In 2012, children's furniture specialist ducduc manufactures 17 crib styles, including the cabana, which echoes Design Research's clean lines while adding white lacquer, orange padding, and an orange-and-white canopy that offers a touch of au courant poolside nostalgia. ducduc's chief creative officer and founding partner, Brady Wilcox, is among the talents who have proved themselves eager to craft children's furnishings and enviroments-just part of a phenomenon that Museum of Modern Art curator Juliet Kinchin defines as a "conscious attempt to foster the appreciation of good design." Kinchin organized MoMA's landmark 2010 exhibition on kitchens before turning to the realm of the nursery with "Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000," opening July 29.
She notes that it was around 1900 that educational reformers started to promote more linerated, unstructured play. YEars later, Frank Lloyd Wright was crediting Froebel Gifts toys from his boyhood with informing the simple geometrics in his mature work, for example the lead-glass windows of a kindergarden in suburban Riverside, Illinois. "Schools were emblems of a better future," Kinchin explains. "They were often the most modern buildings in a community." By mid-century, Jean Prouve had designed desk-chair combos with a Jetsons worthy silhouette.
Futurism, in its primary -colored mode, ust happens to be a founding tenet of modernism, as you can see in the 1960's spirit of the Kaleidoscope dollhouse once made by Bozart Toys. PMWArchitects' Peter M. Wheelwright and artist Laurie Simmons collaborated on the dollhouse, composed of stacked white boxes with colorful clear acrylic outer walls that slide back for access to minature furniture by the likes of Ron Arad and Karim Rashid. Part of MoMA's permanent collection, the design would seem to be world's away fro, an actual 1962 object in the show: The Barbie Dream House. Though nothing more than a poster-board roomful of unremarkable furnishings, it embodies, in Kinchin's view, "the fantasy of an independent lifestyle" for a young single woman. Think Sex and the City played on the set of I Love Lucy. Anticipating MoMA and coinciding with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, the Partners + Spade and Mondo Cane galleries organized a show of vintage child's chairs-charmingly homemade vernacular examples sat alongside scaled-down versions of classics by Alvar Aalto and Harry Bertoia. Young aficionados in the market for a baby Barcelona chair can search out a vintage Mini Mies, which Donald Gratz of Treitel-Gratz originated for his own daughter in the 1980's. (The metalwork shop is now called Gratz industries, and I am its creative director). For a new one, there's the Knoll Kids collection comprising a handful of modernist icons, similar in size.
As tempting as it may be to think of children as simply little adults, however Kinchin argues against it. Interior Design Hall of Fame member Laura Bohn agrees, going on to say that "people don't take enough chances with children's rooms." For a child's room at this year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House, Laura Bohn Design Associates leveraged unexpected shapes and colors and stimulating textures. "That gives you the opportunity to do something fun," she says, pointing out the magnetized polyethylene curtains that scrunched like tin foil. "I found the fabric on the Internet. It's outrageous." Never mind that it tends to glom on the radiator. She also reports that everyone who touched the wall's brush-bristle paneling started to laugh.
Few, if any, kids are on the show-house circuit, but that does not mean they lack an opinion when they're lucky enough to work with a designer at home. Bachman Clem, principal of Bachman Brown Design and creative director for the forthcoming Web boutique Kinder Modern, relishes the chance to furnish rooms for kids. "I don't pander to them," he says. Still, he takes their suggestions as seriously as his own parents took his desire for periwinkle polka-dot curtains in the play cottage in the yard of his family's 1960's rambler in Paris, Texas. "I was in hog heaven," he drawls, recalled the afternoon his great-grandmother dropped in for tea and smoked chocolate cigarettes with him.
If I instantly caught his drift, that's partly because childhood is not merely a memory in contemporary interiors. So many of that refuse to grow up, integrating play throughout life. How else to explain the kindergarten atmosphere around the offices of IT behemoths? Good design is the most fabulous new castle in the sandbox. -Craig Kellogg