Wednesday 12 December 2018

Pretty in Pink

As children grow up they grow out of their furniture too, but some items are more durable and worth saving from the skip, writes Eleanor Flegg

The London Cube Company’s storage cubes
The London Cube Company’s storage cubes
Designer Claretta Pierantozzi
The classic Stokke Tripp Trapp
Haba Storage Bench.

Eleanor Flegg

KIDS grow up – that's the nature of things. They outgrow their cute clothes, and their cute shoes, and the cute little pieces of furniture you bought back when they were small and cute themselves.

In fairness, I was glad to see the back of our cheap and cereal-encrusted highchair. Similarly, the stacking plastic storage boxes in which we stashed the toys weren't tough enough to last or nice enough to keep.

But I did hang on to a few pieces of my beloved's childhood, simply because there are so many memories attached.

That's why I love children's furniture that is so well designed and put together that you will want to pass it on to the next generation.

This isn't a new concept. Rocking horses, for example, have long been precious heirlooms and are the inspiration behind furniture designer Tamasine Osher's Play-and-Eat-Saddle-Seat. Her other inspiration came from the general hopelessness of highchairs.

"I spent a lot of time watching my nieces and nephews struggling to get in and out of highchairs," she explains, "and I thought that there had to be a better way."

Most highchairs can't be used by an unsupervised child.

Smaller children have to be lifted in and out. Older children have to be shunted towards the table.

So Osher decided to design something that gave the child, and the parent, a bit of independence.

The Play-and-Eat-Saddle-Seat is an animal-shaped seat that raises a child to table-level.

With steps at the back and handrails to either side, the child can climb up and sit astride the beast. Straddling, apparently, is an excellent position for posture.

There are wheels at the front and a sturdy rope tail. "The seat has to be heavy to make it stable, but the parents can lift it by the tail and roll it into position without hurting their backs," Osher explains. At the moment it's suitable for children from the age of about two-and-a-half, but Osher is currently prototyping rockers that can fit on to the base and a back rest so the seat can be adapted for babies.

The Play-and-Eat-Saddle-Seat costs about €422 from www.tamasineosher.com, which is arguably a heavy price to pay for some fun children's seating. But it's a sturdy and attractive piece that will survive the wars to be passed around the family and back again.

My next favourite highchair is the classic Stokke Tripp Trapp, designed in 1972. Both the seat and the footrest are adjustable, in height and depth, so that a child of any size can sit at the family table, with their elbows at table height. None of the models have a tray, which means that the chair can be pulled right up to the table so that the child feels included.

The basic chair costs €179 from www.babyaccessories.ie.

If you're going down the cheap and cheerful route, Ikea has infant highchairs from just €20 and the attractive high-legged Urban junior chair (€36) in coloured polypropylene. But nothing from www.ikea.com in this line is likely to become a beloved hand-me-down. And from Ikea's lowly starter for €20, you can go ratchet the spend right up to the truly outrageous end of the scale.

For example, the London Cube Company (www.londoncubecompany.com) has recently launched a storage cube and a decorated toy box that can also be used as a stool or a side table. The cubes look like giant alphabet blocks and come in two sizes: the big cube is 44cm (the height of an average chair); and the small cubes are 22cm (the same height as most children's seating).

These are investment pieces. The smaller version starts around €410 and the larger at about €1,158 but they are also beautiful examples of design and craftsmanship that merge a childlike playfulness with an adult aesthetic.

Thankfully, it doesn't cost any extra to choose your own design. All six faces of the cube can be customised with initials and symbols from a library of historic fonts and nostalgic designs, including Tenniel's 'Alice in Wonderland' illustrations and a fine range of vintage insects.

"I've had mixed reviews on the bugs," says Claretta Pierantozzi, who designs and makes the cubes.

"Most people have their children's initials put on them so that the cube becomes something very personal."

Most other children's storage boxes are not objects that you'd want to keep once your child outgrows them, although there are some really nice designs out there.

The solid Haba Storage Bench (€350 from www.littledreamers.ie) combines the functionality of toy boxes and a bench.

There's a slightly twee pink one for girls and a (much nicer) medieval version in blue.

But for sheer practicality you can't beat Ikea's Trofast storage system – a series of plastic boxes that slot into a wooden frame.

There are all sorts of permutations but the cheapest (three boxes stored vertically) costs €50.50 and a stepped arrangement of six boxes comes in at €81.

And the range comes in an assortment of colours including (god help us) pink.

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