Nancy Twomey on nurseries and children's spaces | Home Front

Nancy Twomey
Mar 17, 2016

Nancy Twomey creates beautiful environments that delight babies, children, and the grown-ups who love them as principal designer of Finnian's Moon Interiors, a design studio that specializes in nurseries and children's spaces. Her design aesthetic balances modern flair with timeless tradition to construct rooms that are fresh, yet tasteful, for the cohesive serenity imperative for today's busy lifestyle. She operates out of her design studio in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.

Twomey recently picked out her favorite kids' items at Room & Board, read it here.

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.

Nancy Twomey is one of Washington's most talented designers who has a specialty in children's rooms and nurseries. She joined me recently at Room & Board when she picked out five favorite kids pieces that will last. Read about that here. So ask her about kid's rooms or any other rooms as her Alexandria business Finnian's Moon Interiors does it all. Let's chat and Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Hi! Looking forward to answering questions today about decorating and outfitting kids' rooms and other spaces!

My daughter is nearly 13 and I'm contemplating moving her from her small bedroom to the larger guest room. What are the teen must haves these days? And what are good resources for John Bradshaw-like textiles at a lower price?

Moving up to a bigger room - lucky her!  I'm thinking you might mean John Robshaw textiles...He pioneered a distinctive look using mostly block-printed fabrics, kind of exotic and simple at the same time. It appeals to teens because it has a Bohemian, traveled look, and should appeal to parents because you can add to and subtract from it easily as your teen changes his or her mind, because it isn't hyper-coordinated. West Elm has some well-priced options in this look.  As far as must-haves for teens, if you have the space, overnight guest sleeping options are always nice or a cool lounge space for her and her friends. 

Just curious, do clients you deal with request specific visual elements or imagery for the children's rooms you design? How much does a client supply as far as insight and ideas for the children's rooms?

Hmmm... this varies a lot depending on the client. Some people have very specific ideas going into it and some people just want the designer to do it. Either way is fine by me! Sometimes I start with a fantastic piece, or collection, then the rest of the room can be more neutral; or sometimes it's the other way around - lots going on in furnishings and fabrics so in that case it could be that simplified artwork, even black and white, could be best.

At what age do kids get tired of or too big for bunk beds?

Well, I have 2 sets of refurbished army barracks bunk beds in a guest room that frequently have teenagers in them so part of me says never BUT bunk beds can be difficult to make so if you are one who likes the bed to be tidy, they might have a shorter lifespan in your home! A lot depends on the kid. Some kids love the loft feel of the upper bunk well into their teens!

I'd like to stain my dining table and chairs darker but am not much of a DIYer. Are there good local (near Old Town) places that can do this? I'm guessing it would be too expensive to be worth it but I'd like to look into it. Alternatively, if anyone wants to convince me that it's easy enough to do myself, I'm all ears.

Ahhh the age old question of "is it worth it?"... I'm biased on this one because I love repurposing old furniture. Not only is it a green thing to do, but it also gives you a custom, unique piece that doesn't look like a page of a catalog. I use A Perfect Finish in Merrifield usually. Steve and his crew do a terrific job!

I am having a hard time creating a window treatment (fabric pattern and treatment style) for my gender neutral twin nursery. I have one large (70" x 70" wide) arched window. I prefer a contemporary look with a little rustic. Colors are gray/silver, white with a little pale blue and pale yellow. The walls are a warm grey with dark wood floors and a light blue ikat style pattern rug. I like Roman shades for a clean look or possibly a fun indoor striped canopy. Suggestions? Thanks.

I agree - Roman shades are a great, clean look, however, they don't always work on an arched window. If you mount them inside, the arch will still be exposed above them so you won't be blocking all the light. Mount a Roman shade above a window that large, on the other hand, would be cumbersome (although not impossible). Alternatively, I might suggest simple linen drapery panels mounted above the arch. That way you have the option of closing off the whole window. And linen fabric can have the rustic feel you are looking for if you find a particularly nubby one.

