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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Elizabeth Street

PETITNEST IS WHERE THE HEART IS

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PetitNest is Where the Heart Is

As Tiffani Thiessen and Lonni Paul like to say, “a child’s room doesn’t have to look like a children’s room.”

When asked how PetitNest came to be, interior designer Lonni Paul answers quickly: “On a whim!” Actress Tiffani Thiessen, best known for her roles on Saved by the Bell, Beverly Hills, 90210, and White Collar, met model-turned-interior decorator Paul on HGTV’s Design Star, where they worked together to revamp Thiessen’s California guest room. Friends ever since, the two women—now savvy in the world of safe yet elegant furniture design—talk to Elizabeth Street about their production process, the age-old question of New York vs. Los Angeles, and where they look for inspiration. The answer might surprise you. —Lucie Alig

How did you two decide to start PetitNest?
Tiffani Thiessen: Thank god Lonni and I were matched up together on Design Star, because she became a very good friend. My husband I loved her work, and we started to work with her on other parts of our house after the show aired. One room she helped with was the nursery, while I was pregnant with my daughter, Harper. We were trying to figure out what to do with the room, and we thought: Why not just design our own furniture?

Were you always interested in design, or did Lonni bring it out in you?
TT: I’ve always loved design—from fashion to party planning. My husband’s an artist and painter as well, so it’s definitely a big part of my life. But did I ever think that I would start a furniture company with a friend? No way!

Lonni, can you tell me a little bit about your career? I read that you were involved in fashion for a while.
Lonni Paul: Yes I was a model for many years, based in Europe. In my mind, great fashion is a lot like design—it all goes hand in hand and I’m inspired by all of it. So getting into interior design from the fashion world was an easy transition.  Still, I had never really been that interested in home décor until a friend of mine asked me to do her house in Bel-Air. It was such a beautiful home I thought, Why not? And once I started that, I just kind of steamrolled. I’ve always been interested in furniture design, too, because it’s an interesting tie-in with architecture and everything else.

What advice would you give to a new mom about to decorate a nursery?
LP: I think you start with whatever it is that inspires you most—whether it’s a tone, a color palette, or a fabulous piece of furniture that’s been in your family for years. We don’t feel like a child’s room needs to look like a child’s room—it should be an extension of the design aesthetic of your whole home. But you have to have a jumping off point—whether it’s fashion, architecture, or something that your child loves. I just finished my son’s room, for example, and it’s all about robots. He’s obsessed!

Do either of you have a favorite piece in the collection?
TT: It seems like each time we design something new, it becomes my favorite. It’s like a revolving door.  “I like this one better! I like this one now!”
LP: Yeah, it’s hard. If I had to choose, I think my favorites would be the Alouette crib and the Sophie dresser. Of course, my daughter’s name is Sophie so maybe I’m a little partial. But it’s really beautiful.

How does PetitNest fit into the equation, when you both have so much going on with your respective careers? Tiffani, is it hard to work on the line when you’re filming for White Collar?
TT: Yes! Being a working mom and filming and having multiple careers is always really hard. That’s why there are so many women like us—who stay awake until the wee hours of the morning and then are up early to be with our kids. We just have to make it work. And if you’re doing something you truly enjoy, it’s easier to find the time to try hard and make it successful. You put a lot in, and you hope that the rewards are there when you’re done!

How else has motherhood changed your lifestyle? 
TT: I now want everything to be simple, but distinguished at the same time! [Laughs.] Good-looking and easy.
LP: Motherhood also emphasizes the safety factor. It’s really important to both of us that our pieces are manufactured in the U.S., that they’re eco-friendly and safe for our kids. It’s not just, “Oh that look’s great;” there’s a lot more to consider when you’re designing for kids.

Can you say more about the eco-friendly factor?
LP: We use American walnut from woods that are farmed, so they didn’t come from cutting down forests. Our paints are non-toxic and have the lowest VOC on the market. Even the glues and adhesives don’t have any off-gasses. We try really hard to do everything safely, and in a way that preserves the future of our planet for our kids. 

How do Los Angles and New York compare in terms of raising children?
TT: I literally split my time between the two—six months in each city—and there are pros to each of them. My daughter has been such an active kid from day one, and I can tell that New York really stimulates her. Sure, it’s crowded and busy, but there are so many things you can do with a child in Manhattan. A lot of people who don’t live here or don’t have kids can’t see the city as a kid-friendly place, but it actually is. On the other side of it, my home is Los Angeles—my kitchen, my car, all those things I’m used to because I grew up in California. But I love that I can give Harper the best of both worlds, and that she can enjoy two really different lifestyles.
LP: I’ve spent most of life traveling, so that’s a big part of who I am. Now, I only leave for short trips so I’m not away from the twins—who are in kindergarten—too much. I think living in L.A. with kids is a lot easier than it is in New York. When I see women with strollers in bad weather, dealing with metro cards or flagging down cabs, I think it’s just amazing!