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6 nursery must-haves for first-time parents—according to a design expert

Fit out your newbie sleep space

On left, white 5-in-1 convertible crib in toddler girl's bedroom. On right, gray tufted daybed in child's bedroom. Credit: Storkcraft Direct / Red Barrel Studio

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The instinct of “nesting” is a real sentiment felt by first-time parents who are keen and excited to prepare for their newborn’s arrival. These so-called “newbies” want to clean, organize, and transform a room or space into a nursery.

However, it can be a massive undertaking and many people don’t know how or where to begin.

Natasha Penzo, a design expert and founder of Homekin, an online interior platform that helps everyone realise their vision, is a mom of two little children herself. When working with clients, Penzo not only opts for aesthetically pleasing items, but her product recommendations are practical, speaking to quality, stylishness, and multipurpose appeal.

She shared with Reviewed her must haves for first-time parents.

1. A crib

On left, tan 5-in-1 convertible crib in baby room next to stuffed animals in storage bin and baby blocks. On right, gray 5-in-1 convertible crib in baby room next to changing table, baby blocks, stuffed animals in storage bin.
Credit: Storkcraft Direct

This crib is a great choice if you're looking for one that will continue to grow with your child.

A crib is a necessity that occupies a lot of space. The best solution from a practicality and budgetary standpoint is to choose one that comes with a conversion kit.

For instance, this 5-in-1 Storkcraft Orchard Convertible Crib features a canopy-top and can be easily transformed from a crib into a daybed, a toddler bed, full-size bed, and playhouse.

Penzo says, “Children are in cribs for a relatively short period of time (2-3 years) so selecting one that offers multi-use capabilities reduces environmental waste. Additionally, the child is generally already comfortable in that sleeping sanctuary and used to it—so he/she can ease into these transitions.”

2. A dresser with a change table

On left, white 6-drawer changing table in a baby room painted green, next to baby mobile. On right, close up shot white 6-drawer changing table with gray changing cushion on top.
Credit: West Elm / Pottery Barn Kids

This convenient storage drawer is not only functional, but also safe for your little one.

Penzo says to look for a dresser with a change table to store onesies, sleep sacks, diapers, creams/ointments, socks, soothers, and other key items because it offers ease of access and plenty of storage.

She advises couples to ensure that the hardware on the dresser is not easy to climb on (in case the little one decides to start exploring his/her surroundings and use it as a jungle gym).

This Modern 6-Drawer Changing Table by West Elm in collaboration with Pottery Barn Kids comes highly recommended by her team.

It is on the pricier side, but the quality and longevity justifies the cost.

Composed of FairTrade Certified wood, it’s sturdy and stylish. It features six storage drawers and has a topper that keeps changing pads in place. Additionally, the topper is removable and with its overall sophisticated design, the drawer can be enjoyed for years to come by your growing child.

3. A play mat or soft area rug

Life aquatic printround playmat on floor in baby room, in front of crib.
Credit: Pehr

Be prepared before your child gets on the move with a super soft play mat or area rug.

A play mat or carpet for soft surfaces is an important element to have, particularly when the baby starts crawling (e.g. under the change table and potentially out of the crib!).

This Life Aquatic PrintRound Playmat by Pehr is supersoft, stylish, and reversible.

Otherwise, another option is to consider puzzle mats (such as this Playspot Geo Foam Floor Tiles by Skip Hop). Penzo explains, “They are very functional and there are really fun ones on the market these days that are more design-forward. They are also easy to wipe off and clean, in comparison to carpet.”

4. A side table

On left, Bluxome wooden end table in living room next to armchair and shelf. On right, close up of Bluxome wooden end table with plant, book, and tea cup on top next to armchair.
Credit: Trent Austin Design

Keep all your child's necessary items within reach with an end table.

According to Penzo, another nursery essential is a side table, such as this Bluxome End Table from Wayfair or minimalist Collins Side Table by Pottery Barn Kids), because it can offer additional storage options and a place to put lamp (like this cute Miffy Star Light by West Coast Kids) for reading to your baby at night before bed.

5. A rocker or glider

On left, Harper tufted convertible rocking chair in yellow painted baby room next to crib. On right, product shot Harper tufted convertible rocking chair next to lamp
Credit: Graco

This practical chair offers versatility as your child's needs change.

Penzo recommends that all baby mamas should have a rocking armchair or a glider with convertible capabilities, such as this easy-to-clean one by Graco.

The chair’s rocking component is great for when breastfeeding or snuggling an infant, and as the child grows, its versatility may be useful when he or she wants the unit to become stationary.

6. A daybed

Product shot of gray tufted daybed.
Credit: RH Baby

This daybed is perfect for snuggling and reading with your toddler.

A daybed, such as this one from RH Baby & Child with two-drawer storage feature, or one from Wayfair with a trundle is a saving grace for parental units and caregivers watching over baby.

However, whether your nursery can accommodate one depends on how much space you have to work with.

Penzo says, “Daybeds can be bulky, but if you can make them work, you can not only use it for sleep but it can serve a longer-term purpose such as spending quality time with your little one reading stories together.”

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