Designing small
by Daniel von Bernstorff | Sep 2, 2015

Many despair. An apartment full of fantastic designer objects by Flos or Thonet through to Moroso. The wife has at long last got used to Mayday, having decried it as a “construction site lamp”, and to the Luminator, having disparaged it as a “black spider”. And then? Then you open the door to the kids’ room, and all you see is a design wasteland big time. Ikea, Ikea and more Ikea. Hey, isn’t there something more to life than this?

The only highlight in the children’s room, so an aesthetic eye soon notes, is the changing-table top a carpenter made specially for the chest of drawers. The bunk beds that someone spent days assembling seem to have been made in line with a very consistent principle: For each euro less you spent, you got ten more pieces to put together. Not to forget the fading sofa inherited from granny. Biedermeier and Ikea – is there nothing in-between?

What about the mini-Panton chairs and ants that friendly acquaintances gifted on the occasion of the birth of your son? Do they really offer a way out of this impasse? Do they manage to reconcile practical kids’ stuff and beauty? Loved by status-conscious parents and design-loving guests, construed as a symbol of the cognoscente and good taste, they even get showcased in the spacious open kitchenroom.

But what about the kids? Not infrequently they regard the beautiful, good pieces as completely impractical and uncomfortable, and this at times even lead to the fine culprits getting confined to the cellar for a while. With many a kid yelling: “But I wanna sit on the big chair!”

So is design for children merely a bugbear of parents? Is the success of the Trip-Trap chair above all the result of great marketing? Was the Eames’ Elephant just a great dust-collector for the adults? Were kids able to respond to such questions, they’d probably simply laugh at us. They find completely different things key: Can you turn this chair into a cave? Does the rocking horse really rock? Can I also play with these toys in the tub?

So should one declare, with a degree of indignation: Leave the kids be with your high-flying notions of design! Let them simply develop their own taste! Focus on their needs, not your’s!

What swiftly becomes apparent is that things aren’t that simple. Aesthetics and practicality need not be mutually contradictory in the children’s room. And no one really knows how kids develop a sense of taste. Because of course there are various beautiful and functional products just right for kids, even if you don’t just find them in the glossy catalogs of the leading design companies.

Meaning, individual solutions are actually the order of the day. And if you hunt for what best suits your needs, you’ll find something. But best to go hunting with your kids. Our special “Furniture for Kids” is intended to give you a few ideas before you set out.