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Decoupage Ideas for the Nursery

Source: Martha Stewart Kids, Volume 12 2004


Add whimsy to a baby's room with a simple technique called decoupage. This process can be applied to any smooth painted or unpainted wooden surface. We've supplied animal templates and suggestions for paper patterns. Before beginning, practice on a piece of scrap wood. Once you're comfortable with the process and you've gathered your materials, you can easily complete a project in an afternoon -- perhaps during your child's nap. The animals shown here were made by simply attaching paper cutouts to furniture with coats of glue. Our animal templates and step-by-step instructions will help you get started.



  • Origami, craft, or construction paper, or wallpaper or card stock

  • Martha Stewart Crafts decoupage glue

  • Quality bristle brush

  • Scissors

  • Transparent tape

  • Utility knife

  • Straight edge

  • Hole punch

  • Pencil

  • Water-based polyurethane (optional)


  1. Enlarge the animal templates to no more than 4 inches wide or the final pieces may pucker and bubble when glued. Make one copy for each major part of the animal (for example, you'd make two copies of the elephant -- one for the body and one for the ear; use a hole punch to make the eye).

  2. Cut out each piece of the templates about 1/4 inch from the outline; tape on top of decorative paper. Cut out along lines using scissors; use a utility knife and a straight edge for straight lines. Mark the body lightly with a pencil to indicate the positions of the other elements.

  3. Clean the surface of the item to be decoupaged; let it dry. Make a mark with a pencil to indicate where the animal body will go on the surface, and brush a coat of glue over that area.

  4. Set the cutout on top of the glue. Smooth out any bubbles with clean, wet fingers (so fingers don't stick to the glue).

  5. When the glue is still tacky but mostly dry (about 4 minutes), brush a coat of glue over the top; place smaller cutouts in designated spots. Wait about 4 more minutes, and then brush on another coat. If you notice bubbling or puckering, again smooth out the cutout with clean, wet fingers, but don't overdo it; at this step the paper usually flattens as it dries.

  6. Wait 20 minutes, then brush on another coat. Add two more coats (or more if paper is particularly thick), waiting 20 minutes between each. If desired, finish with a coat of water-based polyurethane once glue is completely dry (apply according to the manufacturer's instructions). The polyurethane will provide extra durability and will also help protect your design in case it is exposed to moisture (as in a bathroom).

  7. Harriet the Hippo may be the leader of the pack, but Mr. Giraffe is in charge of keeping a sharp watch for any approaching bad dreams -- because, of course, he's got the best sight line. To create this quartet of creatures, we painted the bottom and legs of a wooden crib light green; then we added the decoupage animals and a yellow sun.

  8. To make William the Whale, enlarge the template and place it on an unpainted stool. With a pencil, extend the waterline that runs through William's body so it goes to the edges and down the sides of the stool: This creates the sea and the sky. Remove the template. Paint the sky and legs of the stool a light blue, and the ocean a darker shade. After the paint is dry, decoupage the whale; we used darker blue for the eye and underwater section, and different patterns for both of his other parts.

  9. Who wouldn't enjoy waking up to these little chicks? You can almost hear the chirp, chirp of their cheery conversation. By positioning the birds along the bottom of a drawer, we made them look as if they're perched on a wire. Our bluebirds are of different patterns and shades of the same color. You can achieve a similar effect using reds (for cardinals), yellows (for canaries), or pinks (for any bird at all). To show the birds' cheeps, you might add a few musical notes.

  10. The Three Bears
    Your little girl or boy will be happy to learn that Goldilocks' three bear friends live right in the bedroom closet. These cute and useful hangers are easy to produce: Each bear's face is constructed of just nine circles. A set of these would make a lovely gift for any newborn.

  11. What suits a friendly Scottie better than plaid? If you aren't able find the perfect pattern in a decorative paper, simply photocopy a favorite fabric to make a paper version.

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