WITH fashionista parents showing no qualms about dressing their kids in luxury brands, what's next on the design horizon for their stylish progeny?
For music producer Ken Lim, the answer lies at home. The furniture aficionado and owner of Hype Records fills his three-storey Bukit Timah bungalow with chairs from the likes of Charles Mackintosh, Kartell (Ghost) and Erik Jorgensen (Waves). So it seemed only natural that his sons, Jax, 11, and Kax, seven, would get their own furniture like a Magis Spun seat by celebrated British architect Thomas Heatherwick and a few children's chairs also from Magis.
"For someone who enjoys collecting furniture and is into design, designer kids' furniture is good on the eyes," says Mr Lim. "It helps that the pieces are also innovative."
Syddal Wee, general manager for Space Asia, says, "Design-savvy parents are more inclined to invest in such pieces because as design aficionados themselves, it is natural to want to inculcate a design culture within the family."
In addition to purchasing an adult-size designer piece and handing it down to the next generation, "these parents see kids' furniture as a 'reverse heirloom' which their kids can appreciate when they grow up due to the attached emotional value", he says.
Space carries a range of "mini-mes", kid-sized versions of designer classics, such as the Panton chair, the Kartell Ghost chair, and the Series 7 chairs from Fritz Hansen. The mini-mes are made from the same material as the adult version, but are about 30 per cent smaller, and sometimes at a fraction of the price.
Renowned Italian furniture company Magis has a range dedicated specially to children. Called Me Too, it is the brainchild of Magis' founder Eugenio Perazza, who had trouble finding a desk for his granddaughter.
Magis Me Too, which is available from Xtra, is a collection of objects and furniture for children aged from two to six years.
The pieces are not scaled down versions of the adult ones. Instead Mr Perazza specified for the pieces to be made specially for kids, as "I wanted to go about it in the same way that children themselves might conduct and manage this kind of operation."
He looked for designers who are able to "think with the mind of a child". Me Too's designers include Spaniard Javier Mariscal, Eero Aarnio from Finland, and Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Widely popular items from Me Too are the Puppy toy, Julian chair and Dodo rocker.
Lawrence Yong, retail manager at Lifestorey, which carries items for kids such as the Kartell Lou Lou Ghost chair and the Casamania Joy chairs, says, "Parents are more willing to spend on their kids, and they buy designer furniture pieces because they are unique and allow them to express their individuality." He cites the example of their bestselling Joy chair, which does not have four legs but is shaped like a child's bottom.
Most kids' furniture are made of plastic, which makes them easy to clean and resistant to hard knocks.
"I feel less upset when my daughter pastes stickers on her own chair rather than on my leather chair," says interior designer Sarah Tham, who has four designer items for her 3-1/2 year old daughter, Tze Kaye.
The youngster sits on her Julian chair when she plays, and in the mornings, she perches herself on one of two Kartell Gnome Napolean stools by Philippe Starck, while wearing her shoes. She also has a black Puppy from Magis.
Ms Tham says that she could have easily bought generic plastic chairs for her child, but instead picked the designer ones for their unconventional looks and "they would fit in better with the design of my home".
She picked the cat-shaped Julian chair, because "I want to introduce Tze Kaye to these interesting shapes when she is still young."
Even though Tze Kaye has no idea that she is resting her bottom on designer pieces, her mother hopes that "perhaps these pieces will spark an interest in collecting furniture".
Kids' furniture are not limited to plastic ones. Italian furniture brand Visionnaire carries some pieces that even adults would want, such as the Klipper, a 65cm high shaggy dog that Junior can sit on, or watch over him at night.
Jean Wee, executive director of Marquis Furniture Gallery, which distributes Visionnaire, says the market for designer kids furniture, while small, is steadily growing. "More often than not, it is the parents who want these pieces than their kids. When parents plan for the design of their homes, their kids' rooms will also be included in the design."
Emelie Heden, Dream Interior's marketing manager, says, "Designer pieces for the little ones will complete the well-designed and styled home."
It is not just retailers who are seeing a demand for good-looking kids' furniture.
Architect and father of two, Joshua Comaroff, says that his firm, Lekker Design, sees "more and more clients for whom their kids' living experience is a big part of the design brief. We haven't seen specific requests for these furniture pieces but the desire is there".
Local design firm Outofstock has created several furniture pieces that have gone on to win awards. Its designer Gabriel Tan says that the firm has not done any kids' furniture yet, "but there is definitely a market for it".
Fritz Hansen Series 7
$1,010, from Space, 77 Bencoolen Street
The Series 7 chairs by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen are one of the most iconic pieces of furniture. It was designed in 1955 and has become Fritz Hansen’s best-selling design of all time. Arne Jacobsen crafted the Series 7 Chair with the same technique he used in the Ant Chair, a pioneering method of pressure-moulding the wood veneer in multiple directions. The kids line was only introduced in 2005. Every Series 7 Chair is painstakingly made by hand in Denmark using multiple layers of wood veneer and cotton backing. The four-legged stackable chair also comes in a children’s version, which is about 25 per cent smaller. They fit well in the kids’ playroom or in the study.
OK Design The Acapulco Mini
$284, from Grafunkt, 85 Playfair Road, #02-01 Tong Yuan Industrial Building
These chairs are reminiscent of the ones from the 1980s. Each chair is made from PVC cords, and are better suited for outdoor use rather than in a playroom.
Cherner Children’s Classroom chair
From $650; table from $800; from Pomelo #10-04, Tan Boon Liat Building
This chair-and-table combination is made of plywood, which makes the pieces almost indestructible. It works well in schools, but there is no reason not to have them at home too. They come in clear birch or orange-coloured finish.
Casamania Joy Chair
$407, from Lifestorey, #02-15, Great World City
One of Italian architect Fabio Novembre’s more well-known creations are the Him & Her chairs, shaped like the profile of a naked male and female form. The Joy chairs are a kid’s version of them. Just like the adult chairs, Joy is available in boy’s and girl’s versions.
$117.70, from Xtra, #01-01, Park Mall
So the little ones want a pet, but you don’t think they are ready? The Puppy, by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio sounds like a cruel joke but, at least, there is no cleaning up to be done. Puppy comes without eyes or mouth, as Aarnio wanted to keep only the most essential features of a puppy when designing it, “just like children do when they draw their first animals; head, body, legs.” The Italian furniture company also has a range dedicated specially to children. Magis Me Too is a collection of objects and furniture for children aged from two to six years.
Skitsch Build Up chair
$207; table, $248, from Lifestorey
Kids can get in on the DIY trend from a young age. French designer Philippe Nigro has created a chair and table made from corrugated cardboard. With a little help from their parents, kids can slot the pieces of cardboard together to build a table and chair.
Kartell Lou Lou Ghost
$165, from Space
French designer Philippe Starck’s Louis Ghost chairs are one of the most recognisable around. Following the success of the Louis, Lou Lou, the baby version was created. Lou Lou Ghost inherits its “paternal” classic lines, material, indestructibility and ergonomics.
Knoll Barcelona chair
$8,890; stool, $4,480 from Dream, 456 River Valley Road
Furniture for children tends to be on the kiddish side, but not these pieces (above and below). The child-sized Barcelona chair, is 20 per cent smaller than the adult version, but still retains its classy looks.
Visionnaire Dubhe Chaise Longue
$14,754, from Marquis@QSquare, 16 Tai Seng St, Level 1
Kids can lounge in style on this chaise longue shaped like a bear. Designed by Alessandro La Spada and Samuele Mazza, the lounger comes covered with faux fur, and a decorative chain. There’s also a seat called the Visionnaire Klipper seat.