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Habitat: Minimalist Nursery


Mo's bedroom - JILLIAN KIRBY
  • Jillian Kirby
  • Mo's bedroom

One of the first things you'll probably hear upon entering my house is my 2-year-old son, Mo, addressing you with an outstretched hand. "Hands, walk, room," he'll say, as he leads you into his tiny bedroom, just off the central living space. The walls are warm white, a low wooden bed sits in the corner and a sheer rainbow curtain is draped over the window. A driftwood and wool mobile made by local artist Kate Taylor slowly turns above his bed. The opposite wall is covered in light wood paneling, at the center of which is a plywood box with all manner of latches, knobs, switches and fasteners attached. The box, a first birthday gift from my father, gives Mo the opportunity to practice his fine motor skills and even includes a light he can turn on and off.

Mo's plywood sensory box - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Mo's plywood sensory box

Mo is proud to share his space with visitors, and he happily plays or rests alone in his personal domain. But it hasn't always been this way. Mo never slept well in his first nursery — an explosion of color, pattern and too much stuff. When he was 6 months old, we moved, which gave us the opportunity to create a space that felt both fun and restful.

I checked in with Holly Hickey Moore, an interior designer with offices in Texas and Vermont — and the parent of a toddler — to get her professional advice about creating a kid's nursery.

"It can be easy to get caught up focusing on the way it looks rather than the way it functions, especially for new parents," she told me. "However, you have to be mindful of how you will move around in the space with a newborn baby."

If I could go back and do it all again, there are three items I would invest in for our nursery: a comfortable armchair, an attractive foam play mat and an excellent video monitor. In my experience, babies either want to be held and fed, or they want to explore independently. The rest is all extra.

Nursery Nesting

Driftwood and wool mobile - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Driftwood and wool mobile

Here are my tips for creating a minimalist space for little ones, with some additional advice from interior designer Holly Hickey Moore.

  • Having a new baby is exhausting physical work, so think about your comfort when planning the room. Consider including a comfy chair, a place to keep a water bottle and snacks, and dimmable lighting. As for the changing table, "think about who will be changing the baby the most," Moore says. It "should be a comfortable height — not t0o high or too low."
  • Use electrical outlet and cord covers, and anchor furniture like dressers and bookshelves with wall straps to ensure the area is safe to explore. Look at the space from a baby's point of view. You don't want to set up shelves only to realize a few months later that your child can yank everything off them.
  • Minimalism isn't just about having a sleek space; it's also about minimizing the need for more stuff over time. By choosing a simple, clean design, your child's room can grow and change with them. We chose a Montessori-style floor bed, which Mo should be happy in until grade school, and skipped the crib entirely. Take a pass on the fancy crib sets; a fitted sheet is the only bedding recommended for safe baby sleep. "Dressers, cabinets and consoles make great changing tables," adds Moore, and can be put to another use once your child is out of diapers.

"Habitat" celebrates places where Vermont families live and play. Got a sweet space you'd like us to see? Email us at

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