painted stripes),…..

  40. I didn’t even have my daughter sleep in her own room for the first nine months so her room was more a show piece and storage. Of course this was a personal decision, but with newborns often times they can sleep in bassinets and may not transition to their own crib for awhile. By the time my daughter used her room for sleep she was crawling and pulling up on stuff so the design needed to accommodate her safety needs. I recommend designing the nursery for yourself at this stage (considering safety of your child of course) knowing that alternations will be needed as he grows and those decisions are not just design driven but also development and personality driven as well.

  41. I like Amber Lewis’ is great for serene with a touch of color. It has the touch of sofistication similar to the rest of your house. For a bold choice I love the blue wallpapered room with the yellow bed! It is so unexpected and yet has a bit of whimsy to it. Try not to stress too much! You’ll probably redecorate multiple times over his life.

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