Designing children's rooms with Nancy Twomey | Home Front

Oct 18, 2012

Nancy Twomey is the principal designer behind Finnian's Moon Interiors, an Alexandria design firm specializing in children's rooms. We called her to help us judge the 2012 Kid's Room Contest. On Thursday, she'll be online to chat about how we selected a winner and trends in children's decor. Send in your questions now and join us live on Thursday at 11 a.m.!

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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What a great response we had to our Kids Contest! We had 9525 Votes!!! One of our contest judges Nancy Toomey of Finnian's Moon in Alexandria is here today to answer your questions about how to make your kids room rock. She is an expert on children's rooms and furnishings. Check out Lesli DeVito of Greenwood, Va. the judges winner here. The Readers Choice winner, Mary Derderian of Arlington, will be featured in an article next week. Let's get going!

I have a very large den that has a soft sisal rug over mexican tile. I love the sisal rug but it sheds and taking it up is not an option. I am worried about my baby who will soon be crawling being all over it. and will be ingesting more fibers than I'm comfortable with. I'd like to cover a portion of the rug with another neutral rug on top of it. I've thought about Flor tiles but am not wild about them. Ideally I'd like a soft, cotton or rag rug and I suppose wool would work as well. Any suggestions on where to look for such an item? 5 by 7 or 6 by 9 sizes. I would then put a baby fence around the rug.

I would be more inclined to suggest a colorful, soft area rug over the top of your sisal, rather than a neutral one.  That way you can have fun with it and it could add additional personality to the room.  If you can find a Moroccan or Moroccan-look one, it doesn't even really need to "match" the rest of the room. This would help add dimension and interest too! I agree, sisal rugs are no fun for baby's knees!



Can you or the chatters make suggestions for the following issues: 1. I have a plastic tub, and noticed that while the shower is on, the liner blows up and sticks to me. Thankfully, it's in the guest bathroom and no one has complained, but when I used it, it's annoying. Obviously magnets won't work. Are weights my only option and if so, what should I look for considering there's not fold at the bottom of the liner? Would another material work you think? I don't think it matters if the door to the bathroom is opened or closed. 2. Hardwood floors/tiles- Look nice but what a pain. Ok, how do I clean the dirt between the wooden planks? I read to use a dull knife however that was unsuccessful. For the tiles, any real tried and true (easy would be awesome) way to keep the grout clean, especially in high traffic areas - kitchen, bathroom (shower tiles too). I need a Rosy from the Jetsons! Thanks!

The liner blowing out is annoying. I think you should go to a place such as Bed Bath & Beyond or Macys and buy what is sometimes called a hotel quality shower curtain liner - it is extra heavy duty and sometimes comes with magnets on the bottom. The issue is your liner is probably very thin and that is why it blows around when the water comes on. As for your wood floors, it sounds like you have a wax finish vs. polyurethane. You might consider sealing them so you don't have the issue of dirt between the planks. I would use a scrubbing sponge for that.

As kids grow, their interests change and how they use their bedrooms also change. An 8-year-old may want a room with structures to climb, places to play, and things within easy reach. A few years later, that child will enter high school and will need more room to read or study. Maybe add a computer or gaming system. How do you design a room that won't need to be redesigned every few years?

As long as you invest more heavily in the items that won't need to be changed often, you should be fine.  For example, if you do custom window treatments and do not want to redo in a few years, go with a stripe, solid, or a "non-themey" print - that serves as a foundation for the design of your room.  If it is important for you to look at a "clean" room, then keep swatches of your fabrics and paint colors with you, and typically you can edit out toddler items for the big kid things that follow.  For example, a twin bed is not THAT much bigger than a crib, and a desk is not THAT much bigger than a table and chairs.  If you work with a designer and you ask, they would probably do a forward thinking plan in addition to a current one.  If you are doing it yourself, you could map out on graph paper which things will go where and what can be swapped out later.  The key is to accurately assess the longevity of certain pieces and invest accordingly. 

We have parquet flooring in our finished basement which is badly in need of replacement, especially since we want to use the basement as a playroom for our young kids. Since we've had a few moisture issues, I'm thinking of pulling up the parquet and replacing it with FLOR tiles. Two questions: 1. Does this sound like a good option? 2. Is this something we could do ourselves? We are on a very limited budget, but we aren't very handy around the house.

