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On your seats, get set, go
9/6/2015

Back in the days when children still played with marbles, ran down the street all dirty and cheeky, dutifully said grace at dinner time with Mom and Dad, and then wrapped themselves up in their blankets in their little beds in a basically gray and decidedly functional bedroom, who would have guessed just what soft and child-friendly surroundings kids would enjoy today. An entire industry has sprung up relating to all-in care for them, so that even the toddlers are cocooned, with yoga for babies in community centers, guided tours for infants in art museums and cafés specially for mothers with their kids, complete not just with games corners, but with lots of extra space to park the strollers. Not to mention all the offerings of toys, clothing and furniture tailor-made for kids.

Children today are truly the kings, a trend that started out in the 1970s with the development of child-friendly teaching methods and has since been coherently advanced. For career-moms in the rich countries of the world, children are often also a prestige object for whom only the best is good enough. Small wonder that the motto surely must be: “If I spoil myself with it then it must also be good for my kids, too. It comes as no surprise that many design classics have been “shrunk” to a kid’s size. Whether the mini-editions of such classics are actually fit for kids or whether kids actually like and appreciate well-designed furniture is a completely different matter. What is for sure is that in this way children come into contact with a well-designed surroundings at an early age, which obviously can’t be all bad.

We’ve selected the design classics for kids that stem from the hand of the one or other famous designer and have recently been brought out in miniaturized versions for the kids - specially for you. Along with those that have only excelled in children’s rooms, and those that have long since become classics in their own right. (mm)

FOR COLLECTORS
“DIAMOND CHILDREN CHAIR” BY HARRY BERTOIA FOR KNOLL INTERNATIONAL, 1952

“Please note that the ‘426’ children’s chair is meant only for collectors as it no longer meets today’s safety regulations for children’s furniture. The chair is sadly no longer suitable for use in children’s rooms.” This safety warning courtesy of Knoll reveals one problem with mini-editions of design classics: Simply reducing something to kiddies’ scale and transposing adult ergonomics and seating habits onto kids does not always work. With Harry Bertoia’s “426” the reason may be that it was brought out only three years after its Big Brother had been marketed (1952) – and back then no one had closely focused on designing furniture that was right for kids to use. The “Diamond Children Chair”, not launched until 2010, is fit for unrestricted use by children.


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GROWS UP WITH THE CHILD
CHILDREN’S CHAIR BY KRISTIAN VEDEL FOR ARCHITECT MADE, 1957

Denmark’s Kristian Vedel counts as one of the first designers to explicitly ponder how to design furniture fit for kids. His children’s chair, which won a silver medal on appearing at the Milan Triennale in 1957, is convincing not just in terms of its functionality – the seat can simply be slatted higher or lower. As the plywood bent into a semi-circle (which makes for a seat that resembles a barrel cut open) and the blue and red seats mark this baby out unmistakably as a prime example of the influence of Danish Modernism and the Bauhaus. Hardly surprisingly, you’ll find it in the MoMA New York’s Design Collection.


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ALL’S WELL
“PETER’S CHAIR AND TABLE” BY HANS J. WEGNER FOR CARL HANSEN, 1944

Since Hans J. Wegner couldn’t find the right baptism gift for the newborn son of his friend Børge Mogensen, he simply popped into his workshop and, yes, you guessed right, banged together a kid’s chair. He chose for panels rounded at the edges that can be slotted together, meaning no tools at all were needed to assemble it. Mogensen was so thrilled by the idea that he joined up with Wegner to design a matching table. And now you have three guesses why Peter...


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DOZE IN A TRIANGLE
BAUHAUS CRADLE BY PETER KELER FOR TECTA, 1922

“The cube was trumps, and its sides were yellow, red, blue, white, gray and black. You gave the Bauhaus cube to kids to play with, or you gave it Bauhaus snobs as a trifle. The square was red. The circle was blue. The triangle was yellow. You sat and slept on the colorful geometry of furniture,” wrote Bauhaus Director Hannes Meyer about the period from 1922 to 1924, when Wassily Kandinsky published his theories on geometry. Kandinsky’s theories have been translated straight into furniture by Bauhaus student Peter Keler in the guise of a bedroom set consisting of a bed for the husband (right-angled head and foot sections), one for the wife (rounded), and a cradle that relies on triangles. And parents will be glad to know that at its lowest point the cradle boasts a weight to stop it rolling off and putting the baby through a few loop-the-loops.


