Mother Essentials: Kelsey Keith of Herman Miller
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
After a dozen years leading design- and architecture-focused editorial outlets (Curbed, Dwell), writing freelance (for the New York Times, Elle Decor, and the book HAY from Phaidon), and podcast producing, Kelsey Keith joined Herman Miller—where she is now the brand’s creative director—in 2020. With all of this high-design experience under her belt, one might think her MOTHER ESSENTIALS list would be filled with fancy, upscale items. Pleasantly, that’s not the case. The mother of two—now residing in the East Bay with her daughters Leo, 3, Imogen, 9 months, and husband Eli—surprised us with a delightful mix of form-meet-function items—from the coolest clothes for kids and towels for the home to shampoos and stain sticks that get the job done. Enjoy them all below!
Jon Klassen Felt Pennant. “We love every book Jon Klassen has illustrated, so I had to get a piece for my daughter Leo’s room when Klassen started making felt pennants in collaboration with his own mom (!).” Sun/Tree/Rock Pennant, $75, HomeHome.
Sun Prints. “Like every family with young children in the Berkeley area, we are regulars at the Lawrence Hall of Science. The museum shop sells photo-print kits that develop in sunlight—highly entertaining for people of all ages. Chances are, if your kid has ever received a gift from me, it’s this.” Sunprint Kit, $6, Lawrence Hall of Science.
California Baby Shampoo + Body Wash. “We have used this for almost four years and it’s the smell I associate with clean babies. Delicious. The jumbo size is expensive but lasts forever—we’re still decanting from the same half-gallon bottle.” California Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash, $33.29, Amazon.
Baby Milk Sponge. “Speaking of things I like to wash babies with: I brought this home from a pharmacy in Milan and have been using it for my 9-month-old Imogen’s baths. She loves getting scrubbed and the scent is divine.” Spugna Arome Baby In Cellulosa Biodegradabile Al Profumo Di Latte In Busta, $5.50, Eco Shop.
Les Gamins Sweats for Kids + Baby. “The colors on these comfy cotton pieces for kids are unmatched, in my opinion. The sizing is generous and they’re also super durable, so both girls have been able to wear them seemingly forever.” Les-Gamins.com.
Himalayan House Slippers. “Berkeley has a high per-capita of Tibetan shops and they’re a great place to shop for gifts. My 3-year-old is obsessed with the lion slippers I got for her birthday. They’re about $20, have no online sales, but here’s the Yelp page and address.”
Barrie Jumpsuit by Rachel Comey. “I picked up a mulberry-colored canvas Barrie after my first daughter was born, and it took me through an entire second pregnancy and postpartum period—and I still wear it constantly. The cost-per-wear on this piece is unbeatable, and I’ve gotten compliments on it from a staggering range of people (girlfriends, the mailman, an elderly neighbor, my boss).” Rachel Comey Barrie Jumpsuit, $495, Shopbop.
Everyday Oil Meridian Comb. “One of my closest friends is the genius behind Everyday Oil, which is massively popular and I don’t need to recommend. :) She also worked on a few beautiful tools with a master woodcarver in Taiwan and this comb is my favorite—especially helpful for tension headaches.” Meridian Comb, $42, Everyday Oil.
Motif Cleanser + Mask. “This product is a revelation! Can’t say I’ve ever been excited about a cleanser before, but if you leave it on for 30-60 seconds it’s a highly effective mask. Which, if you are too tired for a complicated routine, feels like magic.” Plumping Facial Cleanser, $65, Motif.
Straus Greek Yogurt. “A food staple in our family’s refrigerator. This is the best yogurt I’ve ever encountered. It’s made locally, and we use it for everything: breakfast, dips, in soups, in eggs, as baby food. Whole milk only, baby!” Organic Whole Plain Yogurt, $9, Strauss Organic.
Limono Oro. “Are condiments your favorite food? Cool, me too. This preserved lemon sauce adds salt, acid, and a hit of sweet and is highly addictive. We first picked it up at the Ferry Building’s Farmers Market in San Francisco, but you can also order it online.” Limono Oro, $8, Mill Valley Pasta.
Four Sigmatic “Think” Ground Coffee. “We do a whole fancy coffee thing—grinder, sealed whole beans, pour-over, etc.—but I like to keep this around for the energy and focus without the jitters.” Think Ground Coffee, $32 for two bags, Four Sigmatic.
Peace Towels. “This is very NorCal mom of me, but I can’t get enough Peace Towels! I love every colorway, and the hand feel is really good—thick, but not so soft that it won’t dry you off properly.” PeaceTowel.LenaCorwin.com.
Kiss-Off Stain Remover. “This thing is the size of a large chapstick (i.e. very portable) and it is magic with stains, which is a godsend when traveling with kids or yourself a spiller. You wet the stain, rub in the Kiss-Off, come back later to rinse it out, and voilà. By all appearances, a pristine garment.” Kiss-Off, $7.41, General Pencil.
Working East Coast Hours. “I’m the brand creative director of Herman Miller and most of my colleagues are in Michigan or New York. When I started, everyone was working remotely, and I’ve stayed on East Coast hours to align with my team. Mornings with kids can be rough, but being finished with meetings by 3pm PT is an absolute gift.”
Private Tennis Lessons. “I hit with a coach once a week, and it both got me back in the game after many years of not playing and boosted my confidence enough to start playing matches again.”
Gem App. “Living in New York for most of my adult life gave me a taste for designer items, if not necessarily the budget. Buying secondhand is also way more satisfying than buying new. Gem app tracks your saved searches across every resale platform, so you can bide your time and wait for the right price.” Gem.App.
For more MOTHER ESSENTIALS, peep our recent features on chef Valerie Gordon, artist ERIN JANG, Chicago party mom KRISTEN KAZA, Hedley & Bennett founder ELLEN MARIE BENNETT, Mochi Kids founder AMANDA STEWART, chef CRISTINA KISNER, chef CAMILLA MARCUS, artist CAROLINE Z HURLEY, Just Date founder SYLVIE CHARLES, food icon AMANDA HESSER, Prickly Pear founder MONA BAHRAINI, Solace Summer founder MEGAN BRE CAMP, Wonder Valley co-founder ALISON CARROLL, OZMA designer HEIDI BAKER, author TIFFANY ROSE SMITH, HEIDI BAKER of OZMA, and PHOEBE SUNG of Cold Picnic.
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