If you are having a difficult time finding good-quality furniture that fits your budget, check out unfinished furniture stores and ask to see their solid wood pieces. Unfinished furniture is generally lower priced than factory-finished pieces, and many of these stores sell furniture finishing products that are easier to use than ever. Some ready-to-finish furniture stores even offer how-to classes. For customers with more money than time, many of the stores will even finish chosen pieces for you.
Antique stores are also good places to find well-made beds, bureaus, and rocking chairs with a charming look, but think twice about buying an old crib or playpen; most aren't safe for babies by today's standards. Family pieces, whether they're true heirlooms or just serviceable hand-me-downs, may be good bets, though. As they did for past generations, these old pieces can carry precious memories for your children. If you're using your great-grandmother's heirloom rocking chair and it may have been painted with lead paint, be sure to have it refinished with one of today's safe lead-free finishing products.
If you end up with a mix of old, new, antique, and ready-to-finish pieces, don't fret. Some of the most charming, stylish rooms around were deliberately created this way. In fact, even affluent families that didn't inherit pieces scout flea markets and antique shops to get the look.
How to pull a disparate mix of pieces together? If your child's room is small or the pieces are frankly flea market, you can unify the look by painting most of the furniture pieces in a soothing go-with-anything hue. Fresh white, antique white, sage (gray-green), and hunter (dark green) look good with every color. (Exception: If a woodtone piece has a beautiful grain and is in good shape, just give it a clear or transparent stain finish.) Treat focal-point pieces to a custom finish to help make them stand out in the space. For example, in an Early American-style room with mostly hunter green furniture, paint the bed or armoire in barn red or antique white. A contemporary-style room with bright white furniture would look great with a bed in fire engine red or turquoise blue. (For visual balance, repeat this accent color in at least two other places, such as curtains and wall art or an area rug and rocking chair cushions.)
As long as your child is safe and comfortable, don't fret too much about getting his or her room "just right." No matter what the decorating scheme or how much you spend, you can be sure of two things: 1) Even the neatest child's toys, clothes, and paraphernalia will create a level of visual clutter that is unavoidable, and 2) The most vibrant, attractive thing in the room will always be its young occupant!
Lighting is another important aspect of kids' rooms decor. Learn more about it in the next section.