Watch: Designer Shonali Mahajan on the best tips for designing a child's room

Q & A with designer Shonali Mahajan on the essentials for a nursery at home for your kids

Shonali Mahajan founded Studio Woodhouse, her Mumbai-based interior and architectural design firm in 2014, designing residential homes in Mumbai and Pune and second homes in Alibaug, Conoor and Goa. This year she added a new specialised segment to her studio that she literally calls her newest baby—Little Nugget, a design service meant especially for kids’ rooms and nurseries. “This sort of happened very naturally. Friends would come to me to help them design just one room or a child’s space within their homes, but I wasn’t sure about taking that on. But when we  turned a room around for a little baby for the first time, and then the baby finally came home, it was all really endearing and heart-warming. I think we liked that aspect of the work we do. The clients are really excited, especially when it’s the firstborn,” smiles Shonali.

We sat down with the designer in her studio and got her to tell us everything that goes behind designing a little one’s room:

“When first-time parents come, it’s just a whole bunch of emotions and the whole family is really excited. So, you have to get everyone’s inputs. The budget tends to be the most important thing because most young parents are not flush with resources. Timelines are also a concern because all of the construction is happening within a running home and they want it done quickly so as not to inconvenience anyone. The third main concern for them is, of course, to make sure that the baby is going to be safe, which means no sharp edges, no dust magnets and only safe, non-toxic materials around.” 

Kids study room with two wooden desks, two chairs, books and an overhead loft

Keep in mind that you need to plan the space for a growing child whose needs will continue to evolve.

“You need a changing table that is also a chest of drawers, a cot that has storage underneath, a daybed for the mother, a rocking chair and wardrobe.”

“I also learned this recently on the job. It is really important to have different different types of lighting in a baby’s room and for different tasks. In addition to spotlights on the ceiling, add background lighting for when the baby is sleeping so that you have a soft glow and it calms the baby down. Dimmable lighting is important; remember to add one light above the changing table. In the bathroom, having lighting with motion sensors helps because when you have the baby in your arms it just makes life easier for the mother or nanny.” 

“Gender-neutral design is trendy right now. To make a gender-neutral nursery, you can focus on elements like the wallpaper, soft upholstery and the colours. I would avoid anything too floral and instead go with stripes, a tropical theme, a jungle or forest. For the curtains you could have something that the child will use even when they get older, such as sheers in green or blue. You can have another layer of the main curtains in black-and-white polka dots, pinstripes or something abstract. Add rugs for another pop of colour. My other favourite thing to do is colour blocking. For example, you can have a grey, yellow and white nursery.” 

“One of the main concerns for young parents with tight budgets is that they don’t want to do up the space again when the child is over the age of three or four. The room should grow and evolve with the child so we don’t go as per what the plan is today, but plan five years ahead. In terms of your soft upholstery and curtains, it’s not such a big deal because you will change them. From an interior design standpoint, things like adding plug points, creating a space for a desk, a growing wardrobe, among other things, is important. Recently we designed a nursery keeping in mind that the couple would have another kid, so we planned for two beds, a desk, two wardrobes, etc. And even things like the daybed, the cot, chaining table, were all planned so that with a few minor tweaks or modifications—like adding legs or some nice handles—they could easily be used later. The other important thing is the bathroom—at first the mother and the nanny are accessing it, but when the child grows, they have to use it themselves. So, what we do for vanities, for example, we add a little drawer which when pulled out can be used as a stool to access the basin and it blends into the décor at the same time.”


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