Ask the Expert: Antiques for Kids?

Question: Hey there! I really enjoyed your post a few years back on the “antiqued nursery.”  Could you give any tips or ideas on using antique pieces for kids’ rooms?  In particular, a little boy’s room? We just found out we are having our first (a boy) in the new year and I am looking for some unique pieces to start a collection for him.  I want to create a nursery that can double for a “big boy” without changing too much decor. Thanks!

Caroline in San Marco

Answer: Caroline, thanks for your question. We are expecting a little boy in the new year, too, so this is a fun one to answer. You mentioned my post, The Antiqued Nursery, and you might also check out one I did a few years back on Man-tiques.  The neat thing about Man-tiques is that although you are making a little boy’s room, you are putting together a collection that won’t go out of style and that he can take with him to start his own family one day.

Antique Kid 8

I had grand plans of posting “The Antiqued Nursery # 3” for this third little Nash coming in March, but I guess the nature of the third child is that his room isn’t up to par for blog photography.  Currently, it’s a hodgepodge of antique stuff – rejects from his brother and sister’s rooms. Since this is your first you can probably be a little more creative!

Antique Kid 5

1. Think practicality and versatility.

Can this piece double as something else in another house? Can he use it when he’s older? I never buy anything that can be used only in one particular space, because my wife and I are constantly moving furniture.  For bedside tables, just look for solid, attractive side tables with good lines, preferably with a drawer or two. If they are not particularly old or fine, don’t think twice about painting them.  If they are old or fine, put a youthful pair of vintage lamps on them to fit the nursery. Don’t fall for one of those new “nursery bedroom suites” if you are going for an older look. I have stolen bedside tables from my kids’ rooms at least twice when we re-arranged things around the house and needed them elsewhere. Children’s rooms are a great place to use pieces that you might also need somewhere else later. Oh, and don’t buy a changing table (see this post).  Find an old 1930s sideboard and paint it or use a beautiful lowboy.  A changing table will end up on the street one day… a lowboy won’t.

Antique Kid 4

Primitive, country, side or work tables make excellent additions to kids’ rooms. They have been beat up and can take more!

Antique Kid 9


Antique Kid 10

2. Look for dogs, boats, maps, and antler motifs.  (It you need extra help, there’s sure to be a plethora of these items at this year’s show.)

Find interesting items that can spill over into a den or guest bedroom. Don’t lock yourself into “kid art.” As a dad of two (soon to be three), let me assure you that two-year-olds are just as excited about waving to an antique watercolor of a dog that looks like their own as they are about a picture of Dora the Explorer or somebody from Frozen.

antique kid 13

Antique Kid 2

Antique Kid 16

Antique Kid 15

antique kid 12

3. For beds, consider antique 3/4 cannonball or spindle beds.

Yes, they are shorter. Yes, they can be a pain to outfit. But they look really cool. As a rule, 3/4 beds need a custom mattress because they are shorter and skinnier than a double bed. But, they make the perfect kid or toddler bed. They add so much character and charm to the room (and you can get away with full/queen bedding). They are space savers, while also allowing you to have a guest bed in your nursery. Remember two people used to sleep in these things.

antique kid 17

Antique Kid 1

Antique Kid 3

4. Don’t overthink it.

Babies don’t know or care what their rooms look like, and let’s be honest, when they get older, you will want them acclimated to older things and trained to like what you like.  Right now, my second son (arriving in 2016) has a pair of red and green floral, William Morris style lamps on his bedside tables, and it doesn’t bother me.  I can ‘masculinize’ the room in other ways to off-set the lamps. I bought the lamps for my wife for our first bedroom together, and our third child’s nursery is just where they happened to end up.  I love it. Use what you have.  Use what you like.  And if you are hunting, try to find a vintage or antique alternative to what you see in the catalog.

Antique Kid 18

Happy Nurserying!


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