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Baby Branding Nurseries

Posted: 2013-09-01

I just got really ticked off by the Wall Street Journal's highlighting of conspicuous consumption--in babies' nurseries.


You might say that in reading The Wall Street Journal I'm just getting what I asked for when I encounter Baby-Friendly Nurseries and Home Design. But even for the Wall Street Journal--with its high end luxury real estate deals (Celine Dion's compound offered at $74 million and today's House of the Day bargain at $11,700) this panting over home decorating for the nursery is over-the-top. Here's an example:



Ms. Adrian says she wanted her [three-year-old] daughter to have a closet she could organize herself--"she is the biggest shoe fanatic." Ms. Adams designed a $25,000 closet with custom shoe drawers, rods that can be raised as Monday Lily grows, a custom jewelry insert and a tiny chandelier.



"She enjoys the whole organization of it," Ms. Adrian says. "She always puts her leopard Adidas sneakers and black pair of high-top Louis Vuitton sneakers in front."



The Wall Street Journal features the $25,000 closet with chandelier in a slide show and video accompanying the article . . . along with other really ugly, ostentatious, over-the-top nurseries, where the emphasis is on luxurious satin, cotton, sateen, and brocade custom bedding in the crib and an Oriental rug on the floor, making me wonder: Don't rich kids vomit?



The video ends with the narrator commenting that such nurseries give parents a chance to "pass on a taste of luxury before their kids can even walk."



I don't know what they're passing on besides a taste of luxury: I didn't see a single book anywhere. And those sneakers had better be the real thing. Louis Vuitton, infamous for protecting the exclusivity of that Wealth trademark, sued Warner Bros for using a counterfeit LV bag in its movie "Hangover II."



I know it's silly for Henry David Thoreau's observations about "the accidental possession of wealth and its manifestation in dress and equipage" to dance in my head at such a moment. There's no point in getting worked up over high-top Louis Vuitton sneakers. We all suffer from from what Thoreau calls "the childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns." Twitter, Facebook, blogging all feed this: No time to think because we're rushing off to read the next new thing.



I figured this wasn't an anomaly, and I was enough bothered by the Louis Vuitton sneakers that I checked on how else Monday Lily's parents are branding her for her role in our consumer society. Of course it's not just those sneakers; at age 3, she has a Facebook page, is on Populagram, Twitter, You Tube. You may ask what are these things doing for her. Then ask what they're doing for you. As Chris Hedges points out, "Corporatism is about the cult of the self."



Be wary.



by Alyssa Abkowitz



Two long-held notions about baby nurseries are being thrown out with the bath water:



1. The baby's space is confined to a single room.



2. The baby's room is all about the baby.



With multiple kids and busy careers, new moms and dads are letting the baby take over the house√ĘÄĒinfluencing design decisions not only in the nursery but in the kitchen, TV room, den and other places once considered grown-up zones.



At the same time, parents are designing their nurseries as more sophisticated reflections of their own tastes, with features like chandeliers, high-end fabrics and bespoke furniture. The result: a blurring of the lines between the kids' and adults' realms of the house.



"Today's nursery really isn't designed for the baby," says Sherri Blum, a designer who owns Jack and Jill Interiors based in Harrisburg, Pa.
Nursery-Oriented Home Designs





Alina De La Vega MacLean gave her nannies iPod Touches so they could monitor the babies if they're in other parts of the house.



Alina de la Vega MacLean, a real-estate agent in Key Biscayne, Fla., can interact with her kids from just about anywhere using a built-in audio-video system. The cameras, which cost about $1,500 apiece, are accessible over the Internet, meaning she can monitor her 13-month-old and 2-month-old daughters, Olivia and Alexia, if she is in the kitchen or across town. She gave her nannies iPod Touches so they could monitor the babies if they are in other parts of the house. The cameras can zoom and have speakers, and Ms. MacLean says she can check on her daughters three to four times a day. "I can see what they're eating, if they're behaving and if the nanny is doing everything she is told," she says.



Erica Kuhn, an internist at a practice in Orange County, Calif., escapes to the nursery to share quiet time with her daughter, Ava. "I wanted a room that would soothe me," Dr. Kuhn says. "The baby isn't really going to appreciate it."



The result: a "girlie girl" nursery that is classic and a bit over the top, with hand-painted murals of flowers and birds, an Oriental wool rug and a dresser finished in gold gilding. Ava, who is now a year old, sleeps in a handmade, cream-colored crib accented with a gilded cherub. There is a crystal chandelier hanging from the pink ceiling, custom bedding made out of satin, cotton sateen and brocade and green crystal sconces. The room cost about $40,000 to create, says designer Gerri Panebianco of Little Crown Interiors in Southern California, who has also designed nurseries for former boxer Laila Ali and onetime Spice Girl Melanie Brown.



