The Swedish chain of interior and furniture shop IKEA once stated that ‘the most important people in the world are kids’. In an effort to take that statement seriously, and at the same time explore the world of design for children, we talked to the Danish design companies bObles and Leander, which are both involved with creating designs for children.
bObles creates children’s furniture that is meant to be tumbled with, so that the children can develop their motor coordination, movement and sense of balance, while Leander creates beautifully crafted children’s furniture that can adapt to a growing child and at the same time ooze an aspect of timelessness that makes the furniture last longer.
When architect and founder of bObles, Bolette Blædel, went on maternity leave with her first child, she found it difficult to find children’s furniture that encouraged play and movement while at the same time lived up to her love for Danish design. Soon she joined forces with her sister, designer Louise Blædel, and a creative idea began to emerge: what if they could design furniture that would stimulate children’s imagination through play, while developing their motor skills? The idea of bObles tumbling furniture was born.
“The idea of making children sit still and listen in order to learn something is completely wrong. Children learn the most when they are moving, and in that way using, their motor skills. I experienced that myself when my child was younger. He was happy when he was moving and tumbling around – and that was hard to unite with the furniture that was available at the time,” says Bolette Blædel.
Developing kids with movement
bObles has been represented by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has won numerous design awards, and was invited to the Salone del Mobile (the Milan Furniture Fair) at a time when almost no design-based children brands featured at the fair. The Danish brand attached a great deal of importance to encouraging movement “because it is so vital for children’s development”, Blædel explains.
“The development of motor skills is really important for children’s social skills as well as their ability to understand their surroundings. It also has something to do with understanding the consequences of one’s actions. Lastly, motor development and movement give the children more self-esteem – and that’s something you would really like to give your own children, right?” says Blædel.
Many of the things that bObles has done regarding the design of its products have been shown to be beneficial to children. The company’s physiotherapist told Bolette Blædel that fewer details was a better solution. Simplicity, clean lines and no unnecessary details were ideal. The simple shapes attract and appeal to children because the child’s comprehension and sense of perspective are not developed in the same way as in adults.
“We create the foundation for the future with our children. Our children are the ones who will create the future designs in this world. Therefore, I think it is important that we talk about children and what designs they are using,” says Blædel.
Making a difference with furniture
Another Danish design company that’s keen on making a difference to their users is Leander. Working with baby/children’s furniture, Leander selects the best materials, is mindful of the children’s security, and creates aesthetic products, but there is one thing more important than this.
“The basic idea is that our products must make a difference. That said, this can be either to make a difference purely aesthetically or functionality-wise. We design products that are easy to use and can fulfil the needs of everyday life in a family with young children,” says Leander’s CEO, Benny Kristiansen.
According to Kristiansen, Leander was one of the first companies to focus on creating not just typical children’s furniture, but also to focus firmly on design and quality. Leander is engaged in a field where it is the parents that decide for their children what to buy and use. This means that Leander caters both for the buyer (the parents) and the user (the children). How does it function? How do the children get in and out of the furniture? These are questions that Benny and his team have to answer.
“We create furniture that can last. When we decide to use more exclusive materials, when we decide to use a craftsman’s approach, then we don’t just create furniture that’s getting thrown out after a year. We design furniture that can be reused or sold to another set of parents and their child. In this way, our furniture continues to exist,” says Kristiansen.
Every detail counts
Leander registers the company’s designs because it’s very important to the company that its furniture lives on for a long time. The company considers everything – from the glue to the lacquer to the fittings and what tool is included in the package. The tool also has to last a long time so that the furniture can be assembled and disassembled again and again.
“We care a lot about minimising the number of screws and fittings in our furniture, making them as invisible as possible. That process demands that you design and shape in a creative way,” says Kristiansen, and continues: “When you look at children’s design, there is often an element of something childish. We don’t do that a lot; we work more with our own idiom and the aesthetics, so they achieve a kind of timelessness. You ought to want to have the furniture standing in the same space where the grown-ups are hanging around.”
Leander has operated as a start-up company since 1998, but is now about to move away from its start-up status to become an even more international company with new ideas and new products. At least that’s the ambition, according to Kristiansen.
For more information about bObles and Leander, please visit: