Create a Custom Nursery on a Budget

Is is just me, or are any of you other parents just flat-out uninspired by the nursery decor that most big baby retailers carry? I remember the excitement of starting to plan our nursery. I wanted something fun, colorful, original, and gender neutral. But that's a tall order when it comes to the selection carried in most stores. Not to mention the fact that there would likely to be a bizillion other nurseries out there that would look exactly the same. Which really doesn't matter, of course, but I enjoy decorating.

And this is what lead me to Etsy, which is brimming with all kinds of beautiful, custom crib sets and decor. Now we're talking! But the problem here? I didn't have a $500 budget just for bedding. So I had to get creative. And thus, the story and how-to of our much anticipated nursery-project-on-a-budget.

Step 1: Pick Your Theme
Search the internet for inspiration. Again, Etsy is wonderful, as well as other sites featuring nursery galleries, like Baby Lifestyles or Oh De Doh. This is how I came across our theme; Joel Dewberry's "Aviary" Sparrows in Almond.

Beautiful, right?! And there's a whole collection based on this print. Here's a few of the designs;
 And then I came across this handmade baby gift set being sold by The Red Pistachio on Etsy;

It was a little pricey (for me) at $75. I'd like to call myself "frugal", but to be honest, I'm just downright cheap. So, while $75 was more than I would usually ever spend, I decided to make this one splurge. After all, this is a handmade set, and this particular fabric collection was out of production. The Sparrows print was no longer available by the yard, at all. I knew I loved it and didn't want to start back at square one for a theme. So, to curb the $75 price tag, I cashed in $25 worth of debit card points, bringing it down to $50. Not bad! And as you'll see below, I got a lot of decor "mileage" out of this little set.

So, assuming you base your nursery theme on a fabric collection, your options for decor are limitless. As soon as I was ready to begin preparing our nursery, I ordered a few yards of some of the other Aviary prints. This also was a little pricey at about $7-$10 per yard, but I didn't need much, and again, this fabric set was my splurge. I think it helps to plan to spend a little more on a few things for the look you want, as long as you can plan to spend less on others. (More about how I did this below.)

Step 2: Purchase Your Nursery Furniture
You might already own your furniture, in which case, that's one less thing to do! In our case, we were starting from scratch. See the story of our furniture buying process here. If you don't have yours yet, consider what style will go best with your theme. I originally wanted a traditional white crib, but realized it wouldn't be ideal for the colors of our theme. So based on that, decided to go for an espresso stained wood.

Step 3: Assemble your Materials
So, once I got my fabric (about $50 for 6 yards), the real fun started! No, you don't have to be a sewing expert to do a few simple projects. In fact, you don't have to know how to sew at all. I'll show you the things I made, but there are plenty of creative no-sew ways to use beautiful fabric as decor. I also picked up some very inexpensive craft and storage items from Joann and Hancock Fabrics.

 Here's the spread!
 Felt ($7), wooden bird houses ($3 total), plaques ($3 total), and an "A" ($1), spray paint ($6), piping ($1)...Oooooo the potential!
And here are acrylic craft paints ($3 total), colored embroidery thread ($.90 total), and ribbon ($4 total).

Total Cost for fabric and all craft supplies: roughly $80 + $75 Etsy gift set= $155

Step 4: Sew & Craft, Scour Thrift Stores, then Put it All Together!

First take a look at the finished areas of the room, and then I'll break it down piece by piece to show you how I DIY'ed, repurposed, saved money, and had a blast creating my dream nursery!

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I made the window valence with a half a yard of Aviary fabric, I made the crib skirt with muslin I already had on hand (about 3 yards), and I sewed a cover onto a plain white crib bumper that I found at a thrift store for $1 (don't worry, I washed it well!). The blanket hanging over the back of the crib came in my Etsy gift set, and I made the three decorative pillows using my fabric and batting. The crib sheet was on clearance at Target for $5, and the sheet protector was $3 from a baby consignment sale. I snagged the brown rug from our kitchen. Total cost: $9

These shelves are actually CD storage crates from Joann, and they're $5 each. Brown fabric is taped to the backs. The little bird came from a thrift store for $.25, I already had the white frame (originally gold, but currently spray-painted white), and the pine cones came from the ground outside! Total cost: $5.25