You have a great idea already about how to replace your old parquet flooring. I think Flor is a wonderful idea. There is a new Flor store in Georgetown that I think would be a good place to start to get some ideas and help. I hear they are really easy to install and people rave about them. I personally have not used them, but are there chatters who could write in some words of wisdom?

I don't want to do a big renovation as all my appliances are fairly new, with black finishes and work fine, but my cabinets and backsplash need updating. My cabinets are the "aged looking french country", and I would like to replace the doors and have them painted white, and maybe do subway tile for the backsplash, which is now white square tiles. My questions are, do you or any of the chatters know of companies that redo cabinets with a "baked on" type finish? I don't think painting alone would create a long-lasting finish as my kitchen takes much abuse. Also, if I do white subway tile, would you do a grey grout rather than white? My granite countertop is mainly black, with some brown in it also, and again my appliances are black. Thanks for the help!

I think gray subway tile sounds very chic with your granite and your black appliances. Are your cabinets wood? You might only need some sanding and a new coat of paint. I do not know of companies who do the baked on finish - but perhaps someone else online right now does.

duck tape it

duct tape is miraculous

We've used ones with weights at the bottom which worked well. Our current liner has four tabs (two on each end of the liner) with suction cups that you attach to the tile/shower/tub surround. This one also works really well.


The main floor of our townhouse combines the kitchen, dining room and living room. There is a natural break between the kitchen and the other two rooms. I love Benjamin Moore's Golden Honey, and will definitely be painting my kitchen that color. I had intended to paint the other two rooms a neutral grey-green color I found, but now I'm wondering if I can extend Golden Honey all the way through the entire level. What are your thoughts on that? (If it matters, the kitchen will get some south light, the living room light from north facing windows, and there are no windows in the dining area) Many thanks for all the help and ideas every week!

Just looked up Golden Honey by Benjamin Moore. What a lovely neutral! I think painting the entire level that color would be a chic look and unifying for the space. It has a lovely golden sheen to it.

I like the idea of doing something colorful a la a morrocan rug, but what exactly am I looking for? a kilim? a dhury? and again suggestions of where to actually look for rugs of this type (note I am not in DC) besides from Omar at the Santa Fe flea market whom I am not sure is even there anymore.

Yes. I love the idea of a rug made in Morocco that has lots of great patterns and colors.  I would try eBay, One Kings Lane, Pottery Barn and West Elm. Even World Market and Horchow have had them in their online inventories. Kilims and dhurries are flat weave rugs.

Just bought a new house, and my 11 year old gets 2 rooms - her bedroom and use of the spare room for homework, play area. Both are a MESS. I keep thinking that giving her license to decorate her room will give her more a sense of keep-it-neater-because-I-love-it. Is there merit to this belief? Or, can you share tried and true ideas for beautiful organization strategies? Thanks!

Lucky girl!  Who wouldn't love a hang-out pad ensuite? After many years in this business, I have discovered that one of the main causes for mess in kids' spaces in plain and simple - too much stuff!  The key is to edit, edit, edit.  Let her choose things each season or twice a year or whatever, that she wouldn't mind donating to charity or putting in a garage sale box.  I would also tie the two rooms together design-wise, so it does feel more like a suite and less like bedroom and playroom.  That extra sophistication in the feel should help it feel more cohesive and grown up.  And MAYBE, that will encourage her to keep it tidy!  Well designed rooms feel tidier than undesigned ones, for sure.

For the shower curtain problem: for about $30, you can get a curving shower rod to hold the curtain away from you (you have to hang it a little lower if your curtain isn't long enough to stay in the tub). I did this 10 years ago, being a very large guy, and it's great. For the cabinet paint-baking: you might look for an auto body shop (no joke!) to get the coating you want. You might also ask a specialty paint store for suggestions, because the products evolve all the time.

Thank you so much! Great great suggestions here. I have experienced the curved shower curtain rods in hotels and I think they are terrific. Auto body shop painting is also a great idea for the cabinets.


Well said.

Just so you guys can find it, here is the website for Nancy Toomey's Finnians Moon Interiors. They specialize in kids interiors.

Seret and Sons on Alameda in Santa Fe has a great selection of rugs--might be too pricey, though. For lower price points, try Jackalope down Cerrillos Road (probably not Moroccan rugs, but you might find something fun and affordable). Also, the Santa Fe CraigsList has great stuff.

Thank you!

I need to update my daughters bedroom with paint and some inexpensive but durable pieces. She's a senior and still has same paint and furniture as she did as a kid. I would like the color to be something that could be suitable for boys if I ever decide to move my three boys in that room.

