It's totally possible to DIY your way to a beautiful nursery without breaking the bank.
When I tackled my son's nursery, my dreams of installing carpeting and building furniture from scratch quickly fell by the wayside. Not only did I lack the energy for those things, but I didn't want to take out a second mortgage just to upgrade one room.
The room turned out beautiful regardless (see #1).
If you're a super nester like me and want to start decorating ASAP, I've done the legwork and collected some great ideas for you.
Most of the ideas are gender neutral in case it's still early or you want the gender to be a surprise!
Here are 50+ ways to design an inexpensive, catalog-worthy room for your little bundle. The projects range from easy to difficult, and I've tried to include tutorials so you'll have every resource in one place.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. For more details, see my disclosures.
Ideas to Decorate a Nursery on a Budget: items 1-50
1. Add an area rug and paint the walls a lighter color to make your nursery feel larger
You can't go wrong with a fresh coat of paint and a soft area rug. These quick changes give you a lot of bang for your buck. Vendors like RugsUSA.com typically run deals during the holidays. In fact, I was able to score a huge 9x10 rug for $200! Ikea and H&M Kids also carry affordable rugs, blankets, and bedding.
Another option is to inquire with a few flooring places about carpet remnants, as carpet stores can turn scraps into area rugs. For a small fee they will bind the edges so it appears as though you've laid down new carpeting. One and done!
2. Make a shadow box
Frame baby clothes, cards, hospital bands, footprints -- pretty much anything you want to preserve as a keepsake. Most craft stores carry shadow boxes in their framing department.
Pick a theme and start by pinning your larger items first. I secured the clothes with push pins and the stock paper with hot glue. It was super easy to make and I love having this around as a reminder of how little E used to be!
3. Frame stock paper
I used the same stock paper from E's shadow box to create these fun framed prints. Pretty much any craft store (Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Joann Fabrics) carries themed stock paper. Look in their framing department for some heavily discounted frames, or repurpose frames you already own. My son loves these airplanes and they cost me next to nothing!
4. Cross stitch your artwork
I like to kick things up a notch granny style now and again. Cross stitching is seriously addicting. There are so many times when I just want something to keep my hands busy while my mind drifts off to its special happy place. Not only is it great for killing time, but it yields inexpensive room decor (framed pictures, pillow covers, you name it).
5. Hang empty frames for a dramatic effect
6. Repurpose thrift store finds
Thrift stores are veritable treasure troves of nursery gems. From old dressers to picture frames, there are multiple ways to upcycle another woman's trash. Some simple hardware and a can of spray paint is all you need to make old furniture new again.
Pictured above: one of my very first DIY projects! To see how I updated this tired laminate dresser for my pregnant friend's nursery, see My 3-Step DIY Nursery Dresser Makeover.
7. Keep an Eye Out for Church Consignment Sales
You can score major deals by visiting church consignment events. A Methodist church in my community runs a biannual baby sale where prices are marked down as much as 50-90% off retail!
8. Solicit Hand-me-downs from Friends and Neighbors
See if any of your neighbors have baby items they no longer need. You'll likely feel more comfortable accepting gently used items and clothing from people you know. Sign up for the NextDoor App, an HOA Facebook group, or ask around in person.
We purchased the changing table above from our neighbors for $40. I gave it a bit of a facelift with chalk paint and antique wax, then resold it back on Craigslist for $40 when we moved to Georgia.
9. Use an old classroom projector
A brilliant idea if you're not skilled in the art of freehand drawing. I recently created a similar Lord of the Rings inspired feature wall in my son's room (full tutorial here!). You can make these kinds of drawings using a movie projector.
10. Take advantage of free nursery printables
Simply enter "nursery printables" into Pinterest and you'll have an array of options at your disposal. There's quotes, animal images, scenic backgrounds -- you name it. Sam over at Simple Every Day Mom curated 100+ free nursery art printables here. Thanks Sam!
