How to put the kids in their space
Children are often the losers in the design stakes, but growing numbers of designers are realising they require the same level of form, function and style as adults.
Danish designer Jelte van Geest's Grand Chair in birch wood and tubular steel might look unstable, especially with the small chair perched on the end, but the idea behind it is strong. By encouraging family members to sit together, Van Geest is encouraging bonding without being sentimental.
The Nest, a minimalist high chair by Australian Sally Dominguez, also caters to these vertically challenged members of the family. The scooped chair and sloped back is designed to restrict movement. Not only does it look good, but there is also a removable tray for easy cleaning.
Designers are not just adapting such obvious pieces for children's use. South Korean-based designer Sehwan Oh produces lighting that prevents children from getting stiff necks when they are reading. And he is certain that good design can contribute positively to a child's development not least because it will help them, he says, 'know why design is necessary for life'.
In fact, such is the demand for creative products tailored to children's needs that an Italian collective called PLAY+ has dedicated itself to producing quality designs for the smaller audience. The collective - which includes collaborators worldwide - aims at comfort for kids not just within the home but in shopping centres, restaurants and airports. Eco-friendly materials are preferred and the emphasis is on fun, which is evident in the bright orange dome chair by Sophie Larger and the five-pronged star seat by ZPZ Partners.
Another Italian-based collective, Magis Design, launched its children's range determined to produce furniture that provokes children's imaginations. Their Javier Mariscal-designed polythene chairs, which can be used indoors and out, resemble geometric cats. Equally bright are the Trioli chairs by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio, which fulfil the needs of active (and growing) children with adjustable heights and a rocking facility.
Cristiana Bernardini of Magis Design prefers furniture with optional uses. 'When an object can serve multiple functions this stimulates the creative imagination of the child,' she says, adding that a cleverly executed design can 'transform an everyday table into a new domain for fantasy play'.
Designing for children seems to attract imaginative types: Mariscal started life as a cartoonist and there is something innately playful about his work. And playfulness in design is often overlooked by adults yet is vital to children not only in their living space but for their own personal development.
Swedish-born interior designer Stefan Tollgard says: 'To develop socially, physically and mentally, children must first be interested in, then understand and, finally, remake the environment around them.' It is a testament to children's imaginations that they are so keen to interact with design. And it is also clear that only the most talented designers working today are able to stimulate this interaction.