If the trend for flamboyant Insta-friendly nurseries is anything to go by, a large chunk of Harry and Meghan’s £2.4 million renovation of Frogmore Cottage was likely to have been spent on baby Archie’s bedroom. Eimear O’Hagan explores the rise of ‘extreme nesting’.
Playing in the ball pond next to a stuffed giraffe twice his size and with his mother watching at his side, 14-month-old Otis Cotton is a picture of contentment. As well he might be – because his is no ordinary baby boy’s pastel blue bedroom. There’s no sign of a traditional white wooden cot with a brightly coloured plastic mobile above it.
Otis’s nursery is a work of art – a jungle-themed, gender-neutral room with chic furniture that wouldn’t look out of place in a top hotel. His mum Amanda, a fashion design manager, spent months dreaming up his room and a further £2,000 bringing it to life. Amanda and her husband Jess, both 36, even decamped to another bedroom so their firstborn could enjoy the delights of the beautiful high-ceilinged master bedroom of their home in Watford.
Thanks to social media, the pressure is on new mothers to provide a stylish, unique nursery – even if their child is far too young to appreciate it. And as an interiors ‘influencer’ who posts to almost 30,000 Instagram followers, Amanda had a lot to live up to.
‘Knowing I would be sharing images of this room with all those people increased the effort I put into its design,’ she says. ‘I was never going to be someone who had a baby blue or sugary pink nursery, so I opted for quirky prints and darker colours.’
The jungle-print wallpaper was imported from Milton & King in Australia for an eye-watering £600, while the furniture – including a £575 charcoal grey cot and a £517 changing unit – is from Norwegian brand Stokke. A green velvet chair (£90), organic cotton ochre canopy (also £90) and an elephant rocker (£149) complete the wild look.
‘It has raised eyebrows – not everyone understands why I put so much effort and money into a baby’s room, and some people ask why he needs one of this size,’ admits Amanda. ‘But I wanted to create a unique room for Otis, as well as give him space to play so downstairs isn’t overrun with toys.’
Since completing Otis’s room, Amanda has posted more than 40 pictures of it on her Instagram account House Lust. She began planning the nursery at her three-bedroom home midway through her pregnancy. ‘For me it was never a chore, despite being heavily pregnant by the time it was finished, because I’d waited so long to be preparing for a baby’s arrival,’ says Amanda.
After years of trying to conceive, she’d been diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis and feared she’d never have a baby. But to her and operations manager Jess’s joy, she became pregnant on their first attempt at IVF. ‘It was such a difficult journey that when I found out I was expecting, I wanted to create a special room for this baby we’d waited so long for. I threw myself into it, completing it a month before he was born,’ she says.
‘I wanted a gender-neutral nursery that would be creative and stimulating for the baby and also make a statement. I prefer to set trends rather than copy them, so it was important to me this wasn’t just an average-looking nursery.’
Leading the charge in the quest for the perfect nursery are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who had their son Archie in May. Meghan is rumoured to have chosen a calming (and gender neutral) grey scheme with vegan, organic paint infused with rosemary and a designer crib which can convert to a toddler bed, as part of the £2.4 million renovations to their new home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.
While not quite in that league, mothers up and down the country are following suit, splurging small fortunes in the process. Charli Morgan spent a whopping £17,000 on her 15-month-old daughter Poppy’s Red Riding Hood-themed nursery, devoting almost an entire floor of the house to the little girl.
‘After I found out I was pregnant,we decided to do a loft conversion to create a bedroom and bathroom for the baby,’ says Charli, 37, who runs a PR company with husband Matt, 36. ‘We had three bedrooms, but I wanted a new space for her rather than simply redecorating a spare room. I joke that it was extreme nesting!’
The conversion, which cost £15,000, took three months then the couple spent a further month decorating and styling the room, finishing just days before Poppy’s birth in April 2018. The focal points are the bespoke Red Riding Hood mural wallpaper costing £250, and the matching £500 SnüzKot cot, which Charli spotted on another mother’s Instagram.
Poppy’s changing unit and cupboard were from Ikea (£315) and the flooring cost £400. Pricey grey Farrow & Ball paint covers the other walls. ‘I chose the fairy-tale theme because I wanted an imaginative room that wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill nursery,’ says Charli, who lives in Southeast London. ‘My hope is that a literary-themed bedroom will encourage Poppy to become a keen reader, like me.
