Greg Alexander

From bunnies to Buzz Lightyear

Baby Steps, October 2004

When you were expecting, you rushed out shopping for nursery décor and were captivated by adorable nursery furniture and accessories. Cribs and changing tables were surrounded by baby ducks and bunnies with soft, pleasing colors – yellow, pink and blue – adorning the walls. Plush blankets and soft pillows comforted your baby and gave you a warm feeling every time you walked into the room. A cute nursery is fine, but what happens when the baby is no longer a baby and suddenly those baby ducks and bunnies now look out of place? As much as you want to change the look to fit a toddler’s personality and interests, you may be worried about spending a lot of money on the redesign knowing that when Junior reaches age 6, he will want another redesign to show off his love of sports.

Fear not. There is an abundance of quick, easy and, yes, inexpensive accessories and decorating ideas that can transform the nursery to a toddler’s haven – without breaking the bank.

“This is something that all parents deal with,” says designer Randi Prager, who owns Randi Prager Interior Design Associates, LLC, of Towson. “My granddaughter, for example, got tired of ducks and bunnies by age 4, and we knew she’d be into Spiderman or something by age 7, so there’s a few years in between where parents are looking for ways to make the room fun without redesigning it.”

Of course, the cornerstone of a bedroom is the bed, and Prager says that the time in between sleeping in a crib and sleeping in a twin bed can be made fun with beds positioned close to the ground in fun themes like racing car beds. “They are not expensive – around $200 or $300 – and can last from age 3 to 6 or 7.” In addition to sports cars, Winnie the Pooh, Disney’s Princess line or Sesame Street-themed toddler beds are popular at Toys R Us, according to Nicole Patzer, a company spokesperson. For parents looking for a more traditional toddler bed, Patzer suggests Delta Enterprise’s toddler bed, which comes in natural, pecan or white finish and retails for less than $100.

Prager also suggests retailers like IKEA, which have beds that grow with the child. For example, in its Diktad line, IKEA has a bed that converts from a crib to a junior bed. “The headboard and footboard part of the crib can be removed and the bed repositioned lower for a junior bed,” says Janice Simonsen, a spokesperson for IKEA. Also popular, she says, is the Kura bed that also grows with the child. This bed is positioned low for toddlers and then can be easily flipped to a higher position complete with a ladder when kids reach the age where bunk beds are popular. At the higher position, a spare mattress can be placed below for sleepovers and a canopy featuring a galaxy design is pulled over the top bed to create a “fort feel, which kids love,” says Simonsen. Another way to create a fort theme is with the addition of a bed canopy like IKEA’s giant leaf that can be mounted on the wall above a bed. The canopy also complements IKEA’s wide range of insect-themed products. For a more feminine feel, check out The Home Depot’s Disney Princess canopy, a sheer layer of pink net surrounding the princess in your life.

Another way to spruce up the bed at a low cost is to utilize a “bed in a bag,” which includes coordinated fitted and flat sheets, pillowcase, comforter, sham and bed skirt. The Home Depot’s “Lizzie McGuire Seriously Cool” twin bed in a bag is very popular, costs less than $80 and can be coordinated with matching drapes and beaded room divider.

Fun furniture, kid-size

In addition to the bed, furniture sized for little tots is a great way to transform the room. For less than $30, for example, you can add a slip-out sofa from Toys R Us that is a kid-size sofa, as well as an extra bed for sleepovers or watching TV. Made by SpinMaster, these sofas are available in many different themes, including Dora the Explorer, Winnie the Pooh, Sesame Street, Spiderman and Elmo.

“Many manufacturers also make great looking affordable dressers,” says Prager. For example, IKEA has a changing table that easily converts into a chest of drawers from its Diktad line. Once the changing table on top is removed, a shelving unit can be added for increased storage. “It’s made of pine, looks great and can be used all the way through the teen years,” says IKEA’s Simonsen.

Also helpful in the fight to keep your kid’s room neat and tidy are storage units. A hanging storage unit featuring targets from IKEA makes cleaning up fun for kids as they aim to hit the target with dirty socks and shirts. The storage compartments are see-through and hang easily in a bedroom or bathroom. “Many parents buy it for their kids and end up using it for themselves when the kids grow tired of it,” says Simonsen. Toys R Us’ Patzer recommends fun toy boxes like the Sponge Bob toy box or The Wiggles toy box for less than $40.

Change the look easily and quickly

“Painting a mural continues to be popular and can last for many years,” says Prager, which is just what Cherie Soni of Ellicott City did for her two-year-old daughter’s room. “We had this great Pottery Barn bedding, and we wanted a mural to match,” says Soni, who hired the same artist who has done work for NBC’s Katie Couric. “We didn’t want a ‘blah’ room. We wanted a room that was fun, attractive and would encourage sleep,” she laughs.

Taking cue from the patterns in the bedding, the room now features several birdhouses painted in soft light blue and yellow with gingham, polka dot and striped patterns. “She also painted beautiful flower pots in the same patterns and added whimsical vines and flowers in gorgeous colors – pink, purple, yellow and green – as well as dragonflies and butterflies. It’s amazing,” says Soni, “especially since it was done in eight hours.”

If you’re looking for something more temporary, consider removable wall decorations, says Prager. “They come in any theme and are easy to apply, reposition and remove.” The Home Depot has endless choices for instant stencil designs, and they can be applied by simply removing the adhesive backing, positioning on the wall and rubbing on with an included applicator for an instant new look. The stencils come in different sizes and feature popular characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear and other Disney characters. The stencils also coordinate perfectly with The Home Depot’s Disney paint colors by Behr that emulate colors found in Pooh characters, Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear. The store also carries coordinating accessories like lamps, stepstools, mirrors, sheets and drapes.

Other quick fixes recommended by Prager include area rugs, valances, lamps and nightlights, like IKEA’s new adorable ghost nightlight that turns on and off when the child presses the ghost’s head.

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