Nancy Twomey started her kid-focused design business by hand-painting chests and drawing murals of stars in New Hampshire. Almost 20 years later, she has become an expert on how to create stylish children’s rooms and has her own design studio in Alexandria, Finnian’s Moon Interiors.
“I have a feel for mixing materials and not wanting children’s spaces to look all new,” Twomey says. “Kids’ bedrooms and nurseries shouldn’t look like furniture showrooms.”
She’s an expert at navigating small spaces and maximizing what’s usually one of the smallest rooms in the house. She loves finding a color that’s a bit off the grid. “I love a great chartreuse, teal or orange nursery,” she says. “And that color grows with the child.”
Twomey urges clients to incorporate something special that they already own into a child’s room, or update an old family chest or repurpose a chair. She cautions against buying typical kid-themed furniture. “You need to anchor a room with something in wood,” she says. “You want to limit the plastic.”
I went shopping in the District with Twomey at Room & Board last month as part of our Tastemakers’ Top 5 series. She has always liked the fact that more than 90 percent of the store’s furnishings are made in the United States. “It’s better to invest in something that will last instead of some cutesy design that will fall apart quickly,” she says. Here are her top five picks.
A bunk bed is the ideal choice for a kid’s room, even if you have only one kid, Twomey says. “The bottom bunk can always be used as a guest bed.” She likes the Fort Twin Over Twin Bunk Bed ($1,799) because of its clean, modern design and airy look and the fact that it comes in a lot of colors. (She chose orange.) With four boys of her own, she has a room in her house with two sets of vintage Army barracks bunk beds that she uses for sleepovers and holiday guests.
“I’m a fan of having one big dresser in a kid’s room,” Twomey says. “Pick something in a warm wood in a style that will have longevity.” She liked the Calvin Eight-Drawer Dresser ($1,599) with natural-steel hardware. Her advice for anyone furnishing a child’s room: Go for eight smaller drawers instead of four larger drawers in a chest. “It’s easier for kids to organize when there are individual drawers for each type of clothing.”
Twomey spotted the Crest Swivel Chair ($799) in a corner of the store and immediately was drawn to it. She loved its compact, modern silhouette and the fact that it was made in a durable Sunbrella canvas fabric available in a neutral cement gray. “You have to be space-conscious in most nurseries and kids’ rooms because the space often isn’t very large. There is often only room for one chair,” Twomey says. She likes to use small-profile chairs that are made for adults instead of investing in kid-size upholstered chairs that are quickly outgrown. The swivel feature on this model is a nice bonus.
Storage is a huge deal in kids’ rooms, especially since many of the spaces are very small to begin with. And of course, kids tend to have a lot of stuff. Twomey liked the Kori Storage Bin in gray ($99). It’s 14 inches square and 10 inches high, so it can fit under many bed styles. This design is handcrafted in Rhode Island from a braided wool-blend fabric. It gives the room texture and warmth, she says. And it’s a nice alternative to plastic storage bins. “I like the fact that this piece is soft, so it won’t scratch or bang the other furniture in the room, ” she says.
Plastic has its place, Twomey says, if you keep it to a minimum. This plastic stool can add a jolt of color and serve a number of functions in a child’s room. Twomey chose the KidsErgo Stool ($75) in blue. But she also liked the choice of colors, including yellow, pink and orange. It’s 15 inches high, and she could see it used as a kid’s nightstand. It also can be pulled up for extra seating. The stool allows the body to rock gently when a child sits on it, the Room & Board website says, and it helps build strength and flexibility. “I like that it also can be cleaned with a sponge,” Twomey says.