The designer behind Finnian’s Moon on creating elegantly whimsical children’s rooms.
By Anne Kim-Dannibale
Nancy Twomey has made a name for herself as the go-to designer for parents interested in a nursery that isn’t a sugary concoction of pink or blue. Hallmarks of the Alexandria-based designer, who began her practice some 13 years ago, are whimsical yet sophisticated children’s spaces that grow with a child. Here, she discusses her approach to design and a recent project.
Describe your style.
Personally, my style can be described as clean, classic, yet fresh. And while I definitely think I have a distinctive aesthetic, one of the greatest things about being a designer is helping clients define and clarify their own style, and then being able to bring it to life in a way that is truly authentic to who they are.
What design trend/element are you currently obsessed with and why?
My favorite design element in the whole world is the horizontal stripe. I try to wedge it in to most spaces, whether it’s on a roman shade, the wall, headboard or a pillow. I think it’s classic, but a little bit more playful and jaunty than a vertical stripe. I also find that it keeps your eye moving within the design, so it helps the space feel expansive, yet contained.
A design secret you’re willing to share?
For a room to feel like a home, it should look acquired, not like it was all bought at the same store on the same day. That sort of approach can make a room feel soulless, which is the last way you want a home to feel. To create layers of interest, I use beautiful fabrics and lots of textures. I like to mix patterns as well as woods, metals and other natural elements. It’s magic when it all comes together!
What trends are here to stay (people should invest in them); which are passing fads (not worth the money)?
First of all, no one should invest in something they don’t personally respond to, no matter how cool or trendy anyone thinks it is. That being said, my personal mantra is that things that are understated are far less likely to look tired and has-been than something splashy and exaggerated. I’m far more likely to suggest investing heavily in classic items that have an inherent calmness to them and spending less on the “wilder” ingredients in a design scheme. I also encourage things that can be changed. A terrifically scaled, well-made chair can always be reupholstered at a later date to freshen it up. I’m not a fan of designing with the idea of throwing something away in a short time.
Describe your typical client.
The one quality I think all my clients have in common is they are busy, busy, busy. They are typically style-driven and definitely interested not only in presenting their home in a certain way to others, but also in surrounding themselves with an environment that makes them feel good. Since we do such a heavy nursery business, I always tell the mom that she needs to love her nursery and love being in it, because chances are she will be in it in the middle of the night, sleepless and cranky, so it should bring her peace!
Describe a recent project. What did the client ask for, and what were some of the key things that you did?
This Arlington nursery evolved out of a desire from the client to marry her love of clean, contemporary interiors with her picture of what a nursery should be: a little old-fashioned, and above all, inviting. She loved the idea of a beautiful, heirloom-quality iron crib, so that was a starting point for us. She also knew she was having a girl, but didn’t want “pink.” This is a common request, by the way, as design-savvy new parents yearn to break free from the vivid blues and pinks that seemed to typify nurseries for so long. She also liked the idea of keeping the neutral walls, which had a nice flow from the rest of the house. So after showing her three different design schemes, we settled on this one, which really pairs the neutral walls with a faded dusty red — a fantastic alternative to pink.
We injected lime to keep the room from being too predictable or traditional. The splurge on the hand-printed grass-cloth wallpaper couldn’t have been more worth it. It breathes in a little bit of a modern splash, but quietly so, behind the sophisticated timeless crib that could easily have been resurrected from someone’s attic. A comfy glider is a MUST for any nursery, and I like to pair it with a non-matching ottoman or pouf to add further interest to the room. The cover comes off of both the glider and the custom pouf for easy cleaning (pragmatism has to be part of good nursery design too!). My favorite fabric, far and away, is linen. Her functioning drapes are not just decorative, but they open and close for light-blocking and privacy, and while solid off-white linen drapes are lovely in their own regard, these go one step further in completing the look with the Greek key trim on the edge. The nubby area rug is soft for baby’s knees but also likely to hide accidental spills with it’s variegated yarns.
How does the space as you designed it accomplish these goals?
This sophisticated nursery was achieved by bringing together different surfaces and textures, the cozy and the sleek, the deeply textured and the smooth, the neutrals and the pops, to achieve a truly unique nursery that is serene but never, ever boring.