11. Hit up your local Ikea
- RASKOG Diaper cart via Brit.co
- HENSVIK Crib via Ikea Hackers
- HEMNES Dresser via projectnursery.com
- EXPEDIT bookshelf via homedit.com
- DIY STRANDMON Rocker via InteriorsbyKenz
- LACK Wall Shelf via Apartment Therapy
This one really merits its own post. Ikea is inexpensive, versatile and oh-so-functional. So many of their "adult" furniture pieces work in a nursery space.
The Hemnes dresser has to be one of their best sellers, because I've seen it used in many, many nurseries. The top works well as a changing table -- throw on a changing cushion along with a grip pad (like the one used to line kitchen cabinets) to keep it from slipping off.
12. Join a local MOPS group
MOPS brings women together in their faith and relationship with Christ. It's also a great way to meet like-minded moms and exchange tips, ideas, and second-hand baby gear. There are more than 3900 MOPS groups across the U.S. To find a group near you, visit here.
13. Find second-hand (or third-hand) furniture on Craigslist
If you've started to look for nursery rockers, you may have noticed these babies can cost upwards of $700. I wasn't willing to fork out that kind of money, so I bought an amazing third-hand microfiber rocker from another mom on Craigslist. It still gets a lot of use today.
Some of your nursery items -- especially your rocker -- are going to take a beating. You may as well buy something cheap and not fret the damage. Just be careful and have a friend/spouse go with you. If you're buying a crib, make sure it's in good working order and complies with safety standards.
14. Buy digital art on Etsy
You can find adorable digital prints on Etsy for under $10. The best part about buying a digital file is not having to wait for shipping!
I bought the baby wolf print above for $23, which included shipping. Yes, a bit on the pricier side, but one advantage with Etsy is being able to request custom orders. Vendors will typically go above and beyond to give you a quality product. You can find the wolf and other adorable animal prints here.
15. Incorporate DIY Lanterns
Lanterns add a whimsical, dreamy element to your nursery theme. It's as if your baby is going to be prancing through a field of fireflies. Recreate the effect here and here.
16. Make your own curtain rod
I hated the cheap blinds in Evan's nursery. I couldn't just do away with a window treatment altogether, though, because his window faced the east. Solution: make curtain rods out of electrical conduit. You'll use liquid nails to insert dowel rods and finial globes at the ends. It's easier than it sounds!
Here's the tutorial I followed. I made two curtain rods -- one for sheer IKEA curtains, and the other one for homemade blackout curtains.
16. Make your own blackout curtains
Once you're done making your cheap electrical conduit curtain rod, sew your own custom-length blackout curtains for a fraction of the price. I chose a French pinstriped fabric to compliment the craftsman trim around his window. It was great for blocking out the sun during precious nap times!
17. DIY Floating shelves
Everyone loves floating shelves. They're functional and super cute. I got mine at Target, and Ikea makes the MOSSLANDA. You can also make your own shelves out of pallets or scrap wood!
18. DIY Pillow covers
Got a bunch of ugly pillows? Making your own pillow covers is a breeze! I used the following tutorial to make envelope covers for my friend's nursery. If you want to get a bit more technical, I highly recommend Centsational Girl Kate's invisible zipper tutorial.
19. DIY Wallpaper
There are so many ways to mimic the look of wallpaper without spending the big bucks:
-- Using stencils. Photocopy a pattern onto a sheet of mylar. Tape the stencil to the wall and paint over it with acrylic paint. Centsational girl has a painted trellis wall tutorial here.
-- You can use a sharpie!
-- Staple fabric to a wall!
-- Draw your own design by hand.
20. Turn one wall into a chalkboard
Guys. I can't...Is it too late to use this idea in a toddler room??
21. Make a DIY nursery tent
These are so cute and would work well for home photoshoots! Learn how to make 12 different kinds of DIY Teepees here.
22. Add a monogram
Who doesn't love baby names in big letters? You can make your own letters out of cardboard or buy them pre-made at any craft store. My favorite shabby chic blogger (who on occasion swears like a sailor in an awesome Irish accent) -- Catherine over at Dainty Dress Diaries -- shows you how to make adorable flower letters out of MDF.