The only room in my house with wall-to-wall carpeting is the family room. The other rooms, including the bedrooms, have hardwood floors or tile. There is no hardwood under the wall-to-wall carpeting in the family room, just old vinyl tires. My issue is that the carpeting in the family room needs to be replaced and I'm not sure what to put in. We thought about putting in hardwood floors in the family room to match the rest of the house, but we like having wall-to-wall carpeting in that room. People can sit comfortably on the floor if we have a lot of people over. Also, replacing the carpet will be significantly less expensive than installing hardwood floors and then buying a rug. We currently have Berber carpet in the family room that is over 15 years old (we put it in when we bought the house). It's worn down and definitely needs to go. I want to replace it with something that will wear well and not show a lot of dirt. We don't have small children or pets anymore, but the family room still gets a lot of use and traffic and I don't want a carpet that I have to worry about constantly. The Berber carpet we have currently did well for years, but it's past the end of its expected lifespan and that shows. Any suggestions on what to install? Should we just go with another Berber carpet or is there something else that is currently stylish and would work well in this situation?

In this case, I would suggest a cozy, neutral wool carpet. Wool will last and is naturally stain resistant, but will also feel warmer and softer than a synthetic. 


How do you design a room shared by a brother and sister? Are we stuck with neutrals?

Luckily for you, "neutrals" have expanded greatly. I just worked with a client expecting boy/girl twins and we used a palette of gray-blue with bits of vintage red. Paired with a great collection of vintage colored modern posters - the look was great and didn't say Boy or Girl!


Is it a good idea to use sisal in a nursery or kids room? If not, what else?

There are lots of carpets that have the neutral, natural vibe of sisal. I would go with alternatives before I would suggest sisal in a nursery, as much as I love sisal in other spaces. It is scratchy on little knees and also is difficult to clean - which can be a headache in a nursery!

Do you have any suggestions for lighter bedding (comforters or duvets) that would be good as the weather warms? Any favorite retail resources?

I'm a giant fan of Cuddledown comforters and they have some great basic duvet covers, too. Their comforters come in lots of different weights and warmth levels, and I've never been disappointed.

My dining room is painted Liberty Park with stained wood trim. I've been inspired by your recent article on gray rooms to repaint the adjoining living room in gray. Can you recommend a color that would go nicely? It's a southern facing room - but - because of our front porch is actually a bit shady. I want to use Navy Blue as an accent in the dining room - so that color would also be used in furnishings in the living room. thanks!

Liberty Park is a sort of greenish color by Benjamin Moore. I like Sage Mountain which is gray but has a slightly greenish cast for your living room.

What would you suggest for a tween girl who has a small room and is always clamoring for more space? I'm concerned a loft bed won't age well with her, into her teen years.

Sometimes a daybed, with its natural configuration of the long side against a wall, frees up much-needed floor space in kids' rooms. It could be that investing in built-in storage solutions could be advisable, too, as far as getting all the needs of the room met in a custom, tailored way.

Where would you suggest looking for wall art for a teen girl's bedroom? Thanks!

Honestly, I love to, whenever possible, buy art from the actual artists, for lots of reasons. If buying from an artist who has "arrived" is out of the budget (which it usually is for a kids' room in particular!), try local sources like The Torpedo Factory or The Lorton Workhouse, where emerging artists have studio spaces. I'm also a big fan of Etsy for situations like this.

My daughter has a small bedroom that becomes downright claustrophobic when there's an upholstered chair added to the mix. Can you suggest some alternative seating options that don't take up so much space?

Not too long ago, I did a room for a tween in Bethesda, where we made the desk chair a more substantial, comfortable piece. So it was a little larger than a typical kids' desk chair, but smaller than a reading or lounge chair. It provided great alternative seating and looked good too!

What kind of lighting should you have in a nursery?