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SCULPTURE WITH A PLAY SPACE
“HP 01 TAFEL” BY HANS DE PELMACKER FOR E15, 2007

Hans de Pelmacker was clearly thinking of social interaction triggered by furniture when he designed the “HP 01 Tafel for the makers at e15 back in 2000. “The seats are a little too close together meaning an intimate atmosphere arises,” the Ghent-based artist and designer commented. The children’s version of the seat-cum-table with its sculptural touch and which has been available since 2007 both in aluminum and in solid oak, may not just prompt the one or other conversation, but quite a lot of fun and games in-between.


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DARLING, I’VE SHRUNK THEM
MODEL “3177” FROM SERIES 7 BY ARNE JACOBSEN FOR FRITZ HANSEN, 2005

1955 was the birth year of the laminated “3107” chair that Danish architect Arne Jacobsen created for manufacturer Fritz Hansen. And the rest is design history. Fifty years later the company brought out a children’s version of the success story – shrunk by exactly one third, it means you can experience great design for yourself as a kid, and still keep your feet on the ground. Parents and kids can chose between beech, walnut and dyed ash. Unlike the adult model, there’s no upholstery for the kids. Hey, it would only get in the way when playing or painting.


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FAITHFUL COMPANION
CHILDREN’S DESK BY EGON EIERMANN FOR RICHARD LAMPERT, 2012

Egon Eiermann, so often mentioned in design and architecture circles, was no egg-head. As is shown among other things by the marvelously practical and multipurpose desk that the German architect designed in 1953 and which Richard Lampert relaunched in 1995. The “small Eiermann”, first brought to market in 2012, is available with two different top sizes (120 x 70 and 150 x 75 centimeters), and, like the “large Eiermann”, its height can be adjusted (from 55 to 69 centimeters). Making it an ideal companion that can accompany the child as it grows up – and possibly goes on to study architecture and swiftly switch over to the “large” version.


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SIT!
“PUPPY” BY EERO ARNIO FOR MAGIS ME TOO, 2005

“A seat need not necessarily be a chair. It can be anything as long as it is ergonomically shaped,” declared Finnish designer Eero Arnio who in the 1970s came to fame with plastic furniture such as the “Ball”, “Bubble” and “Pastil” chairs. In 1973, Arnio created “Pony”, his first seating item in animal form and which in terms of size was best-suited for larger kids. When Eugenio Perazza, founder of Italy’s Magis furniture makers, then resolved to gang up with renowned designers and make a special collection for children, it became clear that Arnio would be along for the ride. To date, Eero Arnio has cxontributed five models to the collection: “Flying Carpet”, “Pingy”, “Trioll”, “Happy Bird” and of course “Puppy”, the plastic dog and probably the most prominent of his fun-for-kids range.


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KING OF THE CHILDREN’S ROOM
“TRIPP TRAPP” BY PETER OBSVIK FOR STOKKE, 1972

Initially there was slight interest in the “Tripp Trapp”, which Peter Obsvik designed in 1972 for his then two-year-old son and which was subsequently produced en masse by Norway’s Stokke. Only after a TV program explained to Norwegians how the chair grew with the child did it gain the attention it deserved. Demand truly exploded: In 1974, the first 10,000 units had been sold, two years later the figure was 25,000. Today, more than 40 years after it was launched, more than eight million units of the “Tripp Trapp” have been sold and it is marketed in over 50 countries. A classic both for the open kitchen at home or a friendly restaurant table.


