The ABCs of creating a chic nursery

First comes love, then comes marriage and then comes time to pick out the baby carriage — and decorate the nursery.

Already the tabloids are speculating on the room where England's heir to the throne will lay his royal head when Prince William's and Kate Middleton's baby is born in July. And even though Kim Kardashian and Kanye West aren't quite in sync with the old rhyme, the gossip magazines are anticipating the extravagant nursery the couple will add to their $11 million mansion in Bel Air.

Not to mention the nursery that Joe Flacco and his wife, Dana, can create for their second child with the Ravens quarterback's new $120.6 million deal.

But decorating a nursery fit for a prince or princess — or the next reality TV star — doesn't require a royal treasury, decorators say.

The key to creating a nursery that is both chic and affordable is to focus on functionality and adaptability. Most cribs (even the $7,300 one Kate Middleton reportedly is eyeing) convert to toddler beds or even twin beds. Designers say expectant parents also are moving away from pastel pinks and blues and creating rooms that will be suitable as babies grow into toddlers and even teens.

"I wouldn't say there is one style," says Jackie Bayer, a designer with Amanda Austin Interiors in Baltimore. "People are more daring in expressing the things they like."

Interior decorating, even that for nurseries, frequently follows fashion trends, designers say.

"One of the things I'm seeing a lot more of is elegance to the nursery," says Mary Bauer, owner of Baltimore-based Bratt Decor, whose clients have included Jennifer Lopez and Kourtney Kardashian. "People are really breaking out of that [idea the] baby room has to look very different from the rest of the house."

Increasingly parents are looking to decorate nurseries with elements they might use in other rooms, including chandeliers, antique furniture and elegant colors, designers say.

"Nurseries are moving away from the traditional matchy-matchy look to a more sophisticated look," says Melissa Smith, a Westminster interior designer. "I think parents are trying to look a little more to the future and design a nursery that goes with their kids."

Gray walls with neon accents have been hot in recent years, but some designers say black is becoming popular in nurseries.

Sherri Blum, a Harrisburg, Pa., interior designer who helped design nurseries for former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott and TV star Tori Spelling, also predicts a soft linen hue will become a popular neutral color in the coming year. She says she also expects to see more emerald showing up in the nursery after Pantone named it the color of the year.

"We will most definitely see more of this color popping up in our bedding, rugs and more over the next year or two," she says.

Horizontal stripes and chevron patterns are also growing in popularity, she says. "Chevron is fun and gender-neutral, making it a great choice for any nursery," Blum says.

Designers say a popular and affordable decorating trick is creating an accent wall with wallpaper, a mural or a contrasting color.

"The most affordable way to get high designer impact is with color," Bauer says. "Definitely have fun painting the wall. Also, paint the ceiling a different color. Put a stripe on the wall. It's so cheap, and it adds so much punch to your room."

Parents decorating the nursery ought to pay particular attention to the ceiling because babies spend so much time looking up at it, Smith says. "I think it's really important to add some ceiling detail. Cool paint jobs, stickers, 3-D butterflies, molding on the ceiling. …That can really complete a design."

Baltimore designer Paula Henry added ceiling interest to a nursery she designed for a Baltimore Symphony Associates show house two years ago by hanging a glass chandelier over the crib. The sparkling glass was complemented by glitter-infused black paint on the walls.

"The whole room literally sparkled," she says.

In that room, white furniture contrasted with the dark walls. A round crib, placed in the center of the nursery, put the focus on the baby. Henry hung black-and-white photos of a newborn on one wall and a canvas word mural designed by artist Dee Cunningham on another.

Cunningham urges parents to think about art that will be appropriate for children as they grow older. "You don't want to invest all this money in something you're going to change in five years," she says.

Her work includes underwater murals and an elaborate African safari scene depicting lounging lions and a charging rhino.

Blum, who writes a decorating blog, notes that birds have been popular items in nursery decor for the past few years, but she sees the trend moving toward woodland animals. Trees are always in style, she says.

Plants and animals aren't the only options, though. Smith says she likes to put letters and words on the walls. One easy way to do this, she notes, is to frame pages from children's books.

Another way to add color on a budget is to frame fabric patterns. "It's a good way to bring in a fabric you love without paying $600 to $1,000 on bedding for a crib," Smith says.

Designers say parents also can save money by moving furniture from other rooms to the nursery or buying pieces that can be moved out later. For instance, an antique armoire or bookcase can be decorated with stencils to complement a nursery or a dresser can be converted to a changing table.

Blum advises buying a neutral-colored glider so it can be moved to another room of the house when longer needed to rock the baby.

But one piece parents should not skimp on is the crib, designers note. Safety standards have changed, and even cribs only a few years old might not meet the new requirements. And in Maryland, crib bumpers are no longer allowed.

As the nursery trends change, interior designers are watching to see how Kate and Kim decorate their babies' rooms.

"Clients do enjoy borrowing elements from the nurseries of their favorite celebrities," Blum says. "I'm sure once the royal nursery is shared with the world, I will have many requests."

5 trends for nursery design

Color: Gray, black, linen accentuated by bright or neon colors

Ceilings: Crystal chandeliers, murals, 3-D images

Furniture: Repurposed dressers, armoires, gliders or rockers

Cribs: Oval or round

Wall art: Murals, framed fabric, word art, framed pages from children's books