I grew up in New Hampshire, and babysat throughout my middle and high school years. Babies there had nurseries, whole rooms outfitted with gliders, ottomans, closets, big wooden cribs, matching changing tables, toy boxes, bookshelves, adorable rugs, décor, and shelving (the shelving!). Far from cramped, those nurseries tended to be organized and luscious. Their lighting was soft and they smelled of freshly-bathed babies.
I babysat in college, too, in Western Massachusetts, where nurseries still reigned but other forms of cohabitation proliferated. I had a standing weekly gig with a family consisting of two moms, two twin boys who'd just begun walking, and a rabbit. They lived in a massive loft space in a renovated factory building, technically a studio but so large that its semi-separated sections definitely felt distinct. A wooden swing hung from the high ceiling, and Christmas-tree lights lined the giant windows; the home had an other-worldly quality. The moms' bed was placed in one corner, and the boys' in another.
Another family (now good friends) in the same town shared a bedroom, in a small and funky house, with their two toddlers; they placed two abutting futons right on the floor, and everyone slept on them together. They'd previously lived in New York, and have since returned. Their bedroom here was set up in the same way until a month ago, when they got a bunk bed and put the kids in a separate room (lemme tell ya - that was one happy mama).
I know another family, in rural Maine, who shares a "family bed." They have a two-year-old and an infant. Neither baby has spent time in a crib. And, a good friend of ours here in the city lived in a teepee with his family until he was two.
New York breeds creativity, especially in the home, where dishwashers are a luxury item, and storage is almost non-existent. Overhead shelving is a saving grace, as is a minimalist sensibility. We live in a four-hundred square foot "two bedroom" railroad apartment. It's small, but feels spacious when it's not messy. Our bedroom and kitchen, on either end, are large, and there's a small living room, and an office, in between. We've opted to put the baby in the bedroom with us, rather than kick Aaron out of his workspace and take over the office.
We have a crib beside the bed, and a changing table against a wall (its shelves are stocked with canvas storage boxes, which contain the baby's accoutrements). I'll post pictures as soon as I have the artwork up - I'm proud of how organized and cute our setup is! We can roll the crib into the office if we want some time alone. Our baby will need his own room eventually, and I look forward to decorating it, but I figure that for the first stretch it'll be nice to have everyone and everything essential within easy reach.
Do you have a nursery, a teepee, a family bed? Something in-between? Do you ever sleep with your baby in your bed, even if you have a separate crib? I'd love to hear the different ways you've integrated your new, noisy roommates into your lives and homes.