Babies are unpredictable, so I would try to have lighting options whenever possible. For example, if you have overhead lighting, install a dimmer. It's not that expensive and it greatly changes the flexibility of the lighting situation. Likewise, for floor lamps or table lamps, try to use ones with a three-way switch.

What's a good, gender-neutral color scheme that's also unexpected? I'm tired of seeing gray/orange and green. We prefer a modern look.

I'm a huge fan of white and always have been. It's clean and modern and allows for lots of changes. Also, even though some people might consider blue not gender-neutral, I think it absolutely is. We used a soft gray-blue in the 2015 DC Design House for a girl nursery and I thought it came out great. I noticed you didn't mention yellow - which used to be the gender-neutral "go to" color. Creamy yellow is a great backdrop for other softer colors but also paired with more vibrant brights.

When should you upgrade from a twin bed to a larger bed for teens?

Um, in my house, never, because we have small bedrooms! I would push it earlier if your child's room ever doubles as guest space and a lot of this would depend upon you and your child and what else you want to fit in their room - there is no hard and fast rule on this one.

Where can I find an old fashioned wicker bassinet?

E-bay or local antiques sources? I haven't had to order one of these in a while for a client but it seems to me they are still available, but in a synthetic wicker, which in my opinion is not as pretty but might be more practical.

What's the best place to buy really soft cotton crib sheets?

Coyuchi has lovely organic cotton sheets in soft, neutral colors.

My tween daughters have a huge number of tiny toys and collectibles -- how can we store these items in a way that's both accessible and attractive?

There are affordable, modern wall shelf choices at West Elm and Ikea. Collections are inherently sort of "busy" so I would keep the shelf solutions cohesive and simple - like all white. 

What are some great neutral paint colors for an older child's room? For a girl who doesn't like pink at all, and often changes her "favorite" color.

Three of my favorites... all from Benjamin Moore: Owl Gray, Super White, and Balboa Mist. All are neutral enough to change accessories in the room as she changes her mind, without having to repaint.

Someone gave us a play tent (similar ones are available from Land of Nod, Walmart, etc.) for our son, but he never goes in there. What can I do to entice him to go in there? Alternatively, should I just pack it up and hide it? Example of play tent here

You don't say how old your son is, but it could be he needs to "grow into" the tent, in which case, yes, I would pack it up for a few months. Maybe when you bring it back out, he will be ready for it. I had four boys, I'll bet if you gave him a flashlight to use in there, he'd spend time in there!

I've tried bins, bookcases, toy boxes, and zippered pouches (for tinyl books)... I don't know what else to try? No matter what I try, my toddler dumps out all of the books in 5 seconds. I've also tried placing the books in his room (instead of the living room) but then he NEVER goes in there to grab a book (nothing in there has been read in months). What am I doing wrong?

I've seen people use cute baskets for book storage. As far as the dumping out, this too shall pass, and in the meantime at least your child shows some interest in books (even if it is to dump them out!). At least with an open basket, it is easy to clean them up and throw them back in there. Maybe your child can learn to enjoy that part, too!

To the chatter who is wondering when to upgrade to a larger-than-twin bed, I'd say not until the "child" is a junior in college! In university dorms, everyone has pathetically narrow twin XL beds. So, if you're used to being able to really spread out on say a Queen and then you get relegated to a twin, I could see how that would be upsetting and lead to less peaceful slumber. And once your child moves out, they can still use their old twin as a daybed or guest bed in their first apartment if they are so inclined.

Thanks for all the great questions! I always enjoy thinking outside of the box for individual solutions to individual problems. It was fun!

Thanks for being on the chat and all the great answers. Next week: Joy Mangano, the famous inventor who created Huggable Hangers and the Miracle Mop and who was the subject of a recent movie JOY. Here's the link to the chat with Joy.

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 creates classic and beautiful environments that delight babies, children, and the grown-ups who love them as principal designer of Finnian's Moon Interiors.
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