POSTED ON APRIL 17, 2013:
The Secret Life of Birds and Bees
Hone your nesting instincts
The nest: a place of refuge and comfort, a shelter from external elements. Pretty much everyone knows that a bird nest is where the eggs are, where they hatch, and where the hatchlings live until they can get out and make it on their own. Typically, only the expectant bird builds a nest, and in most species, it is the female bird that does all of the building, with the male bird chipping in on some of the heavy lifting and offering a bit of moral support. Most birds build a new nest each year, but some birds refurbish previously-occupied nests. In the avian world, this is the renovated nest. Much like any other deliberately designed structure, bird nests vary in complexity, material, size, shape and location, all determined by the needs of the offspring and the environment of their upbringing.
Just like our feathered friends, we human beings most certainly make our own nests. It's not an exaggeration to say that an expectant mother might suddenly and inexplicably become consumed with organizing the food pantry or alphabetizing the bookshelves.
Though nesting can often be expressed in any multitude of domestic ways, perhaps the most important and momentous is that of the construction of the baby room. Now, before you throw in the towel and make a mad dash to Babies R Us to purchase a Winnie-the-Pooh-themed baby room in a box, here are a few tips that will have you thinking out of the box in no time and will get you well on your way to creating a room that will surely prove to be a cozy and functional haven for the next few years to come.
Rebecca Gillego, who heads the Interior Design department at Clary Sage College, offered some advice on how to start your building your own nest as you prepare for the arrival of your bundle of joy.
Contrary to what many people think, Gillego said to avoid kitsch and enhance sophistication by investing in a neutral foundation for the design of the room.
"Steer away from characters and themes. Save those moments for the amusement park," advised Gillego. "Neutral walls with pops of color create striking details. One of my favorite neutrals is Benjamin Moore Abalone."
Great accent colors that will keep the space looking lively --but not distinctly or overly masculine or feminine -- include bright, gender-neutral colors such as blue-greens, yellows, coral and orange.
Next, Gillego said not to get too caught up in gender-specific design.
"I personally try to design rooms that are unisex for the most part accented by feminine or masculine accents," she said. "Let your child develop their likes and dislikes before imposing activates and characters on their personalities. Good design most often is not gender specific. A wall accented in blue can even be feminine once the final details are added."
Take a Chance. Detour Away From Prepackaged Bedroom Sets.
While it's often fun to create a themed room of either Barbie princess or race car beds, furniture of that sort is going to have a short shelf life. What's cute for a toddler can easily become outright lame within a mere few years, so Gillago advised planning for longevity by extending the lifecycle of furniture.
"Quality neutral furniture is a must for timeless design. Investing in armoires, dressers, night tables and built-in carpentry or freestanding bookcases can carry a infant into college," she said. And while convertible cribs are pretty popular, she expressed her preference for a school-aged child to have a queen-sized bed.
"When a child is young they can share the bed when having sleepovers, and as they mature, will feel comfortable visiting home from college," she said.
She also offered some practical advice.
"Invest in picture frames -- the content can change through the years -- and textiles," Gillago said. "Throw pillows and accent coverlets are a great place to express trends."
Next, decorators want to be sure and add personality and whimsy. Since childhood is a time of fantasy and play, it is only natural that a child's room be a reflection of that discovery and growth. Building a foundation of neutral furniture allows for more boldness in less expensive -- and thus, more interchangeable -- elements within the room.
"Stripes and bold graphics are trending both in fashion and interiors," Gillego said. "This trend is a wonderful aesthetic for the nursery. By age two years, most children have 20/60 vision, which is nearly perfect, but not quite. Having high contrast bold graphics is stimulating for babies. Instead of following trends, I suggest accenting with interesting pictures, lampshade, rug, or an accent fabric can make a space refreshingly relevant."
Other fun and meaningful ways to accessorize include using photos of family and friends, or even artwork created by your children, matted and framed.
As with anything baby-related, safety is not to be overlooked. In a baby room in particular, form follows function.
Gillego offered a few designer safety tips, from carpet choice to baby-proofing.
Whether installing carpet or an area rug, she said it's best to choose soft, non-shedding flooring. As your little one learns to crawl, anything high pile or shaggy can quickly turn into a choking hazard.
Also, be mindful of the chemicals in paints and finishes. Many paints and varnishes contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and over time, exposure to VOCs in paint can trigger asthma attacks, eye irritation, respiratory problems, nausea, and dizziness among other symptoms. Look for healthier and more environmentally-friendly alternatives. There are natural paints, low-odor product, and even those with low- or zero-VOC designations.
A bit of common sense baby-proofing goes a long way in prevention. Install socket protectors in all outlets and secure all electrical and window treatment cords so that they are out of reach to prevent electrical and choking mishaps. It's also important to consider what's within reach such as heavy items on table tops and bookshelves that could easily be pulled off or knocked over, bopping baby over the head.
The most important aspect of designing a room for your future bundle of joy is that it is a functional space that both you and your child can enjoy. "A thoughtful room is a beautiful gift to give to your child entering the world," said Gillego.
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