Design Chat: Gerri Panebianco of Little Crown Interiors

This week we sat down with one of our favorite designers, Gerri Panebianco, to talk nursery tips and trends. Gerri is one half of the creative design duo behind Little Crown Interiors, a luxury interior design firm that specializes in children’s rooms and nurseries. Since meeting in 2008, she and her business partner, Naomi Alon have created over 70 custom nurseries and children’s rooms for elite clients. Gerri is a veritable fountain of knowledge on all things baby and we’re so excited we got to pick her brain for you!

When it comes to decorating for baby or kids, where should an expectant parent begin? Paint? Crib? Bedding? Even if there is no right answer, what advice do you offer for someone feeling excited but also overwhelmed by decorating a nursery?

The answer to this varies with every single person we meet. Sometimes it’s a picture from a magazine. Sometimes it’s the memory of a childhood dream (i.e. “When I was a little girl, I always wanted a pink room”). Sometimes it’s a scrap of family history – a blanket made by grandma, a photo from long ago, etc. Although the source of inspiration is diverse among parents, the intention is always the same – to create a beautiful and meaningful home for their new baby.

It’s very common for our clients to feel overwhelmed and clueless about where to start with a nursery. Truly, how would an expectant parent know which diaper pail works best or which type of crib mattress is best for their baby? Our advice is always to seek advice from someone who’s been there. Between the knowledge we’ve gained designing 70+ projects, the sheer number of people we’ve worked with to create them, and being a Mom to two young sons myself, Little Crown Interiors has a wealth of knowledge that we’re happy to share to help ease our clients anxiety.

What room do you see most often repurposed for a nursery? An office, guest room etc?

The office/guest room/ junk room is hands down the most common space.We’ve absolutely lost track of the number of times we’ve walked into the room to find a desk, some type of guest bed, and a closet full of excess junk.

What percentage of baby rooms would you say are still being painted pink or blue?

This is a great question! On average, about 50% of our clients go with traditional color schemes, and the other half goes with something unconventional. Pink and lavender are always going to be popular for little girls, just as blues and greens are always going to have a place in boy’s rooms. However, even in these more traditional rooms, we find that our clients are ready and willing to mix-it-up. Some opt for a traditional color palette and then add-in unique accent pieces. Others choose funky furniture and balance it with standard colors, etc. These days, there are so many fantastic options available, that parents can really enjoy the opportunity to have some fun with color in their nursery.

We see a lot of wall art/appliqués lately. How hard are those to work with?

The wall decal/ appliqué is definitely a great innovation in children’s rooms. It allows for inexpensive, commitment-free statements to be made in the space (i.e. just because Junior’s into trains right now doesn’t mean Mom has to choose between giving him the train room he wants and living with the long term reality of having a train room in her home). Our expert tip: decals are best applied over fresh paint (3-5 days old).

What trends do you see in terms of finishes for cribs and furniture?

Style-wise, we think that the evolution of cribs from drop sides to lifetime models has caused parents to consider their nursery furniture as a long-term investment (rather than something they would completely remove from their homes in 2-3 years). To that end, our clients tend to choose furniture that fits their taste and their home for the long term, so there’s a big diversity in the choices clients make (and fortunately, there are lots of options available).

What tips do you have when decorating for two kids or different ages?

Anytime a space is shared parents have to be extremely thoughtful in the design. Whether out of choice, or necessity, kids in a shared space need to have places for their own things, as well as spaces for things that they should be sharing. We recommend using some kind of a “system” in the room (different colored bins for each child’s special things, or special drawer pulls for each kid, etc.).

Many cribs, such as the Lifestyle Cribs in the Bonavita collections, convert from crib to toddler bed to day bed to full size bed.  Parents love making the furniture investment just once. But what tips do you have for changing up the room as the child grows – beyond switching out crib bedding for toddler bedding for example.

Our advice: make choices thoughtfully. Again, it’s well worth talking to a designer or at least some friends who’ve been through the transitional phases. Economically, it’s best to invest in pieces for the long term (furniture, window treatments, paint, etc.), and then choose less expensive, replaceable items that can be changed from time to time.

Do you favor different finishes for male vs. female?

Not particularly – it’s all a matter of how the furniture fits into the room.

If someone aspires to hiring a team like yours but doesn’t live close, is there a way to benefit from your expertise?

We offer an eDesign service for clients nationwide, and it’s been a huge success since we launched it several years ago:

We also write a regular column for as well as our own blog ”Nursery Culture”:

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