Eames, Nelson, Noguchi, Graco…which one of these isn’t like the others? Coming to the rescue of stylish parents who dislike the disconnect between their home’s modern décor and the clunky, outdated look of most baby furniture is design collective Bloom Baby. Upon introducing their signature sleek cribs, highchairs, and nursery furniture in 2004, Bloom Baby has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, while breaking new ground in engineering and the use of eco-friendly materials—Bloom Baby uses only sustainable wood sources, and no toxic wood preservatives or fiberboard, and all the plastic and metal parts are completely recyclable. Celebs like Gwen Stefani and Angelina Jolie go ga-ga for lines like the Luxo and Coco collections, and this month Bloom launches the Alma Papa, a no tool crib. The four partners of Bloom live all over the world (Mexico City, Hong Kong, Australia, and the Bay Area, natch), giving their products truly global appeal. They were all friends before starting the company, and becoming parents gave them common ground as they decided to crack the problem of ugly baby furniture. Designer Jon Lake (right), who lives on the peninsula with his family, took some time to talk with Red Tricycle about Bloom’s mission to bring up baby safely and in style.
Did you come up with the concept for Bloom Baby before or after you had kids?
After we had kids of course! Before having kids, parents (including us) know nothing about baby brands and products. Like many businesses, Bloom was started to solve our own problems; in our case, as parents seeking out modern, safe baby gear. We figured that others must feel similarly and that better products can and should be made.
What were the things you found most frustrating while shopping for nursery furniture/high chairs?
When we realized, after seeing the same clunky, outdated appearance and lack of innovation/attempt to make parents’ or babies’ lives better, that traditional baby goods manufacturers seemed to make products using the same cheap plastic and bent tubes to make the same items they made 20 years ago.
With all the recalls of cribs/high chairs gear out there, what makes your designs safe and worry-free for parents?
The number of recalls and safety issues are really unfortunate. Many manufacturers make their products to just barely pass the minimum USA requirements, and sometimes that is not sufficient. We regularly review the recall lists and intentionally design our products to not have the common safety problems that plague others. Further, we sell our products in over 50 countries and design them to pass all the regulations in all the different countries. Since the requirements are often different, we’re over-engineered for the requirements of any one region. As new requirements have been added each year, we have always passed with ease since our products have already been tested for similar requirements somewhere else in the world.
The nursery furniture is beautiful! It looks pretty modular, especially the changing tray…can you talk about the genesis and design of that?
All of our products are meant to solve real problems for parents and make their lives easier. The changing tray is very versatile whether on a dresser, mounted on any of our cribs, or used by itself. When we polled among ourselves, we found that we each had different preferences for the “best” place and method for changing diapers and we made sure that we made it easy to use any of these methods.
Tell us about some of the design innovations that make bloom’s high chairs, in particular, a better buy than the old standards?
We found that there wasn’t any way for a newborn to participate with the family at a normal height. The common locations in the home are in a crib in the nursery, or in a bouncer on the floor. The Fresco highchair (right) was our first product and came from the observation that many people buy highchairs before their babies have developed enough to use them, which can be unsafe. Newborns can recline in a fresco and once they are a bit older, it can be used as a highchair, and later, an elevated regular chair (particularly handy since telephone books are in short supply.) This one product has three times the lifespan of a traditional highchair.
You were one of the first designers in baby gear to use sustainable woods and other resources…what led you to make that decision?
One of the biggest benefits of founding a business is that you can do things the way that you believe in. From the beginning we built in the use of safe and recyclable materials and sustainable wood. Then we heard several surprising comments from consumers wishing we were eco-friendly, and we realized that we never thought to communicate these inherent characteristics of our products! We’d like to use more recycled material, but it’s tricky, since we cannot verify that every speck is free from contaminants. Safety is always the very first requirement.
Talk about some of the other natural innovations….the natural dust mite repellant, for example…I’d never heard of that, but it makes sense!
There are many natural and nontoxic materials that can be used to improve products. Since Eucalyptus oil is a natural dust mite repellant, it’s used inside our natural organic mattress.
Do you often get requests from Bloom Baby parents for what to make next?
We actually get requests to make some of our furniture in sizes for adults!
We know you’re busy running an international design collective, but when you’re not juggling your partners’ different time zones, where are your favorite spots in the Bay Area to get out and play with your family?
We are quite partial to Shoreline Park. It’s great for strolls with an infant, bike riding, windsurfing, even sailing as kids get older.