Play Rooms

The duo behind J & J Design Group creates child-friendly nurseries that even a sophisticated grown-up could love.

The letter “D,” salvaged from a sign on an old building, is repurposed into eye-catching wall art over a baby’s crib.

When it came time for YouTube sensation Brooke Mahan of What’s Up Moms, the cult mommy blog website that gets over 20 million visitors a month, to design her own nursery, the ASU grad turned to the creative ladies at J & J Design Group of Arizona.

In the last five years, J & J has become the go-to in nursery design for Valley moms in-the-know. Owners Jennifer O’Dowd and Joanna Gick have never advertised their business in the traditional sense, yet the design duo has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and on HGTV.

“We started in 2009, and we just put pictures of our work on Facebook and then Instagram and Pinterest, and we started gaining momentum,” says Gick.

So it’s no surprise that J & J would catch the eye of Mahan, also a social-media celebrity, who had followed O’Dowd and Gick on Project Nursery and instinctively knew they were the ones that could help her create a vintage/modern nursery around the specific wallpaper pattern she had already picked out.

Joanna Gick and Jennifer O’Dowd are the go-to girls when it comes to creating rooms for infants, toddlers and kids. Even parents are inspired to add whimsical touches to the rest of their homes.

“We usually start with one thing, like a piece of art, a rug or wallpaper, and design around that,” explains O’Dowd.

Before nursery design went couture, many parents chose traditional gender-based colors and themes—think baby blue, powder pink, Winnie the Pooh or Frozen on overload. J & J takes a decidedly different approach to furnishing little ones’ rooms.

“It’s a big mistake to have a theme and go nuts with it. It’s not sophisticated and ends up being just a mess,” notes Gick. “If you like unicorns, we’ll add a unicorn element, but everything won’t be unicorn.”

The advantages to an unthemed room are many. First, children have many likes, which can change on a whim. A well-designed, theme-free room is adaptable and can grow with the child. J & J’s designs are created to move the crib out and put a toddler bed in its place. Another advantage is for the parents. Once you have a baby, you spend a lot of time in the nursery, so you want it to be a space that is relaxing for you, as well. “I have a 10-month-old, and when I get stressed, often I’ll go into the nursery alone and just sit down and rock,” says O’Dowd. “It’s like my cocoon.”

While J & J’s kids’ rooms are sophisticated, they’re also child-friendly, functional and durable. “Kids beat stuff up,” laughs Gick. “We advise clients that a $5,000 rug in the space may not be a wise investment.”

In addition to sourcing nursery furnishings from wholesale and retail outlets, including Serena & Lily and The Land of Nod, O’Dowd and Gick handmake many items, from cutout storybook letters to shadowbox art; some are available for purchase on J & J’s online shop.

Seven years ago, designing a room for Gick’s newborn daughter inspired the friends to create their own nursery-focused design firm. Their success is anything but a childish fantasy. 4158 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480.947.2798,