001. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Written by Lora Appleton
#FEMALE is a hot topic right now across all industries and focus on women's initiatives is spurring important and necessary conversations. As a female designer myself, I am very excited by the many efforts by, for, and on behalf of women. It is in this spirit I wanted to celebrate female furniture designers who create exceptional child design in this issue's letter. Since I began my child design focused gallery kinder MODERN in 2013, I have featured furniture and product designers from all over the world, and in that time there have been a number of amazing female designers creating exquisitely designed and beautifully made items for the family home.
Many of these designers are parents, or hope to be, and it is this personal experience and need for practical function that informs their creativity. Designers (and parents) notice every detail in relation to their children’s care. This includes the many ways children interact with their environments: what do they notice? How do they use their bodies? How do they use furniture to pull themselves up? Why do they seem to want to play with the box rather than the toy? All of these funny and small observations show eager designer parents how kids use furniture and objects differently than teens and adults.
I, too, have been in this category. Many of our readers know I began collecting historical child design when I was pregnant with my son, now almost 9 years ago. This passion changed the course of my career and my gallery was born (and so was my son!) Several years after founding kinder MODERN, I began to focus on my passion for designing children's furniture. I formed my in-house design studio, studiokinder, to respond to my desire to create furniture I couldn't find in the kid's market, specifically items designed not only for different age groups, but that also investigate the use of "children's" furniture by all members of the family, regardless of age.
studiokinder's first mini-collection, the Heritage Collection, was a meditation on the aspects, both contemporary and historical, of child design and collecting that most inspired me, namely beautiful, sustainable craftsmanship and materials coming together to create mixed-function, heirloom pieces for families to cherish. The next piece we launched, the Lunar Table and Eclipse Chair, is my favorite so far. This set engages surfaces that are often underused or overlooked. This project paid special attention to the center of the table: How do we use the center in multiple ways to promote mixed play and use? How can this residential item be used in larger, public arenas? Therefore, these tables were designed to build out in different combinations of O’s and S’s, allowing many children to sit at the table at once. We are currently working on new solutions for children's storage, including fun racks that engage underutilized spaces in bathrooms and hallways. I consider it a "junk solution" for the luxury home!
Beyond my own work, one favorite of mine is Sarit Shani Hay, also featured at kinder MODERN. This Israeli designer creates inspiring stand alone pieces, as well as dynamic and whimsical school spaces. With over twenty years experience designing children's furniture, she has been a true pioneer in the industry, experimenting with awe-inspiring animal-shaped bean bag chairs and vintage inspired, geometric decor pieces. Her exceptional attention to the effects of environment on child development takes her work beyond merely functional and into the pedagogical. Sarit’s work has shown in museums and been featured in many educational environments and publications worldwide.
In addition to the recent emergence of prominent female designers, there are more and more couples designing children’s furniture. I love the creativity, production, and business collaborations that are the basis for these partnerships. The formula is classic and we've seen it in both historical (think the Eameses) and contemporary design: boy meets girl (or girl meets girl, or guy meets guy), partner becomes pregnant, and partners design and make furniture for baby.
Of these many partnerships, Oeuf, Sophie Demenge and Michael Ryan, is a standout. What began as a single crib design has grown into several lines of stylish nursery and junior furniture, children’s clothing, and chic decor objects sold worldwide. I've known about Oeuf since I was pregnant and, as a fellow business owner, have been very impressed with their dedication to sustainable production (based in Latvia) while managing to maintain a clean and sturdy aesthetic that has influenced many companies in this family focused space. I rarely come across a nursery without an Oeuf crib or kid's bedroom without their versatile bunk beds. Oeuf is consistent and clean in their material choices, using engineered eco-mdf and baltic birch plywood. The company is also helmed by a female innovator: Sophie has never veered from her strong vision and has developed the company into a must-have high end brand.
Michaele Simmering and Johannes Pauwen of Kalon Studios are another distinguished pair. Their ‘everyday objects’ are rooted in their child designs (super chic daybeds, cribs, and rocking forms that have been much coveted since their 2007 debut). They have expanded their work into all areas of the home, with a clear focus on integrity production and stellar design. Strong materials and methods are the undercurrent of their American made design. Their impactful balance of subtle feminine lines paired with baltic birch and brass pairings give their work a natural glam, always combined with uncompromising high quality. These are pieces anyone would love to have for a lifetime.
Many female architects and couples have also turned their craft into furniture design for children. Rafa Kids, led by Dutch couple Agata and Arek Seredyn, had their design world expand exponentially after the arrival of their two sons, Frank and Robert. Their mission is simple: make high-quality, but affordable, design objects for children. They easily accomplish this goal with products like their sleek teen beds and K desk, which demonstrate clean and functional design.
It's impossible to talk about dynamic design couples without mentioning Lubna Badran and Ernest Saqa of Karmeh Design Studio. This acclaimed architectural and interior design studio based in Amman, Jordan recently launched its first children's collection. These minimalist, yet dynamic pieces are versatile enough to fit almost any aesthetic and sturdy enough that they are destined to grace the family home for generations. Lubna and Ernest's point of view is evident in their earthy color palette, unique functional designs, and their clear love for fun. It’s rare to see a MIddle Eastern brand focusing on child design and I really appreciate how you can see the history underneath their contemporary bend.
Hopefully we will continue to see amazing new designs for children of all ages from female designers and beyond. Each creator brings a unique aesthetic and one-of-a-kind materiality to this growing niche, but the overarching message remains the same - high quality production, clean and simple lines, family life inspiration, and a dash of imaginative whimsy are what it takes to design supportive furniture for our littlest aficionados.