The market for baby and kids' furniture has changed since you were a child.
Upholstered gliders have replaced creaky rockers, and cute bunny wall borders have morphed into peel-and-stick graphic decals, like those from Wallcandyarts.com.
More than two-thirds of parents find out the sex of their babies before birth, but many still want a neutral look for the nursery. These days, they have more options than white cribs.
Bratt Decor in Baltimore is selling a lot of its classic-but-playful heritage pieces in a matte, antiqued black. Several winners of Child magazine's recent kids'-room design contest featured black furniture and accessories.
Stores and catalogs like PBTeen are offering fun design options that even parents can stomach, like striped floor pillows and butterfly chairs.
What's old is new again. Vintage prints and fabrics are popular with parents who don't want that bed-in-a-bag look.
Kate Muhl, mother of one-year-old Zuzu, bought 1930s nursery-rhyme books on eBay, found a sheet of wrapping paper with a vintage alphabet-blocks print, then went to work framing them.
Creativity goes a long way toward chic artwork: Try stretching a printed fabric over a wooden frame. You can find preassembled kits at Textile Arts (txtlart.com) or search the selections at Calico Corners(www.calicocorners.com), JoAnn Fabrics (joann.com), or G Street Fabrics (gstreetfabrics.com).
Stores like Ikea and Target make stylish rooms a bargain. On the other end of the cost spectrum is PoshTots, an online outpost that charges $15 for a catalog and sells a French country day bed for $4,528.
Most Washington parents fall in the middle. They might splurge on a $1,000-plus crib but save on bedding or they might dress up a simple crib with delicate, detailed linens.
Consider venturing beyond baby stores and departments. Anthropologie (11500 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-230-6520; Tysons Galleria, McLean, 703-288-4387; anthropologie.com) carries home items that would look great in a kid's room, like a fish-shaped wall hook and vintage wall signs.
For a changing-table dresser, try a place like Saah Unfinished Furniture (2330 Columbia Pike, Arlington, 703-920-1500; 5641-F General Washington Dr., Alexandria, 703-256-4315). You can paint the piece yourself and customize it with fun knobs.
Here are stores and Web sites that offer interior-design choices for newborns through teens:
Babies R Us, locations in Maryland, Virginia, and DC; babiesrus.com. This baby superstore offers expectant parents one-stop shopping--and a lot for their money. You'll find Laura Ashley bedding, comfy Dutailier gliders, and the John Lennon collection for Carter's. As a retailer selling under the Amazon.com umbrella, excellent customer service is a given.
Baby 2 Teen, 8612 Phoenix Dr., Manassas, 703-369-0299; 1340 Central Park Blvd., Fredericksburg, 540-548-4343; baby2teenfurniture.com. This kids-room wonderland is separated into vignettes to showcase sweet nursery collections as well as cool rooms. Check out the wide range of custom-order furniture (Pali, Morigeau, Million Dollar Baby) and bedding (Brandee Danielle, House of Hatten, Sumersault), as well as fun accessories and rockers. There are options to fit most budgets.
Bombay Kids, 11948 Grand Commons Ave., Fairfax, 703-803-3973; 21100 Dulles Town Center, Dulles, 703-444-7155; bombaykids.com. Parents who love Bombay Company's British-colonial style can find pint-size versions at the kids stores. Sophisticated beds, dressers, and desks are accented with whimsical comforters, lamps, and accessories for little princes and princesses.
Even more fun: three-dimensional wall scenes and retro airplane mobiles. Prices ($500 for a seven-drawer chest) and quality are similar to what you'll find in the Bombay Company stores. Pieces are designed for storage and saving space, like a day bed with two drawers underneath or a loft bed-and-desk ensemble.
Buy Buy Baby, 1683 Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-984-0148; buybuybaby.com. Buy Buy Baby is similar to Babies R Us but with a less budgety atmosphere. The lower level of this Congressional Plaza store has everything for a baby's room: cribs, dressers, changing tables, gliders, bassinets, and bedding. The sales staff is approachable and knowledgeable, and delivery is quick.
Ethan Allen Kids, 11923 Market St., Reston; 703-467-8644; ethanallenkids.com. The well-known furniture company has spawned a more youthful version of itself. This is a kids-only store, offering about four times as many choices as are in stock at the parent stores.
