Kids’ Furniture is a serious business


“Children’s games are hardly games. Children are never more serious than when they play,” said the philosopher Michel de Montaigne back in 1500.

There are still some people who underestimate this sort of design, deeming it nothing more than an exercise in colours, rounded shapes and miniaturised versions of adults’ objects of desire. They may be dying out, though, judging by how many brands and designers take a serious approach these days to a whole range of issues that involve education, gender difference, ecology and emotions when creating furnishings and spaces in which our children can grow, experiment, and share experiences. In order to become independent men and women.

The intention is to overcome the distinction between the way in which adults and children see things, starting with the space, fluid and dynamic naturally, designed around the development of the youngest children. It doesn’t matter how much there is, what really matters is conceiving a structured and coloured world, perhaps with a “magic room” effect for the youngest.

Rather like the sort of room Vitra and Artek might dedicate to the liveliest and most curious children. It would be a multicoloured realm – in pastel shades so as not to overexcite them – with essential pieces such as the Panton Junior chairs with their soft design, rounded lines and sorbet-like colours, Alvar Aalto’s versatile and safe Children's Table round, which can be traded up as the children grow, the Hang It All pop coat rack by Charles and Ray Eames, and the Wall Shelf 112, again by Aalto, which teach the youngest to keep things tidy. Then there’s Elihu the Elephant by George Nelson, a fun way of teaching children how to tell the time. Basically, a room conceived by the Masters as an arena for myriad adventures.

Vitra, Artek

Panton Junior, Amoebe, Hang It All, Elihu the Elephant, Vitra; Children's Table round, Wall Shelf 112, Artek

Then there’s the space conceived by Circu Magical Furniture, which seems to take the concept of adventure to a whole new level. Not just the Bubble Gum Desk, a perfect multi-tasking study area with shelves, compartments and pinboards and the Little Bunny, an amusing chair inspired by the most famous rabbit in the world, but also an actual climbing wall with lots of rings that will allow its lucky little owners to develop autonomy and motor skills as well as creative and thinking ones.

Bubble Gum Desk, Little Bunny

Bubble Gum Desk, Little Bunny, Circu

The Lago bunk bed is back, aimed at satisfying that boundless desire for exploration, movement and entertainment of those who, one day and again the next will ask their parents for a tree house. This is precisely the concept behind LagoLinea Weightless: not just a suspended castle but a refuge where they can imagine, dream and have fun. Matched with DiagoLinea, a bookcase that can be rediscovered and reinvented every day because it can be made into new and unexpected shapes thanks to a system of shelves that support each other, defying the force of gravity. The room can be rounded off with the simple yet essential Air desk, which is practical and welcoming for reading, writing, playing and building.


LagoLinea Weightless, DiagoLinea, scrivania Air, Lago

Magis is another kid friendly brand. Me Too is an entire collection for children. Many designers have changed tack and applied a virgin eye to “the usual suspects.” First and foremost, Enzo Mari was responsible for the Seggiolina Pop for the brand, which sparked this successful range. Pop comes in bright orange, blue and green and, especially, the chairs are safe and lightweight (weighing a mere 860 g.), meaning that children can move them by themselves to create endless new play scenarios. A bit like Little Flare by Marcel Wanders, a child size table with see-through polycarbonate legs that can be customised with drawings and designs, used as containers for Lego, pebbles, or – why not? – sweets, and when required can also be turned into functional pencil holders. Magis’s room also contains Puppy, created by Eero Arnio, who put himself in a child’s shoes and drew a little dog. The head, body and paws make up the organic and essential forms of a friendly object that can be used not just for sitting on, but also as a trampoline, a sturdy base or an imaginary friend …


Seggiolina Pop, Little Flare, Puppy, Magis

Ben van Berkel of UNStudio has also come up with a special puppy, for Alessi, which he has christened Doraff. Made of recycled thermoplastic resin, it combines the shape of two animals, a dog and a giraffe, making for an eclectic product that can be used as a seat, a table or a plaything. The Dutch architect has devised an object that children can imagine mounting, playing with as if it were a real puppy, or turning over and using the variously sized surfaces for drawing, reading and eating.

Doraff, Alessi

Doraff, Alessi

From puppies and giraffes to horses. Kartell has put itself in the expert hands of Nendo, which has designed H-Horse, a rocking horse inspired by structural materials used in urban architecture. The object references the “H” shaped steel beams used in large-scale buildings such as skyscrapers and bridges. By applying this concept directly to a children’s rocking chair, Oki Sato has created a playful object that leverages both function and strength using very simple materials. Who knows whether the children will appreciate this early lesson in physics and engineering.