Interview With Interior Designer Liz Levin of Nesting

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 8, 2009

It all started when Liz Levin's daughter was learning to stand on her own. As the D.C. designer watched her toddler, Julia, seek support from the living room furniture -- a vintage coffee table made of glass and chrome next to a pair of antique armchairs upholstered in an expensive cream cotton -- she realized things needed to change.

"Looking around at everything -- the metal table, the white chairs, the Chinese garden statue at the fireplace -- . . . it was like a disaster waiting to happen," says Levin, 33, who started her design business in 2004. "I realized everything was going to have to stand up to a new and different level of use."

After a search for family-friendly furniture and fabrics that were sturdy and stylish proved more difficult than she'd anticipated, something clicked: If a seasoned designer had a hard time finding the right resources, she wondered, how could busy parents or anyone not in the design business find what they needed? "Designers know the tricks of the trade, but there was no resource that pulled together everything needed to live with style and with kids and pets."

Until now.

Last month Levin launched Nesting (, an online resource and a one-stop shop for people with children and pets looking to furnish their home without sacrificing their style.

On the site, you'll find design tips (such as Levin's guide to setting up a nursery and her "secret weapon" piece of furniture), dramatic before-and-after room makeover photos and an opportunity to buy to-the-trade furniture. There's also a range of design services, from a $25 phone consultation with a Liz Levin Interiors design "nestpert" to an entire room design plan -- with floor plan and color, fabric and furniture selections -- that's delivered to your doorstep in two weeks or less for $500.

Everything offered on the site was based on Levin's work with clients and on experiences in her home. "That's where my life is right now," she says. "I'm intensely focused on maintaining my style while running after a toddler and having a dog."

The site is not just a resource for families. The stain-resistant fabric that covers all upholstered pieces was chosen with frequent entertainers in mind, too. An example: One of Levin's clients recently had her father-in-law, not her 3-year-old, spill red wine all over her lime green armchairs.

We chatted with Levin at her office in Georgetown about maintaining comfort and style in a household taken over by kids and pets. Here are selected excerpts from the interview:

What changes did you make in your living room to accommodate a toddler?

First was the coffee table. We took the metal one out and replaced it with a lucite waterfall table [with rounded ends]. Next, we replaced the antique armchairs with a pair that were covered with a durable fabric that was treated for stain resistance. I delayed getting window treatments until Julia was a little older, so she wouldn't pull on them as she tried to stand.

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