In late April, Erika Dawkins, owner of Bon Ton Studio in Healdsburg, announced that she and her husband are expecting two babies. One is their second child, due in August. The second is a sister store to her successful housewares and clothing shop.
In June, Dawkins opened the doors to Bon Ton Baby on the Healdsburg Plaza. The new store offers sweet finds for littles ones: blankets, organizing baskets, clothing essentials and a selection of toys.
In her new store, Dawkins continues her winning design concept from Bon Ton Studio. She has combined neutral tones with touches of color to create a soothing aesthetic that also works well for decorating a nursery, while Moroccan baskets, leather poufs and dried flower arrangements have been paired with colorful cactus silk pillows in teal or rosy pink, or Turkish towels in shades ranging from yellow to poppy.
Dawkins prepared for the opening of Bon Ton Baby while decorating her children’s room at home, the one that will be shared by her 3-year-old daughter and newborn baby. She took some time out of her busy schedule to share some tips about her process for designing and choosing items for both her store and her home.
Choose a color palette
“I always say with a lot of things, ‘Let’s try and keep things simple,’” says Dawkins. When decorating a room, she starts with a palette of quiet neutrals — beiges, whites and browns are the base — and then adds color with restraint. To add a few interesting elements, Dawkins lets herself “have fun with textiles and prints.” In her daughter’s room, for example, pops of terra cotta (in pictures and books) add warmth to an otherwise neutral color palette.
Keep things cohesive
At Bon Ton Baby, neutral colors and woven baskets set the scene. The look is then enlivened by soft colors: heather greens, lilacs, blush tones, terra cottas. Dawkins stays away from the gendered colors blue and pink and her shop is gender neutral; there are no boys and girls shelves. In order to stay within her chosen color palette, Dawkins sometimes have to forgo certain items and pieces for her store or her home. For example, she had a beautiful red dress for sale at Bon Ton Studio but it didn’t fit with the look of the store. The dress was eventually sold, but it served as a reminder of how some pieces, albeit pretty, just won’t work with a cohesive look.
Communicate who lives in the room
“It’s a baby at first, but then they’re a toddler,” says Dawkins about decorating a nursery. She likes to place shelves with books and stuffed toys at a child’s eye level so that growing children can reach them. She also likes to decorate and organize a room with storage in mind. “I’m a big believer in everything having a home,” says Dawkins. She uses storage baskets, like the pot belly baskets she carries in both her stores, to keep rooms organized. The baskets can be folded to create lower profile storage pieces.
Consider your own comfort, too
Since parents spend a lot of time in their small children’s rooms, Dawkins recommends adding items to these rooms that make them more comfortable for adults. A Moroccan pouf, for example, offers a comfortable low-to-the-ground seat, where parents can sit at the child’s eye level. As far as aesthetics go, Dawkins recommends making the child’s “space work with the rest of the house” and not going “overboard with themes.”
Collect furniture and decor from different sources
Dawkins likes to mix high-end items with budget buys and a little bit of vintage. “You just have to weave everything together and layer,” she advises. For her nursery at home, she purchased and placed the big items first — a birchwood crib, a white dresser (from IKEA) and a linen rocker. She then purchased shelves in blond woods from Target and many of the remaining items — baskets, poufs and linens — came from her own store. The room also features art from a local maker and pretty dried flowers by Design Em. “It doesn’t need to match,” says Dawkins about the decoration and suggests opting for mismatched but well-coordinated pieces of furniture and decor.