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Vintage Nursery on a Shoestring Budget

By Jessica Ackerman

If you are on a tight budget and can't afford to have everything new and polished in your nursery, a vintage theme is a great idea. There are several places you can find furniture and accessories to suit a vintage nursery, from your childhood keepsakes to yard sales. Get creative with giving old items new life, and you will have a nursery that has unique character and coziness. Here are some ideas for putting a vintage nursery together on a shoestring budget.

Visit yard sales and thrift stores. These are good places to find outdated furniture that people have thrown out for more contemporary designs. Many of these pieces are still in great condition structurally and may only need touching up with wood putty and paint. Those with a worn or distressed finish and antique hardware will fit nicely in a vintage nursery. Look for dressers, armoires, and changing tables that are suitable furnishings for the nursery. Other items like vintage lamps, chairs, fabrics, toys, and collectibles can complete the decor

Collect hand-me-downs. The best vintage items are those that hold personal meaning and have a familiar feel. You may have received furniture items that have been in your family for generations, or have kept a baby blanket from your childhood. Your favorite toys or books as a child will not only bring back warm memories but also serve as interesting accessories for your child's nursery. Tell family members and friends that you are collecting things from the past to decorate your nursery, and you are sure to end up with some useful items.

Display vintage items creatively. Frame up pages of nursery rhymes from old books, or vintage cartoons or comic pages. If you have saved baby clothes, bibs, or small trinkets from your childhood, put them in a shadow box and display it on the nursery wall. Antique toys and dolls that are fragile and not in the most sanitary condition are best displayed out of reach of your children. There they can add color and character without causing harm. If you have a collection of vintage fabrics, consider arranging them on the wall by stretching them over embroidery hoops, or sew a patchwork quilt.

Try faux painting. Painting is an inexpensive and easy way to create the look that you want for your furniture. If you have a new-looking piece that you want to use in your vintage nursery, consider distressing the paint finish or using glaze or a special paint like crackle medium to achieve the look of antique or vintage furniture. There are several antique painting techniques that you can read up on and experiment with before trying them on your furniture items.

Avoid unsafe furniture. Finally, a note of caution: Be doubly sure that all furniture in the nursery meets current safety standards. Vintage cribs may be considered hazardous for your child, especially if the gaps between the crib slats are too wide, and if there are missing or broken parts. More crib safety standards can be found at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. Lead paint is another hazard that may be present in older furniture, so test for lead if you suspect it on your vintage items.

Jessica Ackerman, author and staff designer at, specializes in tropical metal art for wall candle sconces.

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