Modern Nursery makes it easy to design a beautiful and eco-friendly nursery. Beginning with the crib, select the style of furniture you want from the wide variety of non-toxic options. Then add in sustainable decorative elements and last, but not least, select organic basics.
The crib is where your baby will spend many hours, so you’ll want to make sure it is safe. Many paints and adhesives used in furniture construction off-gas toxic fumes or VOCs. All of the cribs recommended below are GREENGUARD certified. In addition, they’re all convertible to toddler beds which reduces the number of furnishings one has to buy over time.
Other important furnishings to consider are a changing area, a rocking chair or glider and storage for clothes and toys. I’d also recommend an ottoman that coordinates with the chair so that two adults can have a place to sit in the room.
Sustainable Decorative Elements
Before you finalize your crib decision, select a fun decorative element such as a rug. The colors in the rug may alter your crib finish selection. For example, you may be drawn to the Sprout Crib and think White is a safe color choice. But then, if you fall in love with the Botanic Plants Rug, you’ll see the crib in the Chestnut/Natural finish looks even better when paired with that rug.
A rug makes a great focal point for a nursery. Laura Canals has lots of fun sustainable rugs made of 100% cotton and non-toxic dyes. And they’re washable too! Shop rugs here!
It’s always a good idea to select your focal point (such as a rug or a piece of art) before you select your paint color. It’s much easier to find a paint color that matches your rug than the other way around. And for health reasons make sure your paint has no VOCs. Neutrals or cooler colors, such as blues and greens, usually work best for guaranteeing sleep rather than warmer colors such as yellow, oranges and reds which tend to be more invigorating.
Pop & Lolli removable wall stickers are a fun way to add visual interest to a nursery. They’re made in the US with water-based adhesives, eco-friendly inks and no polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is a solid plastic material made from vinyl chloride. It is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates and can contain chemicals like bisphenol (BPA). PVC is considered one of the chemicals that experts recommend we avoid for health reasons. Negative health effects include cancer, hormone disruption and immune system damage (Inglis, 2020).
Another important element to consider for a nursery is lighting. Be sure to have at least one fixture on a dimmer for middle of the night feedings!
Ideas for Furnishings & Decorative Elements
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to keep the style of your house and the style of your nursery about the same. A traditional nursery might feel out of place in a modern home and vice versa.
A New Traditional Look
If you are a traditionalist at heart, I’d start with Laura Canals’ washable Braids Rug, perhaps in Soft Blue. Then I’d definitely go with the convertible Liberty Crib in Warm White. The Darlington Bookcase and 6 Drawer Dresser in Warm White would coordinate nicely with the Liberty Crib. I’d put the Universal Wide Removable Changing Tray in Warm White on top of the dresser. Finally, I’d choose the Penelope Glider in Dove Velveteen.
The Modern Naturalist
As mentioned above, Laura Canals’ Botanic Plants Rug looks great with the convertible Sprout Crib in Chestnut/Natural and it’s washable. There is also a Sprout Changer Dresser in Chestnut/Natural. Last, but not least, I’d add the Toco Swivel Glider and Ottoman in White Linen.
A Contemporary Take
I love how the angle of the legs on the Hudson Convertible Crib in White relate to the angles in Lorena Canals’ Geometric Washable Rug in Emerald. The Hudson collection also includes a Changer Dresser and a 6 Drawer Dresser. For fun and comfort, I’d select the Tuba Glider and its round, Gliding Ottoman in Seafoam.
The Sophisticated Bohemian
If you’re a bohemian at heart, I’d suggest the very eco-friendly Caravan Convertible Crib and Dresser in Charcoal. In addition to the colored finish being GREENGUARD certified, they’re made in the US of solid, domestic maple. The maple is finished with a natural oil/wax. The Caravan pieces would look great with Lorena Canals’ Kaarol Rug and her Berbere Cushion as a throw pillow on a glider. For the ultimate glider, I’d choose the Kiwi Electronic Glider with its matching Kiwi Gliding Ottoman in Performance Cream.
Organic Nursery Basics
No matter which style you select, the three basic crib essentials are a mattress, a mattress protector (or two) and at least three crib sheets (if you want to keep your sanity). As discussed in “Why Organic?” there are good environmental and social justice reasons for selecting organic sheets and mattress protectors. An additional reason for choosing an organic mattress is that conventional cotton and other fibers may not have been washed prior to construction and could still emit dangerous toxins from herbicides and pesticides.
Organic Crib Mattresses
Modern Nursery has a great selection of mattresses made with organic cotton and other materials. All of the organic cotton mattresses recommended here are two sided with one firmer side for infants and a slightly cushier side for toddlers. The Classic Two Stage Lightweight mattress is waterproof, GREENGUARD certified and made in the US. The Dream No. 1 mattress is also made in the US and is biodegradable. Instead of cotton, its core is made up of layer of natural coir and another layer of natural latex surrounded by wool and organic cotton. The Starlight Simplicity mattress core is made up entirely of natural latex surrounded by wool and organic cotton. Natural latex, unlike synthetic latex, comes from the rubber tree and is very durable. The Starlight Simplicity mattress is waterproof and GREENGUARD certified.
Organic Mattress Protectors
To protect your investment in the mattress, it’s a good idea to have at least one or two mattress protectors. The Organic Waterproof Crib Mattress Cover Pad is made up of two layers of organic cotton flannel with an ultra-thin waterproof membrane in between. The Naturepedic Organic Waterproof Fitted Crib Mattress Pad has an ultra-thin waterproof membrane between two layers of organic cotton. The Ultra-Breathable Mattress Pad is designed for maximum airflow between baby and mattress and is quilted with organic cotton. Also, Modern Nursery has their very own Organic Cotton Mattress Pad, which is an affordable eco-friendly option as well!
Organic Crib Sheets
The colorful and GOTS certified Spot on Square Sheets are made with organic dyes and pigments. Many have coordinating organic quilts and throw pillows which are also nice for decorating the room (but not the crib for safety reasons).
If you’re fortunate enough to have a place to hang dry sheets in the shade, take a look at the gorgeous, organic Srushti Sheets made with natural dyes in wonderful patterns. And Naturepedic Sheets are organic and soft. They’re available in Ivory or White. If you have a white crib, I’d definitely go with White, or patterned, sheets. Otherwise Ivory can work well.
If you’re going with White sheets, Naturepedic offers a great combo package which saves money and includes all the Organic Basics: three White Naturepedic Sheets, their Ultra Breathable Mattress Pad and their Classic Two Stage Lightweight mattress!
In sum, it’s easy to design an eco-friendly Modern Nursery by starting with a GREENGUARD certified crib, choosing sustainable decorative elements and selecting organic basics such as a crib mattress, mattress protectors and sheets.
Barb Dornbush is an award-winning residential interior designer and the co-founder of www.ecorooms.io, a website that makes it easy for furniture shoppers to find stylish and sustainable e-commerce sites. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina and loves to hike.
Inglis, S. (May 21, 2020). Sustainable Furnishings Council Webinar: Circularity in Furnishings.