12 delightful gender-neutral ideas for your nursery

A cozy little bookworm's nursery.
A cozy little bookworm's nursery.  Photo: elena del bucchia

If you're keeping the gender of your baby a surprise, or just prefer a neutral style, look to these nursery themes that suit both boys and girls alike

Although waiting to find out the sex of your baby is one of life's greatest surprises, prolonging the suspense can make practical things like preparing your soon-to-be-born bub's nursery a tad tricky. Anchoring the space around a chic neutral palette is a foolproof (yet somewhat safe) solution. However, if you'd prefer a scheme that's cheerful, charming and oozes creativity, then opt for a playful themed room that will work whether you have a boy or girl (or one of each!) instead. 

Before sitting down for a style brainstorming session, take a peek at the sweet schemes below and see whether one of these themes strikes your fancy. They're not only fun and peppy, but will also continue to please your precious bundle as they grow.

1. Pint-sized explorer
Babies are curious and love to explore, which is why a globetrotter theme is fitting for your bub's nursery, regardless of gender. Deck out their space with a world map, or map wallpaper if you really want to commit to the theme. Images and artefacts from around the globe make great decorations, as well as other whimsical accents like balloons, kites and paper aeroplanes.

Complete the look with a set of vintage trunks or suitcases, which will double as extra storage for baby gear and toys too.

2. So tweet
A chirpy bird-themed nursery is a sweet idea that will work equally well for baby boys or girls. If want your little one's space to look chic and cosy rather than overly cutesy, steer clear of cartoony bird decor. Instead, choose accents with a more modern and grown-up vibe, such as the smart wallpaper that covers this feature wall.

Note how the bold yellow geometric rug adds another layer of visual contrast to the scheme, and makes it feel more playful and cheery too.

Check out the large selection of kids' rugs on Houzz

3. Novel idea
Instil in your child a love of books and reading from the time you bring them home by creating a nursery inspired by classic children's tales and characters. While this theme will work with pretty much any gender-neutral colour palette, the bold red, black and white scheme used here is modern, dramatic and fun.

Whimsical decor such as the cute toadstools and the cardboard elephant trophy in the photo at the top of the article are an essential element of this theme. They will stimulate your budding bookworm's imagination and infuse the room with storybook style. A comfy armchair is another all-important addition, as it offers a spot to sit during middle-of-the-night feeds, and also doubles as a cosy reading and snuggle spot for you and bub. 

Complete the look by dressing up your walls with brightly coloured children's book covers – frame a few of your favourites and hang them around the room, or take a leaf out of this nursery's book and display your little one's growing library on floating shelves.

4. Boho babe
If you want your baby's room to look sweet yet stylish and remain relevant well after they're out of nappies, an eclectic bohemian look is an ideal scheme to consider. This effortlessly cool gender-neutral nursery pulls off the artsy look with aplomb, while still maintaining a fun and baby-appropriate feel. 

To re-create a similar look at home, start by choosing clean-lined furniture in fresh white or a light, sandy-hued timber. Using simple, timeless pieces will ensure the nursery feels light and bright, plus it means you'll be able to use them again if bub number two comes along, regardless of what theme you choose for their nursery. 

For boho accents, think tie-dyed textiles, tapestries and woven wall art, exotic and tribal prints (sometimes paired together), and plush upholstery and pillows. 

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Browse more photos of nurseries for design ideas

5. Lyrical look
Draw design inspiration from your favourite nursery rhyme. One line from the classic nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle – "The cow jumped over the moon", of course – sparked the idea for this themed baby's room, which is sure to encourage sweet dreams and inspire imagination.

Other popular childhood songs that would translate well into gender-neutral themes include Old MacDonald Had a Farm and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

6. Circus act
If you want your little one's room to be equal parts quirky and fun, you can't go past a playful circus-inspired scheme. For a bold take on this charming idea, design your space around a palette of primary colours. Or for a more low-key look that's chic and striking, opt for a neutral base and add character and flair with clashing patterns and pops of look-at-me hues.

Complete the look with marquee lights, a top hat-wearing teddy, and plenty of animal motifs and toys.

Gender neutral nursery

7. Family first
This unisex family tree-themed nursery ticks all the boxes: it's sweet yet stylish as well as cosy and inviting. To re-create this at home, have a go at painting your best leafy tree on a blank wall, or if you're not confident in your artistic abilities, enlist the help of a professional to do the job for you. Alternatively, take a sneaky shortcut and find a tree wall decal that fits the style and size of space – this option is quick, easy and temporary too. Once the tree is in place, affix frames to the end of each branch and fill them with photos of family members to create a life-size family tree.

Pepper other nature-themed accents around the room (like tree-patterned curtains a branch mobile) to round out the lush, leafy look.

8. Shape shifter
For a playful and punchy look that will delight parents and tots alike, you can't go past a bold geometric theme. Not only do rooms decorated in this theme look striking and suit both genders, but the graphic, eye-catching patterns will help stimulate your baby's brain and vision too.

Spots, stripes, checks and diamonds are a few classic pattern picks to consider if you're aiming for a timeless look. Alternatively, if you'd prefer a nursery that's ultra-contemporary in style, try honeycomb shapes, triangles, criss-crosses or 3D-like motifs (or a combination of all) instead.

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9. Animal kingdom
A charming animal scheme works for any baby. Take a soft approach to the theme and opt for a neutral base, accessorised with animal-shaped accents, plush toys and other fun and friendly elements such as illustrations of your favourite animals.

For a look befitting a wild child, go crazy and cover your walls with animal-themed decals or wallpaper. Introduce punchy animal prints in loud, look-at-me tones and hang zebra, rhino and other animal prints on the wall.

Sitting a large giraffe or hippo stuffed animal in the corner would also be a nice, playful touch, plus it would provide company for your little one at nap-time too.

10. Sky's the limit
If you're not too fussed on animal, botanical or character-inspired themes, a dreamy scheme like this could be a winner. The powder blue palette makes the room feel cosy, calming and serene, creating a soothing environment that encourages sleep and sweet dreams. This effect is enhanced by the hand-painted cloudscape that graces the ceiling and tops of the walls.

11. Moroccan magic
An exotic Moroccan theme isn't a look that you'd expect to see in a nursery, but as this bright and inviting space proves, the scheme will transform any ho-hum child's room into a magical sanctuary. Recreate this look at home by decorating your nursery with beautifully textured and patterned fabrics in rich earth and jewel tones. 

Scatter decorative furniture and accents with a distinctly Moroccan feel (think delicately carved furniture and metal lanterns) around the room to complete the look. If the space looks chic but not particularly child-friendly, camel toys and wall decals will make it appear more playful and baby-appropriate.

12. Into the woods
This magical and smile-inducing space is a favourite, and most bubs (and parents!) would be enthralled with the woodland-themed scheme. Although this room is actually a play and reading area, it's easy to reimagine the charming space as a nursery – simply drop in a cot and change table and it would be ready to accommodate your new arrival.

By Natasha Saroca