A Fresh Nursery

My friend Holly Mathis from Holly Mathis Interiors is sharing her insight today on how to think about decorating a nursery.  Listen up, because she is the QUEEN of creating beautiful baby spaces. Here’s her latest nursery creation for her son, Henry.  It’s a perfect balance of childhood whimsy and pieces that will grow with him.  Holly’s home has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens; Chic on a Shoestring, {I can STILL remember reading that article, long before I met her online} Flea Market Style and Cottage Style.  Holly has a unique and approachable style and her design services are available in home {if you are in Texas} and online.
Here’s Holly::

How do you create a fresh baby nursery?? Not a themed room with contrived decorating and glaring colors but instead a FRESH  space with soothing and inspiring colors and a touch of vintage and modern.

{Amy Butler fabric and its linen not quilting material! from here}

My number one piece of advice? Use as many NON-NURSERY items as possible, whether it is lighting, color, fabrics, glider/chair or rugs..steer clear of the baby baby items…instead gravitate to the things you love that might work in any room of the house.  Throw in a touch of whimsy and a precious new life and you have a fresh nursery.

{Like these items from Ballard Designs. Le Poeme rug and fab lantern options!}

More favorite ways to achieve a FRESH NURSERY:

  • ART I love these flashcards from Martha at Michael’s but I think most places are sold out. No fear, how about ditching the ‘mass produced ‘ and going for real art for your littles. (Although if you find these, snatch them up..they are darling and cheap! ha!)

{Martha Stewart flashcards at Michaels}

If Martha isn’t available, no worries because there are so many amazing options on Etsy like this artist, Holly Lewis of  Tembo Studio.

She did the paper dolls at the top of the post…and she also does flashcards prints. The woman studied printmaking at Harvard for Pete’s sake AND she is a mama! I love this source.

I also found these wonderful free downloads from a project called FEED YOUR SOUL  featured here..wonderful selection of fresh looking art and its FREE if you feel like printing your own!

Art is available everywhere…So inspire yourself and your little one with as much artwork as possible in the nursery!

  • FABRIC. Think soft colors or very careful use of bold.  Think non matchy for interest. Consider non-juvenile fabrics…like geometrics, retro prints, or even plain linen. Or toile. I still think toile when I think baby and that’s okay  But don’t be afraid to think outside of the box with fabric and color and go against usual gender trends like pink or blue.

{I think these work for a boy or girl, what do you think? from fabric.com}

Which brings me to my next point…

  • COOL TOYS…This lion from blabla and available at Land of Nod or Layla Grace and other boutiques is nearly $50 but you don’t have to spend a lot to find cool toys…wooden or knit etc… Target and IKEA are selling a lot of things like this too. . .don’t just assume they are too expensive if you like the look.

{carrot car $2.99 from IKEA}

  • COLOR.  Again, you don’t have to stay gender specific though of course that tradition is always pretty.  But my favorite girl color combo is actually blue and red with just touches of pink.  In general, lots of white is no fail especially as a way to unite a mismatched room of furniture. AND GREY..oh mercy if I have another baby I promise you its crib will be grey or is it GRAY??  And these Jenny Lind cribs are cheap and easy to find and paint.  So don’t stress if you an expensive crib is not in your budget.

OTHER ITEMS I am loving right now or STILL LOVING for a fresh nursery look:

  • anything industrial
  • wire baskets
  • old sign letters not cute matchy letters
  • vintage toys, baby clothes or books
  • plates on the wall
  • chalkboard on doors down low and in lighter colors like mocha or pink!
  • vintage lights-chandeliers of industrial…endless options.even exterior lights!

Bottom line, a FRESH NURSERY may  have vintage items but mixed with a modern chair or geometric fabric and fresh textiles for an effortless look. It can be a delicate dance and daunting task to put together a room that doesn’t come on too strong but it’s worth the effort to create a room that soothes the senses on late nights and sweet days and inspires as your baby grows.

I leave you with this for inspiration and fun!

NOW GO MAKE A BABY!  Love, Holly

{digital collage by Tembo Studio}


  1. For my daughter I tried to follow some similar guidelines because I can’t stand that “room-in-a-bag” look (in my house). The focal point ended up being a collection of hand mirrors on the wall–and it’s gorgeous.