In the past five years, nursery-design companies and boutique baby stores have given birth to nurseries that are "nothing like a baby's room," says Nina Takesh, co-owner of Petit Trésor, a Los Angeles-based boutique that worked with Kate Middleton on part of her nursery; a royal spokeswoman said the nursery is classified as a private matter and declined to comment. "The landscape has gotten more sophisticated," Ms. Takesh adds. Indeed, custom-designed nurseries can range from $5,000 to upward of $50,000, depending on bespoke furniture and accessories.



At the same time, couples want to design a room with staying power. Bold colors and clean lines can be ageless, designers say, and big-ticket items can serve multiple purposes; gliders for nursing can be reupholstered and moved into living rooms, changing tables can morph into dressers and an ornate crib backing can convert into a headboard for a full-size bed.



Three years ago, Alyson Barker picked hot-pink wallpaper for her daughter Francesca's nursery, along with a lacquered white dresser that came from what she calls "not a children's store." After seeing the piece during a babymoon trip to Palm Springs, Calif., Ms. Barker, also from Orange County, reasoned she could use it in her daughter's room even after it served its purpose as a changing table. Francesca recently transitioned to a "big-girl bed," and the room still has the dresser. But many of the other pieces, like the lamps with bird bases and ornate white cuckoo clock, may move elsewhere in the home, Ms. Barker says. "Nothing is child specific," she adds.



For her nearly 1-year-old son Doran's room, Joanna Gick, a designer in Chandler, Ariz., stained a horizontal wooden wall with a giant D covered in paint chips to serve as the backdrop for the crib. A mod lamp, bright orange ottoman, blue-and-white striped rug and lime-green pillow on a patterned chair create a space that is textural. "When my husband saw the room he said, 'This is so cool,' " she says.



Creating space for the baby can also mean designing around the nanny. In a 2013 second-quarter trends survey by the American Institute of Architects, 26% of 300 respondents reported an increase in demand for au pair/in-law suites, up from 10% cited in last year's survey. Cliff Greenhouse, president of the Pavilion Agency, a household-staffing company in New York City, says it is becoming more common for high-end nannies to get a separate suite or their own apartment in the home or nearby. "Families want nannies to be at arm's length," he says.



Ms. Blum, the Harrisburg, Pa., designer, says many of her clients are installing video-surveillance monitors and nanny cams as more parents go back to work and hire night nurses and nannies to care for their children. "It gives them peace of mind," says Ms. Blum, who recently designed a nursery for New Jersey bakery owner and "Cake Boss" star Buddy Valastro.



The focus of baby and toddler design is also occurring in the kitchen, as more parents carve out spaces to cook their own baby food and disinfect gear. Olivier Foglizzo, CEO of Béaba USA, said the company introduced two larger versions of Babycook, an appliance that steams and purées food in 15 minutes, after parents asked for a way to prepare bigger portions of baby food.



At appliance maker Miele, sales of steam ovens, used by many parents to sanitize baby bottles and cook food, have more than doubled since the appliance was introduced in the U.S. in 1999.



Lianne Phillipson-Webb, a pediatric-nutrition consultant who founded a company called Sprout Right, has seen a "huge increase" in the number of clients who want to make their own baby food. She recently taught Christina Sorbara and her wife, Kerry Weiland Sorbara, a member of the 2010 U.S. women's Olympic hockey team, how to cook for their 1-year-old son, Massimo. "We didn't want to feed him packaged foods, but we didn't know how to go about making food for him," says Ms. Sorbara.



Today, the Toronto couple cooks for Massimo two to three times a week, steaming and puréeing vegetables and fruits, and then storing them in freezable silicon trays with lids. Nearby is a cupboard and cutlery drawer devoted to the infant's dishes and utensils. In the basement, a stand-up freezer is filled with Massimo's food and Ms. Sorbara's breast milk. In about a year, that area will need to expand: Ms. Weiland Sorbara is pregnant with twins due in January. "It takes time, but for us, there's no other choice," Ms. Sorbara says.



So what happens when the child outgrows part of the nursery? Lisa Adams, of LA Closet Design, recently created a closet for Monday Lily Angello-Adrian, the 3-year-old daughter of Steve Angello, formerly of the electronic dance-music trio Swedish House Mafia, and his wife, Isabel Adrian. Ms. Adrian says she wanted her daughter to have a closet she could organize herself√ĘÄĒ"she is the biggest shoe fanatic." Ms. Adams designed a $25,000 closet with custom shoe drawers, rods that can be raised as Monday Lily grows, a custom jewelry insert and a tiny chandelier.



"She enjoys the whole organization of it," Ms. Adrian says. "She always puts her leopard Adidas sneakers and black pair of high-top Louis Vuitton sneakers in front."



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