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Six Under-Rated Nursery Theme Ideas

Updated on August 17, 2014

Looking for a nursery theme idea?

I have never liked following the crowd. If you're doing blue, I want to do red. So when it comes to nursery themes, I'm not the biggest fan of ideas like Noah's Ark, safari/jungle or frogs. Too easy and too many other people doing it.

I write about kids bedroom ideas - kids from birth to about 14 or so. Which means I spend a lot of time looking at bedding sets. A lot of time. And as I've looked, I've noticed that there are several concepts that seem like no-brainers to me for a nursery theme that are really overlooked.

The challenge with a theme that doesn't readily come with a 10-piece bedding set and every accessory under the sun is that there is work involved. You have to pick your own colors, decided your own style and track down each and every piece that will work. And get pretty creative.

Some of us find that a lot of fun. If you think you'd like to try building a nursery theme from scratch, here are six ideas I've had that are woefully over-looked and under-used by the crib bedding companies.

Each idea includes some of my thoughts, color scheme ideas, elements to include and some things to consider. And some handing shopping lists to the side. I'd love to hear what you think and how you're using them!



In all my poking around, I've found only two duck themed crib sets. Two. And one of them was just sad. Sad, I say. I just don't understand this at all. Ducks are a perfect gender neutral nursery theme with the obvious color scheme. So what gives?

How to get around this if you're like me and you aren't overly excited about the one remaining choice? Take any of the colors in the scheme and pick solid or semi-solid bedding and start from there. Fortunately, ducky blankets and décor isn't as difficult to find since ducks are a popular bathroom theme.

  • Color scheme: Yellow, orange, blue, green
  • Elements: Ducks (of course), water, cattails, grass, water lilies
  • To consider: Kind of ducky you want - cartoony rubber duck or a stylized one. Also think about whether you want a pond scene or just ducks in general. You can include water without including any of the greenery of a pond.


This one really surprises me given the fact that everyone loves penguins and polar bears. But I've again found just two sets that involve them and they're both actually pretty nice. One is bright and cartoony, the other neutral and elegant.

They both mix polar bears and penguins, serious no-no, if you're going to be picky. But just say you're going with a polar theme and any mixing can be forgiven. Besides, who can resist the cuteness of them both?

  • Color scheme: Neutrals - white and black no matter how you choose to decorate. Mix in some tans and grays to break things up. Mix in a bright color if you like or stick with serene colors.
  • Elements: Snow, ice, animals (polar bears, penguins, killer whales, walruses, sea lions - poor penguins are the only non predator!), ocean
  • Look for: White furniture pieces to be the "icebergs" of your theme, a display tree for stuffed versions of the animals and patterns to break up all the white.


Ooh, they're so cute. So why are they so hard to find? I have run across one really cute set, but you'd expect there to be more. Sheep sometimes show up in farm-themed sets, but rarely on their own. But they're perfect for a nursery.

You can go with the idea of counting sheep or just a pleasant meadow scene. Either could be quite sweet and simple to execute.

  • Color scheme: White and black for the lamb, then add in any color you like - pale yellow to bright red.
  • Elements: Lamps, fences, grass, numbers, zzzzs
  • Look for: Lots of fluffy textures that simulate sheep, even on things that aren't specifically sheep. Consider making or purchasing fabric letters to put on the wall to say "baa" or "zzzz" to fit with the theme.


Another sweet animal that just gets left out in the cold. I'm not even a cat person but I think this is just a crying shame. There are tons of dog options, usually leaning the boy direction, so why not kittens? (No, I'm not counting Hello Kitty.)

If you have a favorite cat, you could pattern the scheme after them. Find a signature piece - a piece of artwork or a collectible - to build the theme around as another option. The piece can give you your specific color scheme and design direction.

  • Color scheme: Kitty colors - tan, gold, brown, white, rust, black. Pair them up with pinks and roses for a girl nursery or blues and navy for a boy nursery. Or your own favorite shade.
  • Elements: Kitties, yarn balls, milk, saucers. baskets.
  • To consider: I like the idea of a modern take built around Laurel Burch's cat designs or Britto's cat collectibles. Or the Chat Noir retro design. These give you a less sweet look, but one that your child could grow into.


You see them in baby and toddler toys all the time, so why not baby bedding? Why not baby bedding? Sheesh. I love this idea and find it surprising there isn't an actual bedding set with it. I have found some with circles, so you could start there as a base and add in other shapes. Easy peasy.

  • Color scheme: Whatever you like. Yea!
  • Elements: Squares, circles, rectangles, triangles
  • Look for: Toys are a great place to start checking for appropriate décor. Shaped blocks can become drawer pulls or shelf décor or wall art. This theme calls for a lot of creative thinking about how to use items in new ways. Not to mention, a bunch of DIY potential in painting and sewing.


It's not a theme concept exactly, but what's with the lack of orange? I see dashes of orange in crib bedding sets, food some orange pack-n-play sheets, but no orange bedding. It's a good gender-neutral color, nice and happy, but pretty absent. And don't be telling me it's too loud. You obviously haven't seen some of those pink bedding sets floating out there.

Fortunately, orange accents that aren't specifically for the nursery abound. Start with a white canvas - bedding, furniture, walls - and toss in everything orange you can around it. You'll know when you've gone too far.

  • Color scheme: Orange (duh!) and white, add an accent color of your choice (pink, lime, yellow are good).
  • Elements: Depends on what design direction you want to go. Since we're just looking for a specific color, you can go very modern or very traditional. Pick and stay consistent.
  • Look for: Customizable items where you can pick your colors. This will expand the potential items to include. Also, consider how to add color yourself by doing things like painting existing dresser knobs or picture frames orange.

And that's six!

I could go on. (Seriously, I could.) We haven't even touched on underwater scenes or cows or lollipops or rainbows - all perfectly acceptable themes in their own right.

Whatever you choose, make it your own with your color choices and creative uses or repurposing of items in new ways. It'll be awesome!


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    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 7 years ago

      I would probably pick the Ducky theme as well. But, I have to admit that orange theme, could be pretty lively and cheerful.

    • Janet21 profile image

      Janet21 7 years ago from New York

      I like the Ducky theme nursery! :)

    • Puzzlemaker profile image

      Puzzlemaker 7 years ago from Florida, USA

      I LOVE the sheep! They are soooo cute for a boy or girl.