Tomorrow is Earth Day, and Amanda Moore is a great source of inspiration and information. For many years Amanda has designed green nurseries for her east coast clients, and now she has gone remote with Sprout, a custom design package that Amanda puts together from afar, working off of photographs, measurements and her detailed Sprout Questionnaire. We had the chance to pick Amanda's brain and she gave us plenty to think about.
Who are you and where did you come from?
My name is Amanda Moore. I was born in upstate New York, moved around a bunch, and settled in New York City for college in 1995, a wide-eyed 17 year old with my sights set on a BFA in Photography from New York University. I also fervently studied Creative Writing and fused my love of images and words into a 3-year stint in advertising after college. The industry was fun but not wholly in line with my personal principles. So in 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11, a good friend and I searched our souls, passions and skill sets and decided to launch place, a sustainable interior design studio. We took a green and personalized approach to every project, and this holistic approach quickly became our "niche" with clients hiring us to help bring their unique vision to life, not to have us put our own design stamp on their home as many designers do. My partner moved to Bali in 2004, the same year I conceived my little boy. My pregnancy inspired me to step up my environmental commitment as well as start a nursery design specialty to help other parents through the daunting task of setting up beautiful, functional and healthy spaces for their children. In addition to completing dozens of private residential projects for many wonderful clients and families, I've had the honor of working with Leonardo DiCaprio on his eco-friendly NYC home and have created pure, fun nursery spaces for celebrities like Ana Ortiz and Charlie Sheen. It's been such an amazing journey.
What is your background and how did Baby Green come about?
After 14 long and wonderful years, I left the city in 2009 for the beach life (I currently live in Long Beach, NY with my son, now almost six years old). More soul-searching followed this major life change, and in 2010 I decided to close my former interior design studio in the city and open up Baby Green, a company offering services that are closest to my heart and my life's mission and that also bring the greatest transformation benefits to my clients. I still work on general interior design projects, but focus on the specialties of home organization, nursery design and helping families green their homes. Baby Green's "birth" signifies my recommitment to the importance of these processes.
It seems like the services you provide with Sprout address the needs of eco-minded new parents in a very thoughtful way. How did you come to recognize those needs and what was the impulse behind Sprout?
Through the years, I received countless inquiries from parents around the country seeking design tips or sustainability guidance for their little ones' rooms. In the span of my career, I have seen the "green movement" take huge forward strides, and am so happy to see more and more parents caring about the choices they make in the design of their children's rooms and whole homes. Aware that many of these inquiries were coming from people who were not local to NYC and didn't have thousands to spend in design fees to hire a local designer, I wanted to create a package that would give them the professional guidance they sought at a price point they could afford. Sprout was created to meet this need, helping expecting or existing parents sort through the greenwashing, to spend their budget wisely, and to execute the personal aesthetic vision they had for their children's rooms without tiresome trial and error. Most of my clients know what they want, but just don't know how or where to source all the pieces that go together just right, so that's where I come in, providing a custom, professionally designed room for a nominal fee, with the added value of phone/email support, all-natural Shaklee Baby products, and a comprehensive kitchen/pantry prep checklist.
Why is it important to go green in the nursery?
As most of us know, babies spend the majority of their lives sleeping or playing in their cribs and nurseries. As their senses and bodies start to develop, everything that they touch, breathe, see, and gnaw on should be as safe and natural as possible. So it follows that furniture with non-toxic finishes, paints that don't off-gas, chemical-free mattresses and bedding, plastic-free toys, non-toxic cleaning products etc all create the optimal healthy indoor environment for them.
We often hear from parents who are frustrated by the dearth of budget-friendly, environmentally conscious design. Do you have any favorite brands or items that are a great value? When you are working on a tight budget where do you typically splurge and where do you find ways to save?
