At the Salone del Mobile 2016, children's furniture takes centrestage as designers explore their playful side in Milan
There is an exquisite range of cool furniture available from the ultimate symbol of 1960s freedom to space travel and the Little Mermaid
“I’m done with making my children’s childhood magical,” says Bunmi Laditan, parenting guide author of The Honest Toddler.
Granted, children’s birthday parties go way over the top these days. Your offspring’s every utterance may not be as profound as it’s made out to be – nor does the simplest “achievement” warrant a reward. But they’re only young for a few short years and, while we as parents still have some say in shaping their little lives, why not inject a little playfulness?
At this year’s Salone del Mobile furniture fair – Milan’s annual carnival of creative design, held in April – brand Circu shone with a fantastic range of children’s furniture which will appeal as much to the “old ones” as the young.
Remember the Kombi van, the ultimate 1960s symbol of freedom? Circu brings back the vibe with its Bun Van, a bed reinvented. The “chassis” is made in fibreglass with chrome plated finishes, while inside, storage compartments, a bed, mini bar and sofa are finished in wood veneer. Why a mini-bar, if it’s meant for children, is anyone’s guess – but the piece is extremely cool.
Fly budding astronauts to the moon in a Rocky Rocket armchair, ready for take-off with its red velvet upholstery encased in a fibreglass body, complete with built-in sound systems. Arrive in the moon chair, another Circu original, made of white lacquered wood with luxuriant fur fabrics for weary space travellers to snuggle into.
What could be more magical than to drift off in an air balloon? Circu’s bed/sofa combo incorporates traditional basketry technique, with white lacquered wood trim and gold leaf detail. A child’s dreams of faraway places are lulled by light and sound systems controlled by a mobile app (Iight) which gently guides them to sleep. The Portuguese brand also unveiled its new Little Mermaid bed, inspired by the movie. Designed as an exotic clam shell, it’s the perfect dream boat for an underwater princess.
Other designs showing a sense of childhood playfulness at Milan include an Airway Swing by French design luminary Philippe Starck, and a minimal rocking horse by Japanese studio Nendo. Both are part of Italian brand Kartell’s first collection of products designed specifically for children.
Kartell has used its signature plastic-moulding technology to produce a range of lightweight children’s kit in transparent plastic. In addition to being functional, company president Claudio Luti says, “our products are intrinsically playful, fun and engaging”.
And if a Philippe Starck number is not enough to sate the design sensibilities of your mini-me, a growing number of designers are putting their names to luxury children’s furniture.
Dutch designer Frederik Roijé has the Little Triple Chair, a scaled down version of his Triple Objects collection for adults. It’s made from wood with a soft fibre coating (a material he describes as “huggable”), while compatriot Anne-Claire Petit, renowned for her crafted collections, does a cute, mushroom-shaped crochet pouffe. Hand made from 100 per cent organic cotton, it’s available in Hong Kong from Petit Bazaar.
Magis, the brand that bought the world its Flying Carpet rocker several years ago, and continues to enchant lids and adults today, also has a fun children’s range appropriately called Me Too. It includes an adjustable armchair by Swiss studio Big-Game (the Little Big Chair) which can “grow” with the child. Augustin Scott de Martinville, the company’s co-founder, believes that everyone has an emotional connection to their very first chair. “We wanted [the piece] to have the qualities of an adult chair, but for children,” he says.