The hanging bird art was from a thrift store for $1.50. I painted over it with colors to match our theme using the same acrylic paints. The brown paper behind it was from Hobby Lobby, about $.25. The large frame was something I already had. Total cost: $1.75

This is a wooden fruit holder that I picked up from a thrift store for $3. I liked how the stain and style matched the wooden crates from Joann. I hung it with ribbon, and then hung two of the burp cloths that came in my handmade Etsy gift set. Total cost: $3

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The two mirrors behind the changing pad came from the thrift store for about $2. We already owned the floating shelves. The two hanging pieces behind the Aviary basket on the bottom shelf are frames that I already had covered in leftover fabric scraps. The basket holding diaper supplies was a gift. Total Cost: $2.50

I found this orange lamp from a thrift store for $8, brand new and still in the original package! And get this, I saw the same exact one at Target a week later for $16. The small frame also came from a thrift store for about $.50. The sweet pea rattle was a gift, (and is now the prop used in the baby's weekly photo). Total Cost: $8.50

I bought these wooden plaques from Joann for about $1-2 a piece, as well as three acrylic paint colors for about $1 a piece. I already had white paint and brushes. I painted these by hand, but you can use stenciling also. Total cost: $10 (Note: This cost is accounted for with the rest of the craft supplies above.)

I framed leftover scraps of my Aviary fabric using frames I already owned. The orange paper came from Hobby Lobby for about $.50.The spray-painted branches came from the ground outside, I already owned the vase, and the little whimsical round pieces I added to the branches came from the thrift store for $.30. They were originally some sort of gold curtain hangers that I spray painted orange. Total cost: $.80

The blue paper, again, came from Hobby Lobby for $.50. The wreath also came from Hobby Lobby for $1. I made the little bird with ribbon, felt, embroidery thread, an Aviary fabric scrap, and a button I already had on hand. After the craft supplies that I already accounted for above- Total Cost: $1.50 (2)= $3 for two bird wreaths.

This "A", once again, was $1, as well as the paint used to paint it. And this rustic, eclectic pillow was $.50 from the thrift store ($1 for two, the other one is sitting on the espresso shoe rack you'll see below). Total Cost: $2.50        
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The shelf, $1, and shadow box frames, $1.25 each, came from a thrift store. I spray-painted the shelf orange, and spray-painted the frames khaki. In the frames are three washcloths that came in my Etsy gift set. I made the pillow using fabric and stuffing that I purchased. Total cost: $4.75

I bought the hanging wet bag from Etsy for $20 (another one of my splurges). From the thrift store; the little baby carriage for $.50, the decorative pillow on the right, two for $1 (the other one's on the floating shelf), and the small green and yellow cow art for $.30. The two wooden "shelves" are actually stackable crates from Joann, for $20. We already owned the espresso colored shoe rack on the bottom- it matches the crib set perfectly! Total Cost: $22 (Oh, and I can't forget the rolled up Moby wrap on the shelf! That came from a baby consignment shop for $20- half price.)

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 These came straight off of the ground. Total cost: FREE!

This bib came in my Etsy gift set. Too pretty to use, right? Why not display it?

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Step 5: Basque in Satisfaction!
So, what was the total cost of all the fabric, craft supplies, and decor items? $214.35. But to account for little things I might have forgotten to add, we'll round up a little.

So.....let's say the total cost was $230.

Not bad, right? Considering that the custom bedding alone (from Etsy) would have cost me $400-500. And don't forget the $25 debit rewards cash I used, which really made it closer to $200.

If you're like me, you're probably tempted to think that $200 is still a lot. Well, look at it this way, I've got a gender neutral nursery that can be used for all of our children. Let's assume we have three (if Thane asks, tell him I said two). So, $200/3 kids= $67.
So, I have good news for all of my fellow penny pinchers; your dream nursery is possible! It's amazing what you can do with a little resourcefulness and creativity (or should I say a drive based on the fact that you're not willing to spend any money, ha!). And most of my ideas were by no means original. I just did a lot of internet surfing to find things that I liked, and then figured out how to "make them my own" using what I had or what I could get cheaply.

As always, I'd love to hear what you guys have done to save money on your decor. Don't hold out on me! And if you'd like more specific how-to instructions on any of these projects, please don't hesitate to ask!

Happy decorating!


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