‘I created online moodboards, Photoshopping images together, adding in little details such as a fabric wolf’s head, which was £50, and framed masks, until I felt the room was perfect. The décor, furniture and accessories came to just under £2,000, and, being crafty, I made some things myself, such as giant letters spelling Poppy’s name, which are created from MDFDF and pompoms, and cost £60. I also made a mobile, which was £25 for the materials. I’ve shared photos on Facebook and when Poppy was born, visitors went upstairs to see the room after they’d had a cuddle with her. I’ve been chuffed by their reactions to it.’
This trend for creating a decadent space for your tot and posting pictures on social media has a name – ‘one-upmumship’. According to Toks Aruoture, owner of The Baby Cot Shop, ‘A stylish nursery has become a status symbol for modern mothers. It’s definitely bred a sense of “one-upmumship” with women striving to create individual, inspirational nurseries. A little box room, simply decorated, just isn’t going to do it any more for many mums.’
Toks’s Chelsea boutique has seen a 70 per cent rise in demand for gender-neutral nurseries, a 40 per cent increase in sales of organic mattresses and cot bedding, and a growing market for unpainted hardwood cots. The craze has sparked another trend – the ‘nursery reveal’ party, where friends and relatives are invited round to see the new baby’s room. ‘It’s as important to them as having a baby shower,’ says Toks. They see their nursery as a reflection on themselves as mothers and want to show it off.
‘Mums talk, whether in baby groups, on online forums or social media. Your nursery design is now as common a conversation as how you’re feeding your baby and what sort of labour you had.’
Making sure your nursery is unique is just as important. When business coach Charlotte Balbier had her son Harry 23 months ago, she spent around £4,000, which included shipping over accessories from the USUS to ensure no one else had anything similar.
‘My dad lives in California,’ says the 41-year-old, who is married to area manager Edward, 39, ‘and after I spotted a set of gorgeous animal prints and a chandelier light on Pinterest, only to discover they were only available to buy from a US store in Malibu, I had them delivered to his home and he shipped them to me.
‘Dad didn’t really understand why I couldn’t just find something closer to home, nor did Edward, but they knew better than to disagree with a nesting woman! Including the import tax, they cost me well over £600, but I just had to have them. And I loved the fact no one from my circle of friends would have the same in their nurseries.’
She completed the look with a bespoke blind (£250) and over £1,000-worth of children’s furniture, including a £499 chest of drawers, £425 cot, £250 chandelier and £60 chair. This has made it the most expensive room in the house but Charlotte, from Cheadle Hulme, Greater Manchester, says that in the mum circles she moves in, a stylised nursery like hers is the norm.
‘We all want approval from the people who follow us online. We want them to look into our home and feel inspired – I felt that pressure. I’ve shared lots of images of Harry’s room and when followers compliment it and ask me where I got items, it feels fantastic.’
Charlotte admits she might have got carried away with Harry’s nursery, but ‘Harry is a miracle baby. After years of trying and then unsuccessful IVF, doctors told me it was highly unlikely I’d ever conceive, so I was stunned and overjoyed when I became pregnant naturally in late 2016.
‘This nursery is a visible expression of my love for him. I want the best for him, nothing less than perfect. He is my first, and maybe only, child so I don’t regret a penny.’
Nor does Anna Tattersall-Walker, who spent around £3,500 creating her 22-month-old son Ayrton’s nursery when they moved home. ‘Before doing any other part of the house I threw myself into his room – I haven’t even decorated my own bedroom yet. It’s a lot of money but everything for Ayrton has to be the best. I don’t think it’s spoiling him – it’s important to me that he feels comfortable and safe.’
Anna and her husband Michael, both 34-year-old solicitors, moved to their five-bedroom home in Stockport, Cheshire last October. She immediately splashed out on £60-a-roll wallpaper and £600 made-to-measure curtains from John Lewis for Ayrton. ‘His cot and chest of drawers were £1,900. And I shopped at high-end nursery store Adorable Tots in Rochdale [loved by Premiership Wags and reality stars] for his bedding. I also spent about £450 on a cot bumper, bolster and changing mat.’
When visitors come to her home, Anna often gives them a tour of the nursery. ‘I love showing it off both in real life and online. I don’t even mind when Ayrton gets up in the night because it means I can sit in his room, admiring my hard work.’
Anna admits the expectation that nursery photos will be shared online puts pressure on mums to ensure theirs is perfect. ‘I’ve shared images of this room on Instagram, everyone does it, but it can breed a bit of competitiveness among mums because we all want something individual.’
One can only hope it doesn’t breed a sense of unreasonable expectation in children as they grow up.