The Ethan Allen kids' line includes scaled-down models of well-made and timeless beds, dressers, desks, accessories, and wall coverings. There are deals on accessories and linens--a four-piece crib set for less than $70. Pieces are meant to last, with prices to match--cribs and beds start around $600.
Great Beginnings, 18501 N. Frederick Rd., Gaithersburg; 301-417-9702; childrensfurniture.com. The Web site calls it the largest baby and teen showroom in the United States. What you really get: a great selection of well-priced baby and kid furniture from brands like Pali, Sorelle, and Dutailier along with accessories like mirrors, stepstools, and lamps, most in simple styles. Despite the huge array of merchandise, there's a lot of space. Once you find a salesperson, the service is excellent.
Pier 1 Kids, locations in Maryland and Virginia; www.cargokids.com. The store formerly known as CargoKids is a great source for in-between ages. Pier 1 Kids carries sturdy furniture with a bright, utilitarian aesthetic. Big poppy flowers or camouflage patterns decorate duvet and sham sets. Most furniture has oversize rivets and bare finishes. Beds and cribs are less than $300.
Pottery Barn Kids, White Flint Mall, 301-231-5831; Tysons Corner Center, 703-356-2172; Fair Oaks Mall, 703-934-4795; potterybarnkids.com; and PB Teen catalog; pbteen.com. Like its adult counterpart, PB Kids is homey and classic. It's a great source for a coordinated nursery--from crib to rug to wall art--or a single piece, like a monogrammed pillow.
Pottery Barn's new line of custom chairs offers three comfortable but sleek silhouettes and a choice of fabrics, all with a shabby-chic, subtly colored look--but they ring in at close to $1,000 with shipping. Much of the current line (beds cost about $500) is locker-inspired, with painted metal doors and white write-your-own labels.
Target, locations in Maryland and Virginia; target.com. Just as former Vogue editor Liz Lange brought style to Target's maternity-wear options, chic-bedding designer Amy Coe is doing the same for its baby department. You'll find sweet pastel toiles and vintage-inspired prints at affordable prices ($39.99 for a crib bumper).
For older kids, Target has the well-priced funky and functional Restore & Restyle collection of furniture and accessories--including storage bins, assemble-at-home dressers, and art tables and chairs.
Bellini, 12113 Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-770-3944; bellini.com. It's right across Rockville Pike from Lewis of London, and you'll find some similar items: hand-painted coat trees, nesting boxes covered in toile, and fancy Mustela baby toiletries.
But Bellini is less frilly and a little less expensive. Furniture is boy-friendly and tends to have rounded corners and a sturdy look. Crib prices hover around $500 to $600, and many floor models--in perfect condition--are marked down. The service is friendly, not pushy.
Bratt Decor, 548 E. Belvedere Ave., Baltimore; 410-464-9400; brattdecor.com. Bratt's pieces have a vintage look. The Jane collection--as in "Dick and Jane"--features cute scalloped edges. The dresser/changer ($1,133) has slide-in drawer fronts in white, blue, or pink. Matching accessories, such as picture frames and lamps, complete the look.
Lewis of London, 12248 Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-468-2070. At this upscale store--the Falls Church branch recently closed--you'll find furniture, accessories, and other goodies for nurseries and big-kids' rooms, although most of the products skew toward the younger set. Among the brands are Ragazzi furniture, Gordonsbury and Nava's Designs linens, and Flexseal and Dutailier rockers and gliders. This boutique, which has been in Rockville more than 20 years, is one of a few in the area with a high-end selection. Make the store promise a delivery date: One new mom was waiting for furniture six months after her son was born.
Petite Dekor, 22 W. Market St., NW, Leesburg; 703-777-7030; petitedekor.com. This gem of a store opened last year, with two floors of furnishings for children. The upper level showcases specialty furniture and bedding with brands like Bratt Décor, Maine Cottage, and Bebe Chic. Super-comfy Little Castle gliders and rockers can be customized, with dozens of fabric options, for less than $600. Although a Maine Cottage twin bed might retail for $1,600, the store discounts 20 percent off list prices for that line.
Written by: Nadya Sagner, L. Addrienne Wichard