Keeping the Nursery Cool in Summer

photo via creative commons


Even new parents quickly realize that an uncomfortable baby is an unhappy baby. When homes start to heat up in summer, letting young children run around in nothing more than a diaper can keep them comfortable during the day. But nighttime and nap-time coolness requires making a few adjustments to the nursery, to ensure that baby sleeps well.

For starters, block direct sunlight from streaming into the room. This is particularly important if the nursery is on the west side of your home, or otherwise receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day. Hang black out curtains, which will reduce heat transfer from windows.

Another way to reduce the amount of heat coming through is to install specialty sunscreens on the exterior of the nursery windows. This type of screen can block up to 95 percent of sunlight, and can be easily removed and stored when winter comes.

Maximizing airflow is also a must. And while cribs filled with teddy bears, blankets, and crib bumpers might look cute and cozy, all that extra fluff blocks airflow (it can also be a suffocation risk). Instead, choose a crib guard that leaves space for air to move freely into the crib through the rails. And swap out blankets for a lightweight swaddler or sleep sack. Put everything else away.

Also remember that during the summer months, ceiling fans should be set to rotate counter-clockwise. This pushes air straight down to cool the room, rather than pulling it up, to warm it. The hotter it gets, the higher the speed of your fan should be.

Clogged and dirty air ducts can reduce the flow of A/C into the nursery, especially if the room is far from the central unit. Hire a pro at an HVAC company, who can measure airflow coming from vents in the nursery and help determine if a duct cleaning is needed, or if the A/C unit needs servicing.

For more nursery tips, visit Go Mama Go.

Profiles of Childhood: Jessica Asfar, Fashion Student and Sitter, New York, NY

Sewing a dress

Our childhoods shape us and prepare us, not only for our own lives, but for the joys and values we’ll pass on to others. 

As told to Lela Nargi

My parents first started letting me come into the city from the suburbs of Red Bank, NJ, when I was about 16 years old. I’d already known I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was 9 years old—it was either that, or a lawyer, or a dolphin trainer!

But in 2011, I saw the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. That was so breathtaking and beautiful and weird, it really got my mind going, especially this gold coat made of feathers. I’d already taken some classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in high school, and life drawing classes, which got me interested in the science of the body. And in 2012, I moved into the city to study fashion.

On the right, the inspirational Alexander McQueen feathered coat


The only other person in my family who can sew is my aunt—she helped me make my prom dress. And my grandfather was a tailor, although I never got to meet him, but I guess he’s where I get my talent from. Originally, I wanted to go into costume design but as time went on I realized intimates was the field that interested me the most. Intimates are hard. There are so many things a bra is supposed to do; you have to keep all the utility elements while still making a thing you want to wear. That’s challenging, but fit is the biggest struggle. Eventually I want to have my own company—I wouldn’t mind being the next Agent Provocateur! And I’d like to do lines that cover a bigger spectrum, with more options for women of different sizes. At the moment, though, I’m a sophomore at FIT taking about nine classes a semester, and I also intern at an international wholesale company that specializes in pajamas and intimates.

I started babysitting when I was 11, for my neighbors who had 4 kids: twin 1-year-olds, a 4-year-old, and a 6-year-old. It was insanity, but it was the best crash course I could imagine. I’ve been babysitting ever since. I started sitting for UrbanSitter when I moved into the city. I love it, and I always need money, because living in New York is so expensive. Plus, being away from my family, I get to be with other people’s families, which is really nice; it gets lonely being in the city by yourself.

Fashion has taught me a lot about patience. If you work too fast you make mistakes and then have to do it 10 times instead of once or twice. I’ve learned to slow down and think about what I’m doing, which also helps me in babysitting. Working with children, you have to take a step back and hear what they’re saying to you with their words or their actions. You have to be patient to grasp what they’re telling you.

Photograph of Jess by Roy Beeson

Meet the Hanlin-Coopers of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

The Hanlin-Cooper Family
The Hanlin-Coopers in their newly renovated Cobble Hill living room.

By Lela Nargi

What do two architects want in a NYC apartment? “We were looking for a big loft in downtown Manhattan,” recalls Jennifer Hanlin of the move she and husband Chris Cooper made in the late ‘90s after graduating from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “It turned out, that’s only for people on Friends.”

What she and Cooper got was a “teeny-tiny” apartment on Tompkins Square, followed up by a larger space near Gramercy Park that was still too small for the two cribs Hanlin tried to wedge in when she was pregnant with the couple’s now-11-year-old twins, Mia and Felix. So, they plotted a course for Brooklyn. At the time, it offered more room for less money, along with a distinctly family-centric vibe. Nevertheless, “We went kicking and screaming the whole way,” says Cooper.

