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Trends: Toys Accessorize the Modern Nursery

Oct 9, 2007

by Juliacho handmade and vintage goods

Julia Cho is a writer, poet, and singer/songwriter. She is an editor of the popular design blog, Apartment Therapy: The Nursery, and a professor of writing. "At The Nursery, we provide inspiration for incorporating children into a healthy and beautiful home, regardless of space or budget."

Pastels and ruffles are out. Bold colors and clean lines are in. The modern nursery blends in with the rest of the home, and today’s parents are creating gender-neutral rooms that will grow and evolve with their children. The nursery has become a room everyone can enjoy, and furniture, bedding, and art have all gone modern with natural materials, geometric patterns, and bold color palettes. As a result (and along with other reasons), the plastic, Disney-fied toys of the past just aren’t cutting it anymore. The toys in the modern nursery are classic, quality-made, and pretty easy on the eyes too. Grown-ups don’t mind having them around or even showcasing them as a part of their design — no need to bury them all in a trunk or storage bin.

The revolution in modern nursery design really began when design-conscious parents couldn’t find anything they’d actually want in their homes. So, they went out and started their own companies. We think Etsy is serving in a similar way. People who can’t find what they want are making it themselves, and that provides a lot more options for the rest of us less crafty folk. People who come to our blog aren’t looking for Barney or Elmo. They’re looking for toys that are safe, of good quality, and unique! That’s one of the reasons we do an Etsy Scavenger over at AT: The Nursery. If you’re a new parent, it’s a really fun time to design a nursery!

First, the modern toy is good looking. Even the ubiquitous "Ugly Doll" looks cute sitting on the daybed in the nursery. I recently gave my nephew an Ugly Doll for his first birthday, and though he was too busy with the wrapping paper to notice, my sister-in-law was delighted, "I’ve wanted one of these forever!" Today’s toys make everyone happy.

We’ve showcased these beautiful chimes made of AppleBlossomBaby 100% cotton fabrics before. These are definitely on the top of our list for a simple and special baby gift.

The pretend-food trend fits in perfectly with the modern nursery aesthetic. Some of our very favorite handmade food was found right here on Etsy. Nana & Company makes the most precious bakery sets with felt cookies that make us hungry.

We fell in love with these and have been trying to think of more little girls we can buy them for ever since! Amy, who makes the "Pretty Little Things" is in the studio right now and pregnant with her third child, but look for new items fresh out of the oven soon!

Hey, and don’t forget your veggies!

These are handcrafted from a wool and mohair blend.

The modern toys are the classics…with a twist. They’re made to last for generations or even be handed down as heirlooms. They’re not electronic toys that require the push of a button to keep your child entertained. They’re open-ended toys that require plenty of imagination. I’ve spoken with a few of the owners of the many modern kids’ stores popping up in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and they are all selecting unique and classic toys that will be around for a while. The winner of The Nursery’s "Smallest Coolest Contest" offset the bold colors in this room with a blonde wooden rocking horse and dollhouse. No plastic in this lovely room!

Speaking of wood, our favorite woodworker is Etsy’s own ModMom, a mother of two who builds modern kids’ furniture in her garage. Her work reminds us of high-end designers like ducduc and Argington.

Blocks, another traditional toy, have never gone away. But designer Not Neutral takes traditional blocks to a whole other level with beautiful colors and patterns. We like Etsy seller Gesundheit‘s Linen Baby Blocks.

Crayons are also making a comeback. Here they are in a modern blue and brown fabric roll for easy transport.

The sock monkey — another classic reborn (also, see The Storque’s Sock Monkey article!). 

These little fish puzzles are irresistable.

And these wooden spinning tops are finely crafted.

Long before the recent recalls from toy manufacturers, the modern nursery went green, focusing on natural, non-toxic toys. Organic toys need not be boring. We love this organic cotton owl in Lissa’s shop.
We’ve also been admiring this cherry wood rattle, which doubles as a sculpture.

Palkumba also makes these solid birch bowling pins.

With the help of some great designers and busy Etsy shops, the nursery is no longer dominated by plastic and Cinderella! Have fun browsing Etsy and other shops for special toys that might also double as your favorite design accessories. Parents have more choices than ever, and whether your budget is big or small, you can create a special room that is a fresh, healthy and beautiful place to be.

Further Resources:

From AT: The Nursery—

"Nana Company"

"ModMom Furniture"

"Toxic Toys" "The Well Designed Play Food Trend""Haba Infant Toys"

"Greener Grass Designs"

From Other Sources—

The Today Show "Tips for the Modern Baby Nursery"

Cookie Magazine’s Nest "Back in Time"

The New York Times "Putting the Skinned Knees Back into Playtime" "Classic Toys"

Baby Zone "High Tech vs. Hands-On"


  • cricketpress

    cricketpress said 10 years ago

    Lovely article! A couple we know happens to have several of the StrawberryLuna alphabet prints gracing the walls of their nursery and they are even more beautiful in person!

  • modmomfurniture

    modmomfurniture said 10 years ago

    I just came in from sanding in the garage to find this really great suprise! I'm thrilled and honored to be included in the great article! Thanks so much, Julia and The Storque.

  • nanacompany

    nanacompany said 10 years ago

    wow! I was thrilled to see this piece, and I thank the Storque of course, but I never got a chance to say thank you to Julia Cho after her wonderful write up on us at Apartment Therapy, because (bumbling idiot, yes I am) I mistakenly deleted her convo to me... so BIG thanks, Julia! x2 You've highlighted some great work here and I'm proud to be included. I do love that toy box, holy moly!

  • DomesticGoddess1211

    DomesticGoddess1211 said 10 years ago

    I love those sock monkeys!!!!!!!! And the felted cookies! So cute!!!

  • muffintopdesigns

    muffintopdesigns said 10 years ago

    plenty tons of thanks, julia! so happy that the monkeys are loved as much as we love them! would be absolutely THRILLED to see them in nurseries!!!!!!!!! xoxoxoox cy

  • fairtradefamily

    fairtradefamily said 10 years ago

    thanks so much for including my veggies and fruits in your article. I have many original wool foods in my store but these are made from a pattern and license from a wonderful artisan mom at . I am honored to be among the artisans making such lovely kid's items. what a great place we have here at etsy!!

  • Unwaveringfaith

    Unwaveringfaith said 10 years ago

    Natural toys for all children, everywhere! That is the goal! :0) Love the list, thanks for this great article!

  • skymonkey

    skymonkey said 9 years ago

    Great article and nice spotlight for some great toymakers who really care. Thanks for the links and resources.

  • Karene002

    Karene002 said 9 years ago

    Great article all of the links were useful in my creating a modern nursery for my little one.

  • LondonParticulars

    LondonParticulars said 8 years ago

    I love the felt foods that crafty etsy people make, amazing!

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