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Nursery Dreams Come True

How many little girls can say that their mother not only designed their nurseries, but also turned the bedding sets she created for them into best-selling product lines? Sisters Gracie and Cecilia Bellissimo, ages two and a half and five months respectively, are two of the rare few -- if not the only -- who can.

It all started when their mom, Los Angeles-based designer Wendy Bellissimo, created unique themes for her daughters' rooms. With everything from custom-embroidered bedding to wall murals, she made rooms everyone could appreciate. "We loved Gracie's room so much. We loved being in there. Twelve- and 13-year-old girls even would say, 'Oh my gosh, this is so amazing!'" says Wendy. The bedding set she created for Gracie -- "Sweet Cricket" -- went on to become Wendy Bellissimo Baby 'n' Kids' top seller for two and a half years. When Cecilia was on the way, Wendy faced a new challenge: How could she create another nursery that was equally beautiful? "I wanted it to be inspiring, but not the same. I wanted it to be its own thing," Wendy says. Her creative muse looked to the family's Italian heritage. "We love Italy and went there two summers ago, so we decided to do a Tuscan theme on the walls." Her home's rich, dark colors were also incorporated into the room. "We couldn't use anything too floral, so we went with solids and ginghams that had a lot of texture." The bedding was a particular challenge. "It wasn't easy coming up with her crib collection. We wanted it to be beautiful and special but not overpowering," she says. The set's motif, used for the embroidery on the bumper panels, also had to be distinctive. "I came up with a little bunny especially for Cecilia."

As soon as this bedding set, called "Bunny Love," was available to the public, it too became a bestseller. Wendy found the public's response thrilling, if not too surprising, because of the reaction she received from those who saw her baby daughter's room. "Everyone who comes in here says, 'Oh my gosh -- I didn't think there could be anything as good as Gracie's room,'" Wendy laughs.

Building a career
Wendy's company, Wendy Bellissimo Baby 'n' Kids, all began on a whim four years ago. She actually started her design career creating adult bedding. "We always had fabric reps coming into the office," she recalls. Among the fabrics they showed her were styles perfect for young children. Long before she was even an expectant mom, Wendy ordered a few rolls of baby-themed fabrics on impulse. She didn't do anything with them for months, until just before a large textile trade show in New York.

"About two weeks before our big show, a couple of those fabrics happened to be sticking out a little, and they caught my eye. I pulled them out and started designing. I was coming from a fresh standpoint, and because I didn't have any kids or friends with babies, I wasn't influenced by anything I'd seen before." When she set up her exhibit booth, she placed her new baby bedding at the front, where it would get the most attention. "I didn't even have a plan or anything," she says. "I was just inspired by it all. It was so much fun for me." That night, just before the show was to begin, she got cold feet about swapping promotion of her proven product line for her new juvenile bedding. "I couldn't sleep. I was like, 'Oh no! What have I done?'"

Luckily, she didn't change a thing, and her baby line was an instant success. "From the very beginning of the show, people were coming in and saying, 'Wow! How long have you been around? I've never seen anything like this!'"

And so it grows
So her company began, and, like her family, it has grown! Thousands of parents have now created warm and welcoming baby havens with Wendy Belissimo's designs -- including famous moms like Camryn Manheim, Kelly Ripa, Alex Kingston, Cindy Crawford, and Tori Amos. Her luxury Moses baskets -- designs with names like "Buttercup Star" and "Bee Happy" -- are also very popular as gifts for celebrities.

Wendy's company soon will offer more products, such as wall art and bassinets. She is also expanding her special value lines, which she says will still have the unique features that lie at the heart of all her designs -- embroidery, slipcovered bumpers, and mix-and-match fabrics. "I'm trying so hard to make a special product at more affordable prices."

Material intuition
Her true creative vision comes from the resources at hand, Wendy says. "When designing new things, I really reach so far inside. My inspiration comes from the fabric. If it clicks with me, I envision the whole thing. It's bizarre. People say, 'I would have never thought of that!'" But it works. "Maybe because I am truly an interior designer...from that and doing adult bedding. I was always mixing all different fabrics."

Despite her obvious talent, Wendy insists that her company's success isn't all her doing. Of her husband, she says, "The company would not exist without Joe. He's constantly encouraging me. He's my rock," she smiles. "When I'm stressed or have a bad day, he reminds me of all the emails I have received from parents and says, 'You make people so happy.'"

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