23. Bring the outdoors in
3) project nursery.com
This design approach gives a whole new meaning to the term "nesting." You can:
--Repurpose twigs from your yard
--Use twigs to make a mobile
-- Make your own Wreath Art
-- Learn how to draw birch trees on your wall using a credit card!
24. Hang photos from a clothes line
Easy to make, cute, and inexpensive.
25. Print off and frame historic maps
Did you know you can get just about any kind of map for free on the Library of Congress website? Frame maps of places with sentimental meaning for both parents, or print them off as engineered prints using tip #27.
26. Transform photos into engineered prints
Did you know you can buy a 36 x 48 print for about $15? For a small fee Staples can transform any hi-res photo into what's called an "engineered print." Simply paste the print onto poster board or turn it into a framed piece of art following the directions here.
27. Install a framed peg board
I may just steal this idea for my workshop!
28. DIY Dream catcher
I would have loved this DIY Dream Catcher tutorial when I was planning Evan's wolf-themed nursery!
29. Add wall decals
30. Make pinwheels or origami for added dimension
31. Make your own paper flower décor
In the same vein as the pinwheels, you can make gorgeous wallflowers out of paper for a more feminine vibe.
32. Make your own mobile out of coffee filters or flowers
Mobiles can be so beautiful with very little effort! Simply install a small hook in your ceiling and tie a needlepoint hoop from it. Add flowers, tulle, ribbons, etc. Fishing line works great it you have small petals hanging from the hoop.
33. DIY pom poms
Learn how to make your own tissue paper poms here.
34. Frame artwork from an older sibling
Priceless artwork! We actually asked all the kids at our baby shower to draw pictures of what they thought the baby was going to look like. We received many frame-worthy submissions!
35. Turn simple fabric into canvas art
Melanie Ham teamed up with Project Nursery.com to create this way to create DIY art! Watch the tutorial here.
36. Paint a striped wall
I don't recommend this project if you're a novice painter -- stripes can be tricky and frustrating! But if you're up for the challenge, it's worth the effort. Learn how to paint a striped wall here and here.
37. Add a board and batten wall
Learn how to install board and batten the cheap and easy way by going to Lauren at Blesser House.
38. Install picture frame molding
I speak from first hand experience when I say picture frame molding is a fairly easy project.
Love the look as much as I do? See how I installed wainscoting in our master bedroom by heading over to my Cheap and Easy DIY Wainscoting Tutorial.
39. Install a plank wall made of pallets
The nice thing about pallet walls is that they have a bit more rustic, woodsy appeal compared to shiplap.
To learn how to install your own plank wall, head on over to the Easy Plank Wall Tutorial provided by my friend Angie here on Top Shelf.
40. Upcycle an old lampshade
Learn how to recover an old lampshade here.
41. Install shiplap
Of course I had to include this one. Make your room seem bigger by covering your walls in gorgeous farmhouse shiplap. Here's How to avoid 10 Common Mistakes when Installing Faux Shiplap!
42. Add wooden wall accents
43. Add cornices to your windows
Here's how to add a cornice for $10.
44. Make a crib canopy
Crib canopies are all the rage right now. Make your own for next to nothing!
45. Frame illustrations from vintage children's books
Follow the source link to download your own free fairytale images!
46. Add hooks to the wall
Increase the functionality of your nursery by adding simple hooks.
47. Repurpose décor from other areas of your home
Are you a farmhouse junkie? Mix and match pieces from other areas of your home to achieve the same look in the nursery.
48. Make your own blanket ladder
Cute and practical. Here's how to make one for $5.
49. DIY nail and string art
50. Build your own furniture
If you have the time to build a changing table…or a willing spouse…get plans from Ana White here and here.
If you made it all the way to the end -- Congrats! I hope this post wasn't too overwhelming for you. It's by no means a to-do list for you, rather an exhaustive list of options. Pick an idea or two and run with it!
Don't stress if you can't do everything in advance. You can always work on things like shadow boxes and wall decor after the baby arrives, too.
Get creative and just have fun!
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