But how their anti-borough sentiments changed. Having found a unique, high-ceilinged apartment in a 1920s school building in brownstone-lined Cobble Hill, Cooper, an architect at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Hanlin, who runs her own interior design studio, Hanlin Design, have more than settled in. “We’ve become so committed to this neighborhood,” says Cooper. “There’s a real community here, centered around a school and restaurants and markets. It has a suburban aspect in an urban setting.”

Mia rocks out in the bedroom her parents designed for her.
Mia rocks out in the bedroom her parents designed for her. The stairs begind her lead to her “floating nest” of a bed.

For Mia and Felix, that adds up to a lot of recreational possibilities, all within walking distance. “My friends’ houses are close-by, like within five blocks,” says Mia.  “And I love Farmacy—that’s an old-fashioned soda shop that has milkshakes and root beer floats, and if you wear one of their T-shirts when you go in, you get a free egg cream.” The shop has become a favorite of many locals since it opened in an abandoned apothecary in 2010, after its renovation was undertaken—for all the world to see—on the Discovery Channel show Construction Intervention.

Felix is a regular at game shop Brooklyn Strategist, a popular weekend and afterschool haunt for neighborhood boys, especially. To hear Felix describe it, every Friday night features a cut-throat draft for a “Magic: The Gathering” tournament. “It fills up pretty fast,” he says, eyes wide. But the effort is worth it: “You can win Magic cards that you get to keep.” Felix also cites the rare-for-the-neighborhood parking lot that fronts their building as a fortuitous feature, especially in winter: “We can go down there and make snow forts and have snowball fights,” he says.

Hanlin quickly discovered that the neighborhoods surrounding Cobble Hill have everything a design studio could want, resource-wise. “What’s available locally is amazing,” she says. “There are four workshops in Red Hook and the Navy Yard that I use for upholstery, furniture restoration, fabrication of mill-working and built-ins. Right now I’m working with a guy in Greenpoint on a caning project. No one offers that kind of customized craftsmanship in Manhattan anymore; it’s all been pushed to Brooklyn.”

Felix with just some of his collections—and a view out the window of lower Manhattan.
Felix with just some of his collections—and a view out the window of lower Manhattan.

Recently, she and Cooper had cause to use some of these resources on a personal project. This was the renovation of their apartment, which Cooper says is further proof of how dedicated they’ve become to this neighborhood he once feared was “too compact” to feel like home but which he now regards as just right. With the kids growing, he says, “It was important for everyone to have their own space, with its own identity.” For Felix, that meant walls of storage to accommodate his collections of Lego and minerals and old keys. For Mia, a “floating nest” of a loft bed and proximity to the art closet were paramount among her needs. For themselves, Cooper and Hanlin were looking to create a soothing environment that harnessed the copious natural light pouring in from high windows, as well as lots and lots of storage.

They collaborated heavily on the project, which took seven months and shows a style influenced by Japanese aesthetics—everything tidy and tucked-away. Says Cooper, “I came up with the spatial infrastructure and developed the compact organization of the rooms. Jen itemized everything we had and accounted for where it would go.” Hanlin also focused on developing a neutral color palate throughout the space, which twists and turns up and up and eventually, in Felix’s room—a sort of tower that tops the whole space—leads out on to the roof. Cooper continues, “We got rid of almost all our furniture and focused on built-ins and a few carefully placed pieces to set the tone. That allows us to live in a small space and not have it feel small.”

It’s not the first time the two have teamed up on a project. Cooper was senior designer for the new 7 World Trade Center building. Hanlin recommended the artist for the lobby piece: Jenny Holzer, who works largely with LED displays. “A lot of artists were being considered,” says Hanlin. “But some of them had a less New York voice.” Holzer’s scrolling 65′-by-14′ wall of text in the building lobby is all New York. It features a continuous scrawl of poems and prose about the city, by writers as diverse as Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsburg. “It’s just a great piece of public art,” says Cooper.

At the end of a fast-paced day of designing sleek, modern buildings in ever-cacophonous Manhattan, Cooper says it’s a relief to return home to mellow Brooklyn. “I walk a mile from the subway to the house and I find myself thinking, We are so lucky,” he says. “There’s a different pace here, and I like the smell of the nearby harbor, and seeing the seagulls.” He pauses to take a phone call: His downstairs neighbor needs help moving an enormous fish tank. With a genial smile, Cooper pulls on his shoes and leaves to offer his assistance.

hanlin+cooper+family (1)

Photographs by Roy Beeson


6 Quick Nursery Tips for Your New Arrival

Contribution by Andrea Davis, Home Advisor

The arrival of a newborn is an exciting time and a nursery provides a tranquil, comfortable space for your newborn. Preparing the space before the baby’s arrival minimizes the stress associated with the first few weeks at home. Consider these six tips for getting the nursery in order before the big day to cut down on stress.