I love the idea of buying things that can be repurposed later.  An upholstered headboard or well-made chair can always be reupholstered later.  Granted, that isn't cost-free, but it can be a fun way for a face lift and usually isn't more than buying something new.  Old nightstands and dressers can be repainted, too.  As far as a wall color that works for both boys and girls, the first question would be bright and vivid or soft and neutral?  A terrific combo is orange walls with bits of pink and yellow - then later for boys, orange walls with gray and tan, or blue.  We've also done plenty of girls' rooms that started out with blue walls.  Blue should not be ruled out for girls. A room's overall color palette can be decided by things that are easy to swap out, too, like pillows and lamps.

As always, IKEA.

As always....

Look on Great deals! The only problem is, be sure you love it, because return shipping is not great. Tuesday Morning also has some good deals on rugs, and I believe you can return to the store.

Great suggestions. I love Tuesday Morning. I arrived once when they had gotten their Gucci shipment!

Gorilla tape for really sticky situations. Go ape.

Why not?

What causes the liner to stick to you is simple physics. The air around you is heated from the hot shower. The hotter the water, the more the air heats up. As that air heats, it rises. To replace that air, cold room air floods into the shower from underneath, thus causing your 'ballooning' issue. You may want to try a cotton hotel liner. As it gets wet, it gets heavier and thus less resistant to movement.

Excited we have science loving people on the chat! Keep those great explanations coming! I also am a fan of spending top dollar for a good quality liner.

Currently, I have only one bedroom for two young kids and then another for a home office for my husband. How long is too long to wait before the home office needs to be sacraficed? The home office is currently used for two hours a day, every day, and the dining room is an unacceptable alternative work space.

As long as they are not disrupting each other's sleep patterns and get along reasonably well, I would say they could stay together indefinitely if it is 2 boys or 2 girls.  If they need individual space but you don't want to sacrifice the office, you could put a daybed or comfortable chair in there, as another place to hang out, read, do homework, or just "get away".

I'm intrigued with your suggestion of grey tiles; would you match the grout to the tile color?

Yes. I would match it as close as possible. It will make the surface look smooth and even. Otherwise you will get the checkerboard effect.

Love this stuff. I did my basement in them, right over ugly vinyl tiles. Plenty warm, easy to clean with kid mess, and SUPER easy to install. A straight edge and good utility knife, done in an afternoon for a 20x30 space.


I noticed the Kid's Room winner is very colorful and the Reader's Choice is pretty neutral and both are really great. Which approach is better long term? Or is there a way to use color that won't get tiresome as time goes on? How do you keep neutrals from being flat and dull?

I think the answer to which approach is better is very dependent on the personality of the homeowner.  If you love the calmness of neutrals, don't be afraid it looks dull.  What is flat and dull to one person is calm and soothing to another.  Be true to your own style and the effectiveness of the design will follow.  Also, it is easy enough to add a kick with pillows and lamps.

What do you look for in artwork for children's rooms? I'm not a huge fan of spelling out the baby's names in letters and that seems to be a major trend so the walls in the nursery remain mostly blank.

How about black and white family photos blown up? Or what about inexpensively framing some of your child's own colorful paintings. Monograms are indeed popular these days in kids rooms. My son had a painting of a sailboat done by his grandfather over his crib as a baby and it has remained there for 22 years. It is a special memory.

If you have enough space, do you believe that kids' toys should be mostly stored in a separate play room? Or do you thinks a kid's clothes, toys, games, and bedroom furniture should all be housed in the same room?

The easisest answer to this question is, a little of both.  If you have the room, I would encourage most of the toy storage be elsewhere.  That will help keep the bedroom less chaotic.  However, it would probably be practical and beneficial to keep a few favorite things in the bedroom as well, to keep everyone happy and occupied!

Thank you Nancy for some inventive ideas for kids rooms decorating. And thanks to all of you who voted in our contest. Next week we are on to small space living and will have a special design blogger as a guest host who lives beautifully in 425-square-feet.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Nancy Twomey
Nancy Twomey is the designer behind Finnian's Moon Interiors, a firm that specializes in children's spaces. She started the business 13 years ago in Rye, N.H., and in 2005 opened a second location in Old Town Alexandria. With a background in fine art, she creates balanced, cohesive designs that both children and their parents can enjoy. Nancy served as a judge for this year's Kid's Room Contest.
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