At first, Piera Gelardi envisioned the walls of her future child’s nursery bathed in bright orange. “Viva, her name, is so full of life and energy,” she says, “that I was originally planning to make her room extremely bold and energetic.” But when the baby was born in November 2018, Gelardi and her husband—who still had yet to move into the Brooklyn apartment they’d found—had a change of heart. “She was definitely vivacious, but she also had a very peaceful energy. We realized that we wanted her room to be a sanctuary for her to imagine and dream.”
For Gelardi, the cofounder and creative director of Refinery29 (and a much-admired devotee of color, crafts, and costume), this shift in perspective did not translate to a palette of neutrals or pastels. Instead, the self-professed magic maker swapped orange for an electric cerulean (specifically Farrow & Ball’s St. Giles Blue) and layered the space with a vibrant mix of textures, imagery, and objects. Some, like a framed Fiorucci poster, are relics from her own childhood; others are pieces made by family members or friends or brought back from trips to Oaxaca or San Miguel de Allende. “Above all, we wanted to design a space full of stories,” Gelardi says. “When I was planning, I didn’t think, What should a nursery look like? I just tried to fill the room with things that would trigger a child’s imagination.”
That’s not to say everything is set in stone. “Right now, it reflects who I knew Viva to be at 2 months old when we designed it,” Gelardi says. “Maybe in the future we’ll add a mural on the side of her closet doors or put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. As her sense of self develops, it will be her taste—and her story—that infuses the room.”
Scroll through for more from Viva’s nursery and a peek into Gelardi’s design process.
Start With an Intention
“The environment around a young child is incredibly influential, so my advice to other parents is to think about your intention for the space,” Gelardi says. “What’s important to you? What feeling do you want to evoke? For us, it was a creative sanctuary. For others, the feeling might be safety or love or happiness. Whatever it is, think of colors and imagery you associate with that feeling and go from there.”
Decorating with family heirlooms and travel mementos opens up opportunities to share meaningful memories with kids as they grow. “In Viva’s nursery, there’s artwork and pottery made by my nonna and cousins, a watch that was my husband’s grandfather’s, a mobile inspired by my dad’s love of Calder,” she says. “I love that I can say, ‘My friend Kim made this for me’ or ‘We got this at an art studio in Mexico.’”
Balance Pretty With Practical
What’s pleasing to your eye isn’t always what’s most functional for a baby. In Gelardi’s case, certain elements have had to change as Viva grows up—but never to the detriment of the room’s visual appeal. “Since these photos were taken, I’ve had to move the bottom row of pictures from the gallery wall because Viva can grab them now,” she explains. Her just-as-charming solution? DIY paintings on kid-friendly fabric.
Embrace a Sense of Play—Everywhere
While some parents prefer to keep toys and storybooks confined to the nursery, Gelardi enjoys the cheerful, childlike energy that Viva’s belongings bring to the rest of the apartment. “Seeing a stuffed animal sitting on the couch?” she says. “I actually really like that.”
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