Select a Design

The décor of the nursery is the first thing to consider: colors, decorations and materials based on the baby’s gender. Select the fabrics first and paint to ensure the walls match the curtains and bedding. The design should also include items that stimulate your baby’s development like animals and mobiles. Because your baby will spend a lot of time on his or her back, consider adding a mural or stimulating design to the ceiling to stimulate the mind.

Childproof the Nursery

When purchasing or borrowing a crib, ensure that the slats are no more than 2 3/38 inches apart and you can consult consumer protection regarding recalls or warnings. Purchase a baby monitor with more than one receiver so you can move around the house while your baby is in the nursery. Crawl around the floor to ensure that the room is baby proof and add childproofing locks to cabinets for when he or she starts to crawl around the nurse. Also add soft padding to corners of cabinets, tables and other parts of the nursery so he or she doesn’t bump their head when they’re crawling about.

Decorate ASAP

While there is no set time to prepare the nursery, it is easier to paint and decorate the room when it is empty. You should schedule a time to decorate the room several weeks before the due date once you know the gender of the baby. This also provides time for any paint fumes and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to dissipate. It’s best to use low-odor, VOC-free paint and materials whenever possible to prevent exposing your baby to such fumes. This target date helps determine the time by which items need to be acquired as well, like posters, stuff animals, furniture and so forth.

Make a Checklist

After choosing the type of nursery you want and when it needs to be finished, make a checklist to help keep you organized.

  • List the essential items you will need immediately after bringing the baby home.
  • Ask family and friends for advice on the items that they found most useful as well as what to borrow or buy. This will help you to avoid wasting money on unnecessary items.
  • Determine if you will use a bassinet, cradle or crib and a changing table or dresser.
  • Develop a timeline for accomplishing each task, such as painting the room and installing furniture.

The checklist will help you create a budget for larger items.

Optimize Space

If your nursery is too small to fit everything, you will require creative storage and furniture arrangement solutions. Traditional baby furniture like a changing table, dresser and crib take up a large amount of floor space which may leave less room for play. So maximize the space for movement as well as furniture that serves multiple functions like a crib with drawers underneath and a low dresser than can be used as a dressing table. Because children’s clothes are smaller, you could add another crossbar in the lower half of a closet, for example.

Create a Sanitation Station

Creating a sanitation station will help keep the nursery germ-free with a diaper disposal system and clothing hamper. In addition to diapers, baby wipes and creams, the changing station should also have paper towels and a disinfectant cleaner for cleaning spills. By keeping everything nearby for easy access and removal, you will be able to cut down on germs and time when changing the baby’s diaper and smelling dirty diapers.

Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time. 

Photos courtesy of DesignMine.

7 Clever Ways to Organize Toys

The bounty of toys from Santa + the mountain of stuff your child already owned = one hot mess of kid stuff.

Yikes! How is a busy parent to make sense of the mess, let alone organize it? Fear not! With these helpful tips, you’ll have the toys organized in no time. The next time your child cries, “I’m bored!” or a new sitter asks where you keep the Legos, you’ll be able to save the day by quickly pulling out a game with all the pieces, Barbie’s other shoe (well, maybe), or a puzzle that’s been long forgotten and now feels brand new.

Image via Compfight


1. Assess and Purge.

Now is the time to be ruthless. Organizational experts say you should part with one item every time you bring a new one into your home. You’ll likely find that you can do much better than that. Throw out anything that’s broken beyond repair, donate toys that your child has outgrown or lost interest in, and pack up and store toys for younger sibling. Another helpful plan – store a few toys for a rainy day. Even if they’ve been in your home for years, they’ll feel like new toys to your child when you bring them out of storage.

2. Replace old boxes and corral scattered pieces.

A ratty old box will sabbotage  any organizing effort. Toss torn packages and corral game and puzzle pieces and instructions into easily stackable containers. These plastic boxes from Ikea are inexpensive and nicely sized. You can also use recycled baby wipes containers, plastic food storage or even Ziploc bags.

via Jazzie and Tahlia
via Jazzie and Tahlia


3. Make it easy to see and easy to find.

Before you choose a wooden box or a deep trunk for stashing your kids’ supplies, consider whether or not they’ll be able to see the contents. Often, if they can’t see it, they can’t find it. Use acrylic containers, such as these drawers, which are excellent for storing  small pieces, like beads, Barbie clothes or stickers. Shoe holders, like the one shown below, are great for throwing over a door and corralling art supplies.

via Attempting Aloha
via Attempting Aloha

4. Label it.

Give everything a home by assigning it a place and putting a label on it. You can stick labels on containers or hang name tags on bins or baskets. If it’s labeled, there’s no mistaking where it goes.

