Five-year-old Dev Champanerkar does not have to go far to catch all the action in car racing. With a wooden bed meticulously carved to replicate a Formula 1 racer, complete with a real set of tyres and headlights, curtains that feature sports cars and a ceiling that is coloured to represent the great blue outdoors, Champanerkar and his little friends spend many afternoons pretending to be speed racers.
“Designing kids’ rooms is always more challenging,” says Sonal Sancheti, architect with Mumbai-based Opolis Architects, “because the room has to grow with the child.” Agrees Sarjita Raiyani, Dev’s mother and an interior designer: “People are demanding more concept rooms, and every child has an idea.” She recently designed a room for 15-year-old Shilp Parekh, who wanted a minimalist room with a wall spray-painted with graffiti to replicate the spirit of New York.
My Space: Products (above) from the store in New Delhi offer children more personalized rooms.
Until recently, children’s furniture and accompanying accessories, usually an infant line of crib sets, were largely found in stores such as Lifestyle and Shoppers’ Stop. But a new crop of craftspeople and retailers are joining the bandwagon by appealing to finicky customers who want more stylish options than purple dinosaurs and big yellow birds.
One such retailer is the New Delhi-based Kids at Home, with its accent on a full range of kids’ furnishings, including snazzily- designed table lamps and 3-D bedding sets that feature whimsical patterns such as animal tails that pop up from quilts. “My brother had friends who would constantly ask him to bring back children’s furnishings whenever he went abroad,” says Aparna Jain, chief executive and co-founder of Kids at Home. Recognizing the need for a niche market, Jain and her brother started the company three years ago to cater to a clientele looking for trendy kids’ rooms.
The reasons for the growing demand are many. Television shows targeted at pre-teens have made kids more opinionated about what their rooms should look like. Couples who have children later in life have more disposable income, making them more likely to decorate these rooms to complement the rest of the house. And, an exposure to international trends doesn’t hurt either. When Pushpa Dhodapkar returned from the US, her kids were very firm that they replicate their US bedrooms in Mumbai. As a result, the family pored over IKEA and Lillian Vernon catalogues and got a local craftsman to carve out wardrobes and other furniture pieces such as funky cap stands and clothes racks.
How does furniture keep up with a kid’s growth and fickle demands? Kids’ furniture primarily targets a multi-use segment, and most furniture designs reflect this. At Mumbai-based Furniture-4-Kids, one of the most popular items is the bunk bed that morphs into two single beds when the kids outgrow it. Raj Shivadasani, manager, says that with more parents wishing their kids to stay out of the adults’ bedroom, using modern, fun choices for furniture is an added incentive for a child to sleep separately. As a result, most of the furniture designed for kids these days is good-looking and practical, fashioned out of warm, solid wood and built low to the ground.
Modular and multi-use pieces are often great space savers, too. Especially in cities such as Mumbai, where space remains the primary deterrent to having a separate room for kids. Most of these pieces are designed to incorporate storage for toys, books, music and collectibles. What parents are looking for is cleverly designed furniture that can be adapted for future use.
Bangalore-based S. Anuradha has converted her children’s old cradle into a stylish cabinet to house their collection of Hot Wheels cars. Similarly, other uses of old cradles include turning them into coffee tables or even swings with brass chains.
Accessories also help to bring relief to a kid’s room. “We try to add lots of colour in the room through walls, curtains, and furnishings,” says Sancheti. When 12-year-old Namrata Shah wanted to move beyond a kiddy pink look and go ethnic, her parents designed a room with beaded curtains and mirror work to accentuate the soft tones of the rustic-looking furniture. Companies such as Asian Paints and Berger Paints also advertise stencils and paints suited for children’s rooms. Neutral colours also make it easy to design unisex spaces, important for families with limited space.
Of course, all this comes at a price. At Furniture-4-Kids, bunk beds are priced upwards of Rs16,000, and if one wants to add slides instead of ladders, then the price ratchets up to a cool Rs25,000. Two-door wardrobes cost more than Rs20,000, and a 3ft study table for pre-teeners costs about Rs6,000. Shivadasani attributes the high prices to features that include safety as well as style and function. “Many parents want to use fewer chemicals and toxins in their children’s rooms,” he adds.
But high prices are not deterring the boom in kiddy furniture. Companies such as New Delhi-based Popcorn Furniture (www.popcornfurniture.com) and Lifestyles Pvt. Ltd have set up websites for parents who want to interact with satisfied clients. With cute giving way to sophistication in designs, it’s time to give your kid’s room a second look—decorating is no longer child’s play.
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