    The only thing I didn’t keep in mind was that one day she’d be old enough to stand up in her sweet little crib and remove the mirrors from the wall with her precious, tiny hands. It’s hard to believe how quickly they turn from sweet, still, cooing infants into running, jumping, climbing toddlers… Sorry for the long post–I started reminiscing…. ; )

    Here are the mirrors:

  2. Holly does a gorgeous job! Great advice to use as many non-nursery items as possible, it will keep the design looking fresh and will give the room a chance to grow with the child. And the “room in the bag” mentioned in the first comment…a neighbor just decorated her girls room with a “bag” she purchased filled with everything needed for the room, including wall decals, paint ideas, accent pillows, bedding…it was cute but on a formula. I had to give the mom a hard time for putting designers out of work!!

  3. Such great ideas! I know with my babies I always fell into the blue and pink traps. I dont have a tiny one anymore, but I think this can be applied to children’s rooms too. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  4. And I realize that I forgot in my reminiscing to say what I intended to say in the first place–that nursery is gorgeous! Her ideas are inspiring and practical since she encourages us to use items that can be repurposed once they’re no longer part of a nursery.

    I really like the metal caps (I’m sure there’s a better word for it-but I’m a housewife, not a designer) over the curtains–I’d like to see those in my home!

  5. I love a more eclectic, put-together-over-time look. Which is good because until recently we lived on a grad student budget and could rarely afford a “set” of anything! lol

    Anyway, I wanted to mention that you usually get better quality items for a cheaper price if you get as much nursery furniture as possible from non-baby stores. I got my rocker glider for about the price of the cheapest one from BRU and it was far better quality than the most expensive one they had. Also, skip the matching glider ottoman and look for one at a thrift store and recover it in a fun fabric! ($8 total when I did this project!)

    • Hi Megan,

      Can you give me tips on how you recovered your glider and ottoman. I got a used one and the cushions are covered in the worlds ugliest color blue (and it is faded). I would love to use it but I want to cover it with a cool fabric. I cannot sew and have no idea how to do this. Any tips or advice?

  6. Ok, I about spit my coffee out with her last line. That was TOO funny! One of my regrets is that with FIVE children, I NEVER really decorated a nursery. It was always a multipurpose type of room, but I think no lasting psychological damage has occurred, so we’re all good. If this was three years ago, I might just have taken Holly’s advice just to implement some of these ideas, but too old now. :)

  7. Marta Martin says

    HOW much do we LOOOOOVE Holly? Thank you for all this beautiful insight and the wonderful resources. You BOTH rock!



  9. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have been looking for something like Feed Your Soul for a long time. So excited :)

  10. The fabrics she uses are gorgeous — and guess what? I even have a few of them! I just need to sew them into something :]

    The carrot car is adorable! I love, love that! And the rug with handwriting… ohhh, babies! <3

  11. thanks Nester….you have awesome readers! It feels good to hang out with yall today!

  12. we are done making babies…but if there is some divine intervention, i would certainly use these ideas! i soooo love the yellow and gray!

  13. I’m a huge fan of Holly! In fact, I alllmost got a chance to meet her in real life recently, but sick babies kept me from it. :( But, I LOVE her nursery! Love this post and was so excited to see you had featured her!

  14. Thanks for the great ideas! I am working on a nursery as we speak :) I think yellow and gunmetal grey will be the colors of choice. I want a gender neutral room (only my husband and I know the sex of the baby–surprise for everyone else!) and those colors look fresh and modern together.

  15. Loved this article. I am so excited to finally decorate my little boy’s room! Thank you for the tips!

  16. love all her tips!

  17. GORGEOUS!!!!!

  18. Love you, Holly! I still have your BH&G article. :) I am in LOVE with those MS flashcards from Michaels. Guess I ought to shop there more often, huh? These are great tips. I’d love to try for a boy someday, so I’m going to remember your tips.

  19. I love everything about this post!! That is invaluable advice.♥

  20. Love this! I didn’t want an ugly crib mobile so I bought this Capiz Hanging Pendant from World Market. I love it and it makes a beautiful sounds too!

  21. This is great advice! I’m actually working on a nursery right now and my inspiration came from a shower curtain! And guess what, that shower curatin will get used in the room too (hows that for thinking outside the box?)! I also included that Robert Allen fabric in my design plan;-)

    Thanks again Holly and Thank you Nester for the feature!