via Making it Lovely
via Making it Lovely

5. Get down on their level.

For toy storage to work, it has to be easy for kids to access. Why not create a drawer that serves as a play space or race track you can simply slide under the bed when they are finished playing. If that’s not an option, think about wheeled crates or bins that slide under the bed, shelves placed low on the wall or cups for art supplies on a play table.

via Kid Crave
via Kid Crave

6. Make storage part of the décor.

Don’t make anyone search for ways to clean up. Incorporate storage into the decor by choosing furnishings that double as storage and display creative containers and collections as artwork.

via I Heart Organizing
via I Heart Organizing

7. Incentivize kids to help you keep it clean and clutter free.

It’s all about the Chore Chart. Even little kids can benefit from doing chores and can be assigned simple toy clean up duty. Download and print a chore chart that will work for your family from our Pinterest Printables Board, and post it so your kids can remember their assignments and track their progress.  Laminate your chart and use a dry erase marker to check boxes.

via Pinch a Little Save a Lot
via Pinch a Little Save a Lot

Spend a few hours organizing your kids’ space, and your kids, your sitter and your sanity will benefit each and every day of the year!

UrbanSitter is an excellent resource for finding just the right babysitter.

Awesome Kid Spaces to Inspire, Entertain and Nurture

Indoor Swing via The Selby
Indoor Swing via The Selby

Do you ever wish you were one of those parents who create really, really cool spaces in their homes just for kids? We’re talking the kind of space that kids don’t just use and enjoy, but go absolutely ga-ga over. The kind of space that make their jaws drop, light bulbs go off in their heads, and their friends’ drool with envy. Maybe it’s not so hard to put those good intentions into action. After all, a playful home will help your kids learn to play independently, foster creativity and learning, and help them become more self-sufficient, organized and even focused.

Check out these insanely awesome kid spaces that are really quite doable. And, well, get to work! You will be rewarded!

Shared Space  Shared Space Studio Pebbles

Chances are, you don’t have the square footage in your home to suddenly create an office for yourself and a playroom for your kids. The super-star Mom Blogger from Studio Pebbles didn’t let this minor detail stop her. She created a shared space for herself and her children, dividing it enough so that she had a spot of her own and could still easily watch over the kids while they do their own thing. Check out her blog to see the fantastic job she did in creating a fun, creative space for kids to play.
You’ll notice a few reoccurring themes that will help convince you that you, too, could pull this off:

        • Ikea is a go-to source for inexpensive, kid-friendly furniture and storage that offers clean, modern lines;
  • Toys are typically boldly colored. Don’t fight it by trying to create a subdued or strict color scheme. Embrace it by turning the room into a rainbow of bright hues;
  • There’s a reason Etsy is so popular. Handmade is really awesome. Get your kids in on the decorating to really make the space their own. We love the paper garlands!

 An Art Spot

We’re always demoaning our failed attempts at organizing art supplies in a way that keeps them corralled yet accessible to our kids. Why not dedicate a spot for not just the supplies, but for the whole creative process? Creating an art space for kids shows them their creativity is something valuable. Make the space work by choosing a location that’s easy to oversee, and amp up the storage options to keep mess to a minimum. If you plan well, a toddler space can easily morph into a spot for practicing ABCs and eventually homework.

Art Spot by MODG

 A Quiet Nook

Nook by These Moments of Mine
Nook by These Moments of Mine

Kids need quiet time as much as parents do, probably even more so. Rather than sending them off to their rooms to read or look at a book as if it’s a punishment, entice them to find recluse and peace in an irresistibly cozy nook that is just their size.

How to build one in your home? Replace a closet door with curtains and voila, the closet becomes a perfect hide-away. If you can’t forego your coveted closet space, try a tent hung from the ceiling or an unused (or more likely, an under-used) spot in your house, such as under an eave, a dormer, or under a stairway to create a calming nest. Once you find the space, fluff it up with a comfortable chair, beanbag or a few pillows, add a light if need be, and an easily-accessible stash of books on shelves, bins or baskets.


Nook by Bibelotte
Nook by Bibelotte

No Ordinary Bedroom

You respect creativity and certainly know the value of quiet reading time. How do you feel about INDOOR outlets for PHYSICAL play? Are you brave enough to put a swing in your house? How about a climbing wall? It’s not surprising that any kid would be over the moon with having one of these typically outside toys in his or her own room. What’s surprising is that the installation doesn’t necessarily require a professional and the final product often works quite well indoors.

Indoor Swing from Remodeli
Indoor Swing from Remodelista

Inspired? Before you put you put your ideas into action, take a look at these helpful tips for guiding your plans, including how to look at the space from your kids’ perspective.

Find and book babysitters at