Why did you get interested in designing furniture and gear for children?
We had our first baby, and I realised there was a whole new world out there (previously I had been completely oblivious- 'all babies look the same etc'). Existing baby products seemed to be complex looking or complex to operate or both. I will cover these 2 problems separately:
1.Complex to operate
Being a parent is one of the busiest times of life, so having to read instruction manuals and fiddle with products is frustrating. Suddenly there are a whole swag of instruction manuals on things like setting up a cot, operating a stroller, assembling a breast pump. There are many new things to learn also- how to sterilize a bottle? how to change a nappy, which nappy to use? how to bath? reading baby books about how to be a parent- there is just so much new stuff. On top of this there is often not a lot of sleep. I thought that simple products could contribute to a less complex start to life with a baby.
2. Complex looking
When we tend to purchase products, we look at them on their own. In reality, they are not seen on their own, but form the background of our life. The apple ipod for example is an almost boring looking product on its own, but looks fantastic when seen as part of the general mess of our lives. Several years ago, an interior designer I know commented that she makes her bathrooms all white. Colour she explained should be added by towels and mats that are easily changed. My wife persuaded us to start buying only white things for the house. Despite being drawn to coloured things in the stores, we persisted. Gradually our home looked more orderly without trying. We didnt need cushions or towels that were coloured- our clutter (magazines, post lying around, a jacket on a chair, washing waiting to be sorted) added colour.
Having a baby adds so much more life clutter. If the main items can have an exaggerated simplicity about them, this is a very effective way to maintain some kind of order!
What do you think are some common misconceptions when people are purchasing (or designing) items for kids?
When purchasing, a new parent may end up purchasing what I would call 'tank size products' (large strollers, cots, high chairs for example) with many features. In use however, the parent can find it would have been better to get a simple product with less features and that is not so big and heavy. It is a bit like when you try to operate a video/dvd recorder and it has so many features that you cant even use it- it might have seemed like a good idea in the store, and you thought you would take the time to read the manual carefully, but when you get home with it, your busy life catches up with you.
In busy lives, we can often live with less features, and appreciate more simplicity. For example a high chair with many buttons for adjustment and soft upholstery can seem ideal in the store. In reality, most babies are ok sitting on a high chair with a hard seat and the parents appreciate they can clean it easily.
House prices here have doubled and rents have risen dramatically, so compact furniture, and furniture that folds flat is good! The small cot I made is big enough for even our 2.5 year old, and is great for moving around (for example if we need to move the cot into our room). The narrow change table is wide enough for our friends with 100 percentile babies, and yet fits into a small space behind a support pole in our dining room. The high chair folds to 4cm and fits in between the fridge and the wall, so it means that the dining room becomes more of an adult room after 7pm.
Can you tell us a bit about the philosophy behind your designs?
Firstly, making them simple because the reality is that products form part of our complex, cluttered and busy lives. Secondly, fold flat or compact to save space.
Your designs seem to be about reducing superfluousness to the minimum required for a practical, safe and space saving resolution. Does this mean after you have produced the minimum it requires to feed, clean, sleep and transport a child you will have, in a sense, resolved your own design brief or is there still room to expand on and develop new products for kids?
Perhaps! Now we have another baby and so I am becoming aware of all the new products you need with 2 children like double strollers, and a secondary cot. Also our oldest is now 2.5 so toddler beds, special clothes racks for children to reach (our oldest likes to be independent), children's shoe storage (she has more shoes than me- she is a girl after all), travel cots....
Do your imagine applying the research and resolutions you have come up with in your children's furniture items to adult furniture pieces or other items?
I like making things fold flat particularly because of the space issue facing our generation, so would like to apply this to other products!- finding willing companies is the most difficult thing.
How can people find your designs? The baby products are being developed by Bloom Baby (www.bloombaby.com) and several are being shown at the Las Vegas ABC show in September. I am working on a fold flat clothes airer (with babies comes washing!) with well known italian firm Magis (www.magisdesign.com).