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Omaha Magazine

Penny Lu’s Joyful Place: Local Makers Shine in Bright & Inspiring Nursery

Dec 27, 2020 03:32PM ● By Katy Spratte Joyce
Ariel  Panowicz's peachy nursery crib

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha born-and-bred photographer Ariel Panowicz is known for her images’ bright, punchy aesthetic. Her photos have graced everything from Scooter’s Coffee promos to the pages of People magazine and much in between. Panowicz thoughtfully translated that signature look to her self-styled baby nursery, which young daughter Penelope calls home. 

To get there, the small business maven envisioned something colorful, whimsical, and fun to match her little one’s nickname, Penny Lu. “I had a certain vision which I wasn’t sure how to describe, so I started piecing it together one item at a time,” Panowicz explained. The first item she sourced was a statement rug from woman-owned Rifle Paper Co. This beautiful floral piece helped set the color palette for the rest of the curated décor. 

Panowicz knew art was going to be a big part of Penelope’s nursery—specifically female empowerment pieces. So fittingly, Nebraska designer Allie Laing’s wall print “Don't Be A Lady Be A Legend” was an early selection. The perfect companion piece was NYC-based illustrator Lo Harris’ “She is Fierce” print featuring a Black female subject. “Teaching her the importance of accepting people who look different than she does is very important to me,” Panowicz explained. “I wanted to make sure to start that at a young age, so I was intentional about choosing art and books with a diverse group of people represented.”

A focus on local makers, many of them female, helped inspire the rest of the nursery’s décor. “There are so many talented women and small businesses in Omaha,” shared the mom and designer, who was able to incorporate many favorites into the room. Woman-owned Dusk Goods and Gifts provided the “Be Kind” rainbow art piece, as well as the goldenrod-hued quilt on the rocking chair. Local, Black female-owned Wilma & Rose gift concierge service offered the cute lion stuffed animal. 

 Joy O’Connor from EARTHENjoy crafted her first-ever hanging mobile as a unique focal piece above Penny Lu’s crib. The local clay artist shared, “I’ve created multiple-element ceramic hangings in the past that hang flat against a wall, but knowing this mobile would be in an open spot I decided that it should have movement and hold the interest of the viewer from any angle...I had always admired a metal airplane mobile my grandpa had in his art room and loved the idea of airy, free-hanging sculptural pieces.”   

O’Connor expanded: “[Ariel] mentioned wanting a mobile that was colorful, fun, and not too babyish. I sifted through my glaze samples for colors that matched the pieces she’d shown me, and then added in a couple unique glazes that were complimentary and left the warm, natural terracotta-colored clay unglazed.”  

Additionally, a pretty scallop-edged light fixture from Pottery Barn adds a feminine vibe, while an ottoman and pillow, curtains, and curtain rods all helped round out the nursery. The crib was found at Simply Nursery, which is an eco-friendly, family-owned small business Panowicz loves. A pink cloud mural, designed and painted by the mom herself using photoshop and a projector, adds a funky but understated feel to the room. Plants and plant hangers from Mulhall’s and The Greenhouse, both locally owned, combine for verdant final touches. 

Ironically, while Panowicz said she struggled decorating the rest of her home, the nursery project came more naturally to her and was a fun task.  

“My pregnancy occurred almost entirely during the pandemic, so this nursery brought massive joy during a time when it was hard to get excited,” she explained. She described the room creation as simply “an expression of love” for little Penny Lu.  

This article first appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Home Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.