  22. Thanks for all the great advice! I’ve never been one to follow a trend or a theme when it comes to a nursery. After losing our only child 4 years ago my husband and I have decided to try again. This makes me want to try even more! Thanks for sharing, Holly and Nester! You two ladies rock! ;)

  23. I love these talented Holly girls! Holly Mathis has great taste and a personal decorating style. And Holly Lewis (Tembo Studio) is the most talented artist I know…so unique and thoughtful in every way. I’m blessed enough to be her sister!

  24. Those are awesome tips. I’m currently decorating my son’s nursery and wanted “jungle” in that I love some cute jungle stuffed animals, but I didn’t want it all matchy-matchy. I’m still on the hunt for some great art and I love the MS cards. Michael’s here I come!

  25. i totally used some big flashcards in my 3 mo. old lil guys room!…. AND we have the ikea carrot car… non-matchy fabrics too!! i’m feeling a little proud of myself right now :) we texans are on the same page down here!

  26. Oooh – love this post! I adore a non-nursery-looking nursery. I think it “wears” better.

    I have the exact gre(a)y/yellow flower fabric and yellow geometric print as possibilities for my office redo! I love that combination for a baby’s room, with soft, grey paint and pops of turquoise. Alas, I have no babies and no one (at the moment) with whom to make any! :(

  27. So, sweet almost makes me want to have another baby! I have preschoolers so I think alot of these ideas can translate well into kids rooms too. Can’t wait to check out the free art to print!! So cute. Okay when I saw the title, I had a moment where I was like, is there another on the way for you!!

    PS-I love how the kitchen project came out, it looks amazing!

  28. Nice! I enjoyed her tips. I like how she mentioned using less “baby” stuff. I tried to do the same thing when decorating my son’s nursery. I also like to find almost everything from thrift stores, antique stores, even my side table by the rocking chair was found on the side of the road for free! Another fun idea is to decorate in homage to your roots!! We tried to bring out subtle hints of our Norwegian and German ancestry. It was fun and some of the items allow me to day dream of what their life must have been like raising my grandparents and great grandparents!

  29. What great tips! My hubby and I are expecting our first baby in December and right now all I can think about are all things nursery. I’m definatly trying to think outside of the box for her special space and dreaming and planning for her nursery has been a labor of love. With my mom making the bedding and curtains I’m hoping to create a space that is truly made for my little girl. Though I must admit, there is definatly going to be pink that her space. My house is mega neutral (taupes, whites and blacks) and I’m dying to indulge my love of pink. :)

  30. I didn’t want anything too babyish/toddlerish for our baby girl and didn’t want any loud colours, just softness in cream and black and blush pink. I ended up making the bedding myself and couldn’t be happier with the results! I had lots of fun doing it and she loves it! Check it out: http://musingsofaglamourpuss.blogspot.com/2010/02/glam-nursery-part-1-inspiration.html

  31. Wow! Some great ideas there. My sister is having a baby soon so I will send her the link to this blog.

    Thanks x

  32. your nursery is beautiful! thanks for allowing holly to feature my work. holly mathis, i love the blabla toys… from another holly who loves non-traditional nursery wares.

  33. Where was Holly nine months ago?! Therein lies my problem with Sam’s room; I depended too much on baby stuff. And I couldn’t find anything. So his room looks a little like a blue dungeon. Change will soon happen.

  34. Great ideas! I attempted to do this with my twins and it was so hard to explain to anyone how it was being decorated:)


  35. I want to keep this simple. Thank you for your inspiration. Please read my post for Saturday, August 14th. Your blog helps more people than you probably realize…in more ways than just decorating (which is fabulous btw). Thank you!

  36. I’m way beyond thinking about decorating a nursery but I love how newer colors are being used. ‘Putting aside the standard blue, pink and yellow. It makes them so interesting. ‘Love your blog.

  37. Love these ideas — I’m getting ready to transition my daughter to a toddler bed – any ideas/suggestions for modern/vintage bedding?

  38. Sadly, I have no more nurseries to decorate. But, I love Holly almost as much as I love texas football-and that’s alot. She has the BEST ideas and I’m so glad you had her share her design insight here!

  39. SUCH great advice. i am kind of in love with that la poem rug. and the wall art. so sweet!

  40. This is a very refreshing idea for a nursery. I dislike gender stereotypes – pink for a girl, blue for a boy – and these pieces pull together a perfectly fashionable, gender neutral room. Have you given any thought to organic bedding, such as latex mattresses? It’s surprising how many options you can find to make a nursery beautiful and safe for your little one.

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