Go Ask Mom

Baby Makes 3: New Triangle-based show helps expectant parents create nurseries

"Baby Makes 3," a new North Carolina-produced home improvement and design show for expectant parents, debuts on UNC-TV next week. We chat with two of the experts behind it.

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Chip Howell and Lauren McKay of Baby Makes 3
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
"Baby Makes 3," a new North Carolina-produced home improvement and design show for expectant parents, debuts on UNC-TV next week.

The series puts a spotlight on today's first-time parents - often millennials - who are focused on building new traditions and creating unique environments for their little ones. They are eschewing mass-produced crib sets and falling back on DIY techniques that are bold and personal.

In this first season, viewers will follow the paths of five expectant couples from the Triangle as they create that perfect space for baby with help from host Melissa Lozoff, design expert Lauren McKay of Raleigh-based Design Lines, lead contractor Jonathan Kelly and safety expert Kimberlee Mitchell. Chip Howell, a recent graduate of Duke University's documentary program, is the producer.

"Baby Makes 3" debuts at 10 p.m., July 7, on UNC-TV. The show already is looking for new families to feature in the second season, which will start filming next month. The show's website has more information. Featured couples get a free nursery!

I checked in with McKay, a moms of two, and Howell by email to learn more about the show. Here's a Q&A.

Go Ask Mom: Why a home improvement show for expecting parents? What's the genesis behind the idea?
Chip Howell: There were several reasons why producing the show appealed to me. First, I’m part of the millennial generation that is currently having children. One of the things that you often hear about my generation is that a lot of us aren’t very “hands-on” or “DIY.” That isn’t entirely true because I’m finding, like me, a lot of people my age do want to “do-it-themselves.” Baby Makes 3 is about empowering people to do that and focuses on one of the most important events of their lives -- having a family. I enjoy coming up with the projects for this show, and I've been very pleased to see that moms and dads-to-be want to pick up a saw or a paintbrush or try making a piece of pottery.  It’s been a lot of fun.

Two other reasons for this show: I’ve always loved public television, especially the DIY shows, and it’s been a dream to do something in this medium. Finally, baby safety is very much on our minds, and we see this show as an opportunity to help parents make more informed choices in that regard.

GAM: How are today's new parents breaking with tradition when it comes to nursery design? Why and how are they doing things differently?
Chip Howell: Millennials think less about gender roles for both parents and baby. Couples don’t see the traditional roles that our parents saw for themselves or their children. "Gender neutral" in terms of design is very big right now, but it is also big in terms of responsibilities with baby and home. Millennials are learning and sharing individuals, and they want to be individually self-sufficient. All of these values are reflected in the kinds of nurseries parents want to create and how they choose to raise their children.
GAM: What makes the Triangle the perfect place to shoot a show like this?
Chip Howell: The Triangle enjoys great diversity, and this area is a reflection of America. With all of the universities in the area, there is a terrific pool of young people. The Triangle is often ranked as one of the best places in the country to raise a family. Also, for the film and television industry, there are a lot of very talented people on which to draw, so that makes doing a shoot like this easier.
GAM: What are the most common issues or questions that new parents on the show come to you with as they prepare for baby?

Lauren McKay: New parents always want to know what will make their lives easier. Do I need black out curtains to help my child sleep? Should I have a rocker or glider in the room? How do I store all of the stuff babies need?!?
I love to help them come up with solutions that are tailored to their spaces. Whether you use blackout shades or curtains might depend on which direction the room faces. I recommend trying out rockers, gliders, and even stationary chairs to see what you enjoy best and consider if the nursery is the ideal location or if it would be used more in the parent’s room or even in the living room. I’ve put chests in the closet to add additional drawer space and even used a utensil holder beside the diaper changing pad to hold extra diapers, creams, and lotion.  New parents often know what they want the space to look like, but they aren’t sure how to bring it all together so they ask for my help in executing the design.  I love helping them come up with unique solutions. For example, in an eco-friendly nursery, I recommended shelves that can also function as a desk when the child is older, a produce cart toy shelf inspired by the produce they grow in their garden, a crib that converts to a toddler bed and later to a full bed, and a low basket that serves as a changing tray but can be used for books later. 

GAM: How has becoming a parent yourself informed how you help and make recommendations for your clients, who are expecting a baby?

Lauren McKay: I can easily relate to my expecting clients because I’ve been in their shoes so recently. With a three-year- old and my second child born earlier this year, I understand exactly where they are at! There is so much anticipation, and yet it is hard to really understand what it will be like until your child comes home from the hospital. Not only that, but a baby’s needs are constantly changing as they grow, so I’m able to advise them on how to choose pieces that will be practical as well as appropriate for the design they want. For example, a pedestal base side table might be stylish but once your child is pulling up on furniture and learning to stand, it will become a hazard.

I always advise anchoring large furniture pieces to the wall for safety. When you’ve seen firsthand how smart, yet fearless children are, you know how important it is to create a space that is not only fun, but also safe. I also like to ask how the space will be used in the future – will the nursery be used as is for a future child or will it transition to a big kid room? I can space plan the room and recommend pieces that can still be used as their needs change. I’ve designed some nurseries to be gender neutral so they could easily work for a future sibling. Instead of using a changing table that won’t have a use after a few years, I often use a changing tray on top of the dresser.

Once my husband and I found out we were having a second girl, we decided we would like them to share a room, so I created a space with brighter colors that doesn’t feel so babyish to accommodate both ages. I was able to reuse pieces from my older daughter’s nursery, but still create a completely different feel by bringing in brighter colors (and more storage!). With so many decisions to make when bringing a child into your family, I recommend getting help with anything that is overwhelming you!

GAM: What do you hope viewers will take away from the show?
Chip Howell: I want viewers to feel a sense of empowerment after watching Baby Makes 3. I want them to see what we build and say, "I can do that." I especially hope parents will take away baby safety tips, which has changed a good bit from what our parents knew. We also want this to be a show for everyone, including grandparents. This show is about becoming a family, and we want the entire family to feel a part of helping baby grow.


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