Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tots in the Hot Seat; Furniture Makers Are Focusing on Children, Creating Contemporary Pieces That Will Last for Generations, Says Corinne Julius

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tots in the Hot Seat; Furniture Makers Are Focusing on Children, Creating Contemporary Pieces That Will Last for Generations, Says Corinne Julius

Article excerpt

Byline: CORINNE JULIUS

THERE is an unspoken assumption that the onset of parenthood causes hormonal changes that directly affect aesthetic judgment. Instead of Stark or Arad, it is assumed that you will swoon at Beatrix Potter or knotty pine, recreating a real or romanticised version of your own childhood.

More likely is the sad fact that until two years there was little alternative for new parents to the tiresome and conventional items to be found at department stores, Mothercare and Ikea. The received wisdom was that parents were unwilling to spend money on well-designed items that their offspring would soon outgrow.

Now a new group of smaller manufacturers, designers and makers has responded to the needs of thirtysomething parents, concluding that if contemporary furniture that grows with the child can be designed and manufactured, it could stay with a family down the generations.

Nicola Henshaw is one such maker. She produces a veritable menagerie of individual animal furniture to commission for your children. "My clients include parents but also many grandparents who keep these handmade pieces in their homes, because they want something special to amuse their grandchildren when they visit. They look good in a room forever and often end up as footstools. I think a piece should tell a story. My own grandparents had magical objects that I always wanted to go and see."

A philosophy seemingly shared by Julienne Dolphin-Wilding, who also produces work with these qualities. Her branch-profile chair offers the youngsters who sit on it the sensation of growing as part of the tree.

Fiona Clark also specialises in furniture with a fantasy element. Her work has found its way into private homes and public commissions such as Southampton Library for Children. A mother herself, her imaginative pieces are practical yet engage children's own creativity.

Clark shares a workshop with Alex MacDon-ald, a designer whose interest in designing for children was sparked by trying to find a chair for his daughter. Unable to find anything suitable, he made one for her and then more for her friends. He now produces this elegant stacking chair (main picture) made from a single sheet of red or white painted ply to order. In addition, his Hob Nob bench and seat is available as part of the Biscuit collection by Oreka.

Oreka, a new company specialising in children's furniture, spotted a gap in the market and approached designer Michael Marriott to produce designs for stimulating yet reasonably priced contemporary furniture for children.

Together with Simon Maid-ment, Marriott expanded the project to a whole collection of furniture by a range of designers. "The pieces were meant to be multifunctional, playful and stimulate creativity. Central to the brief was the observation of how children often play longer with a cardboard box than with the toy it once contained. …

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