A Sheltered Life Interview with Cambria Bold of Apartment Therapy’s Re-Nest


Today’s A Sheltered Life interview is one I’ve been looking forward to sharing for a while now. That’s because it’s with Cambria Bold, the editor and brains behind Apartment Therapy’s Re-Nest. The defining source for eco-design is my personal favorite site for inspiration, tips and trends. Day in and day out, Cambria calls the shots on what and who you should know in the home design realm. Read on for her awesome answers and insights.

A major pillar of the Re-Nest philosophy is interweaving intelligence and optimism while communicating ways to make a difference. What intelligent eco-design products or companies is Re-Nest currently most optimistic about?

Well, we actively support ideas and companies that encourage mindful consumption, which we believe not only makes for a more beautiful, healthy and organized home, but can also help strengthen communities and foster good will among neighbors. We’ve loved seeing the resurgence in good ole fashioned sharing. We first learned it in kindergarten, and now it’s back! Sites like Share Some Sugar, B-Cycle, Neighbor Goods, Rentalic, Sharing Backyards, and HyperLocavore enable people to find and share garden space, homegrown food, backyards, tools, bikes, appliances, and other household items with people in their community, or to rent those items rather than buy them new. Another great new company that fits into this description is 1Bog, which gives people access to affordable solar power in their area by having them sign up in groups.

Here’s a random assortment of other eco-friendly products and designs we’re excited about right now:

Woolly Pockets: made of 100 percent recycled materials, these pockets allow you to create your own gorgeous indoor living walls and vertical gardens. We’ve seen them in person, and they’re stunning.

Bowery Lane Bicycles: these bicycles are handmade, from start to finish, in New York City, and considering that fact, they’re remarkably affordable, at about $595.

Amy Hunting: Her Blockshelf, which was awarded 2nd prize at the Green Furniture Awards in Sweden, is made from wood salvaged from London timber importers’ trash bins.

Studio Dunn: Based out of Rhode Island, this small studio works with a local network of artisans to handcraft all their designs within 50 miles using sustainably sourced American hardwoods. And their furniture is absolutely beautiful.

Soren Rose Gym Furniture for Mater: we think these cabinets are super cool, made of recycled gym floorboards!

What was the most surprising thing you learned about sustainable design while compiling features for Re-Nest?

When you’re looking for beautiful and functional eco-friendly products for the home, as with anything, you get a lot of bad with the good. Just because a product is made with recycled materials doesn’t absolve itself of the fact that it might just be plain – ugly! Which is why, when a creative reuse project or design is done right, it’s all that much more inspiring. Another thought along that line is this: not everything has to be made entirely from recycled or reclaimed materials in order to qualify as a sustainable design. Sometimes the most sustainable design decision you can make is to buy something high quality that you love, will have forever, and then will pass down to your children.

In your opinion, what’s the most important room of the house? And the most over-looked?

The most important room is definitely the bedroom. It’s where you begin and end each day, it’s where you spend 1/3 of your life! So it should be a restful, healthy retreat. Unfortunately, it’s also the place where one is likely to find a lot of potentially harmful and irritating synthetic chemicals and petroleum-based materials – i.e., the fire retardants and formaldehyde found in most standard mattresses and pillows, and pesticide residue from non-organic cotton sheets. Buying a new mattress is quite expensive, and might take some time to replace, but small changes can be made right away: a set of organic sheets (affordable options can be found at Target and CB2), all-natural pillows (organic cotton, wool, kapok, even buckwheat), or a small HEPA air purifier.

The most overlooked room would probably be the entryway. Yeah, it’s not really a room, but it can end up functioning like one! In addition to what you’d expect to find there (coats, shoes, bags, keys), there’s usually a whole collection of loose change, shopping bags, old magazines and mail, a gym bag or two, discarded trinkets, keepsake boxes from college, maybe even a bike or a stroller. Sometimes the entrance closet is so full of random stuff that it can’t even accommodate what it’s supposed to – namely, the coat and bag you were wearing that day. Establishing a “landing strip” when you come through the door can make all the difference – somewhere to hang your coat, drop your keys and wallet, sort your mail. A little bit of structure and organization will save you a lot of pain later.

What is your personal favorite flea-market find?
Vintage medical chart posters for a ridiculously low price. I have a thing for vintage ephemera, and these charts date from the 1930s.

What does “home” mean to you?

To me, home means warmth, relief, quiet and comfort. But home should be whatever makes you feel most like yourself. For example, if you love people and entertaining, you should make sure your home is suited to that goal, and you should make/buy/move around/get rid of whatever you need to to support what you love. As Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan (founder of Apartment Therapy) is fond of saying, “Nothing you do for your home is ever wasted.”

What’s the simplest tweak you can make to a room that has the biggest impact (other than a can of paint)

Declutter. Be ruthless. Don’t spend your money on things or trends that don’t fit you. Buy and keep only what you need and love, and be thankful for what you have.

What are your five favorite eco-resources?

Green Depot
The Brooklyn Flea
Three Potato Four
Brook Farm General Store
Etsy (an obvious choice, yes, but check out this post for a few of our favorite stores and reader recommendations)