It was this very frustration that led me to spend many sleepless nights surfing the web during my pregnancy, and that was in 2004 when there were far fewer options available. Fortunately, zero-VOC paints and other finishes as well as many eco-friendly toys and accessories are now available at similar costs to their conventional counterparts, so that's a no-brainer. There are more budget-friendly green furniture offerings than ever before, but these pieces still eat up the majority of any budget. I feel that the crib, mattress and bedding are the pieces that most necessitate toxin-free choices simply due to the fact that babies are closely surrounded by these items for much of their newborn lives. For cribs, I believe that Argington, Kalon Studios, Oeuf, Spot On Square, Pacific Rim and Babyletto have all done a great job bringing at least one affordable crib style to the marketplace that is both green and design-friendly. Organic cotton sheets in a variety of adorable styles at comparable price points to conventional cotton are abundant these days (I often recommend shopping "a la carte": buying only fitted sheets, a few organic cotton blankets and then a bumper after a few months, skipping crib skirts, pillows and other parts of "sets" altogether). This leaves an organic mattress as the only other major splurge. Fortunately there are many styles available for around $300 or less now, which is several hundred dollars less than they used to be, and with major big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target carrying them, they are also more accessible than ever, which will drive pricing further down in time. Flooring is another important consideration for nurseries since babies spend a lot of time on the ground too. Wood floors with natural fiber area rugs are the best bet, but wall-to-wall carpet can be very cozy and also safe if parents choose natural materials and non-toxic installation procedures. These greener choices can be made without any increase to budget.
You provide organization services. As expectant parents prepare for the onslaught of stuff that babies seem to bring with them, do you have any golden rules for keeping a child's room well organized?
I am of the philosophy that babies don't need much more than love, food, diapers (cloth or disposable), minimal clothing, and a few products, but I know that's not reality for most parents. I know that having a child in a small Manhattan apartment forced my minimalist approach, and I'm very thankful for it. I coach expecting parents through creating very clear online registries that help them get exactly what they want and need while sending a clear message about their "green" intentions to friends and families. The old adage "a place for everything and everything in its place" is incredibly relevant in nurseries, and a lot of expecting families call me in to create storage and organization systems before the first toy or onesie ever arrives. The right storage, bins, baskets, and so on make all the difference. Then sticking to a system of quarterly purging of toys and clothing for infants and toddlers is key to staying organized; if they've outgrown it or it's stained, or if a toy is broken or below their usage level, get rid of it. I advise buying three plastic, lidded bins to store in the attic, basement, closet, wherever labeled as follows: 1. Donate/Give Away 2. Keepsakes and 3. Creativity. The first box is obvious, containing clothing and toys to give to neighbors or a charity on a regular basis. The second box should include items that you just can't part with for sentimental reasons like the first onesie your baby wore home from the hospital, a lock of hair, first tooth, etc and the third box will quickly begin to be filled with drawings and eventually school projects. Either being judicious about what goes into these last two boxes or editing out, say, 19 of the 20 first scribble drawings as new things get added is key. Organization and the absence of overwhelming clutter makes things easier to find during midnight diaper changes and leaves everyone feeling more calm, one of the adjectives that almost every one of my clients have used to describe their dream nursery.
Without divulging the secret sauce, can you tell us what kinds of questions you ask in the Sprout questionnaire?
The questionnaire addresses everything from logistical details about the room, desired budget, timeline, existing pieces to incorporate, shopping preferences (in person vs. online), to lifestyle routines, family dreams, favorite destinations, aspirational design styles, cultural backgrounds, and more.
The final step in the Sprout package demands that your clients throw a party. Why a party? Have you heard back from clients who have completed the steps about the party? What did they say?
It's not a demand, just a suggestion!! Throughout the years, my services have always included the installation of my clients' nurseries, so I know how overwhelming the task can be firsthand. But every drop of sweat and each hour spent was always worth it when I witnessed their reactions to seeing the completed rooms for the first time. I've had a few clients who did not find out their baby's gender but had the information given to me, so we'd leave the nursery without finishing touches until they actually left for the hospital. Gender-specific accessories were installed at the last minute, compounding the joyful surprises around their babies' births when they returned home. With remote Sprout clients, I can't be there to handle all the hard labor and swoop them in with closed eyes for the big reveal, so I decided to suggest that it be a group effort and included a guide for a set-up party, hopefully transforming the experience into a fun, efficient process that will leave expecting parents with special memories and a completed room. Customers have definitely appreciated having this weight lifted off their shoulders and I've been told that the party is a helpful and successful part of the package.