When interior designer Hope Clark of Olive + Oak became pregnant with her son, Caleb (now 5 months old), she knew the nursery would have to be eco-friendly—she was a sustainability minor in college. Clark had already renovated her 1979 condo in Carlsbad, California, with this same priority in mind (she replaced the green shag carpeting with floors by DuChateau because the company plants a tree for every sale), but this room was extra special.
“When I dreamed about the kind of life I wanted for our child, I kept coming back to nature,” she remembers. Her favorite childhood memories stem from the time she spent outdoors, and she wanted to instill that same love of the environment in Caleb. As a designer, Clark was also all too conscious of the 9 trillion tons of furniture that went into landfills in 2015 alone, along with the harmful chemicals they can omit: “Fast furniture that’s inexpensive and trendy is often made with materials that off-gas, polluting your air,” she explains. Working with a blank canvas, Clark set out to create a clean and calming space for her newborn.
Furniture That’s Built to Last
A crib from Kalon Studios was a big investment, but one Clark knew would pay off in the long run. It converts to either a platform-style toddler bed or a three-walled divan, so unlike other options, this piece can stay in the family for decades. Not to mention, the company prides itself on using sustainably harvested local hardwoods—in this case, maple—to cut down on transportation emissions. “I also love that it’s unfinished, which means there are no chemicals where my little one sleeps and teethes,” adds Clark.
She suggests looking out for greenwashed products (meaning they sound sustainable but aren’t) and always searching for third-party certification from companies such as GreenGuard and Eco Institute (Kalon Studios’s bed has both).
Reused Items (and High-Quality Materials Only)
Where she could, Clark chose gently used pieces. “Kids’ furniture is for a limited life phase, so you can really lower your footprint,” she says. “It boils down to the familiar adage: ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle.’” Her favorite find: a vintage rug, which is made from easily cleanable wool. For the few pieces that Clark did buy new—such as the Restoration Hardware glider with a washable cover—she paid special attention to materials, opting for natural, local options that are durable, well constructed, and low-maintenance. That meant staying away from fabrics like viscose, which deteriorate quickly and off-gas harmful chemicals, and composite wood, which is often bound with formaldehyde and isn’t as durable.
Paint That Gives Back
Because the room had very little architectural detail, Clark faked wainscoting on the lower half of the walls (there’s no backing on each panel, which saved both money and materials). Research went into the paint choice, too—Farrow & Ball uses sustainably sourced pigments and recycles dry waste into renewable local energy. A low-VOC and child-friendly Card Room Green finish transports you right to a leafy forest.
Repurposed Custom Details
Instead of a stand-alone dresser, Clark removed the closet doors and put built-in storage inside. “We wanted to make the most of the space’s footprint and keep the floor open for play,” says the designer, who lined the open shelves with baskets at the bottom to make sure her son’s books and toys are easily accessible.
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