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C’MON, ONE MORE
STACKING RECLINER BY ROLF HEIDE FOR MÜLLER MÖBELWERKSTÄTTEN, 1969

Giving a whole new meaning to building beds. And the stackable recliner Rolf Heide designed back in 1966 (initially for adults) and then three years later for kids is a blessing not just for crêches or childcare centers. It cuts just a fine a figure in kids’ bedrooms, especially if other kids are overnighting or the children simply need an especially comfy place to play. The recliner is sized 70 x 140 centimeters and is made of solid beech laminate, available either in its natural colors or in black, light blue, traffic green, tomato red, brash yellow or pure white. Optionally with a slot-in safety rail so that small infants don’t fall out.


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KIDS LOVE IT
“Panton Chair” by Verner Panton for Vitra, 2006

Unadulterated Pop for the children’s room. Right after creating his chair from molded plastic Verner Panton started pondering a kid’s version, but it initially and unfortunately came to nothing for economic reasons. In 2006 Vitra pulled the idea back out of the drawer. Today, the polypropylene “Panton Chair” is available a quarter smaller in six fresh colors (white, rose, bright blue, orange, Lime and red) – for kids aged 3-6. And the ultimate design classic for the kid’s room is also a real favorite – among kids. Which is not always the case if design-fanatic parents insist on imposing designer furniture on their children.


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SLOT AND SLEEP
“SPROSS” BY CHRISTOFFER MARTENS FOR NIELS HOLGER MOORMANN, 2007

Shortly after the “Siebenschläfer” saw the light of day, it was followed by “Spross”. Both are beds, and both designed by Christoffer Martens (born in 1975) for Niels Holger Moormann in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Precisely kids love the way the “Spross” slots together: Like so many peg flowers, the sides and head/footboards simply get slotted together. The entire bed is made of birch plywood, so that the 70 x 140 centimeter structure is completely free of metal. The “Siebenschläfer” and its scion, the Spross, are both long since classics.


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FOR BAUHAUS KIDS
“S43 K” BY MART STAM FOR THONET, 1992

This one definitely had to be part of our series of design classics for children: the cantilever-based tubular-steel “S43”, which Dutchman Martinus Adrianus Stam (or Mart Stam fdor short) conjured up in 1926. The architect was inspired by industrial culture and initially developed the chair from simple gas pipes. He then exhibited the prototype at the Stuttgart Weissenhof Estate show. Thonet acquired the design, and has been selling it ever since. On the occasion of outfitting a children’s clinic the model was extended in 1992 to include a smaller version, the “S43 K”. Who knows whether kids really go for the sober, stringent design that so exudes the spirit of Modernism.


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WEIGHTY RE-EDITION
“EAMES ELEPHANT” BY CHARLES AND RAY EAMES, 1945

Hardly had World War II ended than Charles and Ray Eames started thinking about children’s furniture in light of their experiments with molding plywood – as did their then furniture maker Evans. Along with a chair and a table, the Eames Office also created animals that were not meant to be simply decorative toys but primarily seating. Originally there was a seal, a frog, a bear, a horse and an elephant. But Charles Eames only approved the pachyderm. The group went on show once and then disappeared again, no comment from the Eames Office. Today, the elephant has long since been an icon of children’s rooms. So what happened to the seal, frog, and the horse? Unbearable thoughts…


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WIRED SUN AND MOON
“HANG IT ALL” BY CHARLES AND RAY EAMES FOR VITRA, 1953

Like so many colorful planets of a still-to-be-discovered solar system, the wooden balls rest in space in “Hang it all”. Pinned on a lacquered wire frame, with a clear rhythm and with the color sequence being perfectly calibrated, they let the imagination run riot. The most prominent wall coat hangers Charles and Ray Eames ever designed are truly out of place compared to the rest of their oeuvre, as rarely was the duo so playful and frivolous. Possibly because “Hang it all” was simply a spin-off of their experiments with steel wire. In 1953, produced under the aegis of toymakers “Tigrett Enterprises of Jackson” it hit the shelves at only 6.85 dollars a unit. And is today as loved by kids as it is by parents.


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