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Since decorating that apartment, I’ve been on an endless quest to find whimsical home items to match my novelty-infused personal style, and every time, that journey leads me back to the babies-only section of stores I’ve discovered and shops I’ve forever frequented. If I couldn’t have a six-foot giraffe, dammit, then I’d at least find something just as special. And, boy, did I.
Though I’m used to getting countless Are you a mother or a madwoman? glares whilst grabbing up armfuls of plush creatures and perusing nursery add-ons, it’s my biggest purchasing pleasure, not to mention my wisest shopping hack. Children’s stores are rife for pillaging for purses, tchotchkes, furniture, and rugs to wear and use in everyday life, all at twice the quirk factor and half the price. See, kid’s stuff is all sold at the price you want to pay for it, and is way more inventive than the brass-plated everything West Elm shills each season.
After all, who cares if it's intended for young'ns when the purses, rugs, furniture, and decorations are this good?
The Land of Nod
Welcome to the holy grail of children’s interior hacking.The Land of Nod is basically Design Within Reach, only with more pastel options and the intention for customers to drool on everything. Their artist collaborations are tops — they’re currently paired with Charley Harper andDusen Dusen — but carry everything frombrilliant hooks to bold fixtures that feel one-of-a-kind and cost much, much, much less.
Their eccentric furniture easily passes as grown-up — their cool as hell sheets are even sold in Queen-size! — but floor coverings are where they truly shine. Nod sells the rug of your modern desert dreams, your throwback ‘70s shag pad, your bold-but-modern bedroom, with no indication that they came from a store that offers a baby registry. (Don’t even tell me this fruit salad rug didn’t come from an imaginary Opening Ceremony home shop because I don't believe you!)
I recently moved, and for every item that people ask me about, the answer is the same: psych, I got it at a children’s store. Even the things I bought for my new big-girl office came ripped from the catalogue pages of toddler’s bedroom. Well, not all of it is big-girl — I did sneak in some juvenile decor. Welcome to the Fun Zone!
More affectionately known as Crewcuts, this adorable children’s section of J.Crew has always been low-key killing it, but a few weeks ago fully permeated the adult-woman-shopping sphere when a glittery pizza purse became all the Instagram rage. (A purse which, naturally, I’ve already owned for months, because this place is my jam.) J. Crew mostly carries cute clothes for children, as it’s a children’s clothing shop, but the accessories and bags are the easiest place to dip into and get your whimsy on.
The summer fruit purse is feminine and on point if you’re a Kate Spade obsessive, the donut option would easily cost three times more at a proper boutique, and well, a girl drunkenly accosted me at a Knicks game to find out more deets on that pizza purse, so you know that one has the grown-up market down. Now, if only I could fit this amazing headband on my massive head, then we’d be in full mini-J.Crew business.
Design Life Kids
If you think you’re too fancy to shop for gems among plastic fruit and themed bedding, well, this is the store for you. As the midpoint between minimalist design and MoMA whimsy, DLK is a children’s store for discerning parents and/or young ladies who just got a dope new job and want to make their desk legit without blowing all their money. Simply fill a statement glass with rainbow pencils, toss your keys and wallet onto a matching tray, seal all correspondence with some of their pimped out washi tape — all in a cool, non-babyish black-and-white color scheme.
There’s even stuff for the outlandish folk; this Christmastime plate taken out of context is downright brilliant. Don’t believe me that kids stores are legit? This one’s even got a Karl Lagerfeld activity book. Don’t snooze on the artwork or little things, either — they carry a variety of can’t-buy-just-one Sonny Angel series and a significant selection of prints, like this monster poster, which would go great with that brand new power office set-up you just created with no help from me.
Their separate children’s brick-and-mortar in Los Angeles is one of my favorite IRL spots to waste $10, but online, the kids goodies are dispersed throughout, so you won’t feel as creepy as I do fishing through the toy jars ISO greatness. Burro is one of the few retailers to carry both Jellycat and Blabla, my two favorite stuffed animal lines, the latter of which are the softest creations on the planet. (Their selection is limited and somewhat babyish at the moment; check Blabla’s own site for giant dolls, which are super hilarious to keep on the couch and watch judgemental friends inadvertently fall in love with.)
The best stuff you’re going to grab there kind of serves no purpose, but will add a dose of fun to your everyday, like this dinosaur comb or vintage-looking animal figurines. It’s not posted online, but I bought a pen that looks like a towering ice cream cone and can’t stop using it. How can you pick up a Bic again when you could hold a massive cartoon dessert to write notes instead?!
Perhaps you’ve already wandered into the section between kitchen supplies and bathroom wares and thought "wow, these lamps are fun!" before turning a corner and hauling all of Nate Berkus’ stuff. Don’t turn next time! Lean into the kid-themed goodies!
Target has always carried cute pop culture-referencing lamps and banks, but their new in-house brand Pillowfort is, well, somewhat Land of Nod-inspired, let’s say, but nonetheless incredible. Not only is there basically a Coachella collection (complete with stuffed cactus!) but I loaded up on these utility bins and decorative boxes for car storage, organization and laundry, and now thanks to a $10 box, my overflowing pile of exercise clothes that need to be washed look surprisingly chic. Also — how vibey is this teepee? Live your life like you run a minimalist store and your roommate’s annoying cat is glamping!
Their geometric rugs, cheekily feminine lamps and ironic throwbacks are all those finishing touches you’ve been meaning to put on your apartment but haven’t wanted to drop coin for, and then... well, then there’s the toy aisles. Dang! If Peter Jensen is going to shill Peanuts, Moschino is pushing Sponge Bob Square Pants, why not add them to your daily life for pennies on the dollar? Nothing like a lil’ Snoopy bank to add some fun to the dusty ol’ corners of your countertops.
PiccoliNY: Come for the assortment of plush, stay for the in-house New York-themed logos that double as the best-ever Big Apple souvenir. Their OG street food design now comes in a beautiful screenprint, but don’t even tell me this new tote isn’t the best take on "I Heart NY" that you’ve ever seen in your damn life.
Anthropologie Kids: Their stuffed animal selection — or, decorative friends, as I like to think of them — is on point, as are their small gifts. (How dope would these cactus stickers be on an iPhone case!) It’s of course so much classier than need be, which means it can (thankfully!) often go unnoticed in the sale section; make sure to keep an eye out next time you’re browsing.
Jonathan Adler Jr.: Annoyingly, their line for little ones isn’t priced much lower than than the regular goods, but amping up on the creativity they infuse into their regular productions makes for some mega-unique pieces, like this hilarious hand-crocheted rug or goofy little lamp.