Cool for the gang - eco-friendly children's furniture

Cool for the gang - eco-friendly children's furniture

There's no doubt kids like furniture that's child-sized. But while it's generally not worth going overboard and buying munchkin-sized'll have a large and lumpen teen before you know it.. some pieces are worth investing in

Cornwall-based Bark Furniture is introducing a junior sized version of its popular Kustom armchair

Cornwall bespoke furniture maker Bark has taken the perhaps surprising step of introducing a child-sized version of its successful Kustom armchair and more junior pieces may follow. Bark founders and cabinetmakers Jonathan Walter and his wife Lakshmi Bhaskaran hold up their hands and admit it was the birth of their daughter that prompted the decision. Kustom is hand-made in the UK using solid black walnut. Customers to supply the fabric.

'When I think about why we made the chair, the feelings I have are that we're creating a space that is personal to the child,' says Jonathan Walter of Bark Furniture, referring to the new mini-me version of its Kustom chair that the company is making.

'And as such it's a statement of independence - not a big statement, those come later, but for a child of say 6-10 years old, which is the age group we have in mind, then that chair becomes a place where they are themselves, undisturbed.

'I like the fact that no-one is going to ask them to 'budge up', or 'let your aunt sit there', and that this should allow them to engross themselves in their own world, hopefully reading a book, scribbling or colouring in, or just generally lounging around and watching the world go by in a place that is their own.
'And then if you had several pieces of furniture like this in their room and their friends come round, well how grown up will they feel! So ironically, by creating children-sized furniture you create the space for them to grow up.'
Salamandre solid wood storage units by French brand Nonah, £595 for five,
Galapagos wall units from Nonah, available in UK from
Modular bed and storage system from Italian brand Dear Kids
FSC-certified sturdy wooden bunk beds from Warren Evans, £595, mattresses excluded.
Child version of the recyclable polypropylene Panton S chair, manufactured by Vitra.
Sleepover bed from Warren Evans. Beds sit on top of each other until they're needed side-by-side.
Tripp Trapp chair by Norwegian company Stokke takes a child to adulthood. Around £120.
Children's LouLou Ghost chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell, made from recyclable polycarbonate. From £65
Teenager's office by Italy's Dearkids.
Aldabra chairs and table made from solid wood by French company Nonah
For the sophisticated child, the pint-sized Kustom armchair from Bark is a piece that will last for many years. POA.
FSC-certified pine modular bed from UK's Aspace is great for a teenager's room.

Contemporary interior designer Paul Warren urges parents not to go mad with reduced sizes. 'Obviously there's the novelty factor, especially with first children. But don't lose sight of the fact that children grow very quickly, and they won't want babyish things when they're eight or nine.

'What are good for children when they're getting to junior school age are the modular systems that have beds and desks which can be configured to suit, and these make a room more interesting for a child. Buy products that will see your kids into their teens, which means buying quality, and design that is fairly subtle - certainly when it comes to fabrics and wallpapers.'

'I think you need to have an eye a good five years' hence when buying children's interior products. Something that will suit a three-year will annoy him or her when they get to 10. And whatever our intentions, most of us don't redecorate every couple of years. It's more like every seven or eight years....therefore you'll have to live with your purchase too. So also ask yourself if you like it enough to have to look at it every day for years on end.'

Eco-friendly and super stylish 

Products for children do have to meet stringent standards, but some brands are more eco-friendly than others. For beds, check that the wood used has FSC or equivalent certification, such as PEFC (the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). You'll find excellent single and bunk beds at UK bed maker Warren Evans, which uses FSC-certified wood, and UK children's furniture brand Aspace.

Two European companies with a strong environmental ethos that are well worth looking at are French company Nonah, which manufactures in Latvia using FSC-woods, mainly birch and Italy's Dearkids.

Nonah's furniture is made from solid wood, rather than MDF or particle board, to minimise the use of glues and resins. Nonah furniture is fun, modern and thoughtful - chairs have storage areas under the seats and table tops likewise pull apart to reveal a storage well. You can buy in the UK at Mood.

Dearkids offers fabulous modular systems comprising beds, wardrobes and desks, in bright colours. Products are made in Italy using sustainable woods certified by the True Wood Assocation, or Consorzo Vero Legno. It uses no noxious substances, and has as its design ethos the fact that children are always growing. It has two ranges, Compact for smaller bedrooms and Boxer, for rooms where space isn't an issue.


New Secret Garden wallpaper in blush pink from Hibou Home. Hibou manufactures in the UK
New Animal Parade wallpaper in mint green from Hibou Home
Starry Night non woven wallpaper from luxury French brand Bartsch, 120 euros per 10m roll
Moon Crescents non-woven wallpaper from luxury French brand Bartsch.

Wallpaper is tricky for the eco-minded, because the inks, dyes and protective coatings (such as PVC) mean the paper cannot be recycled as paper. However, some manufacturers are working to make their papers more environmentally-friendly by using ones made from FSC-certified wood fibres, and non-toxic water-based inks. 

Two companies doing this, and which make delightful wallpapers for children, are the UK's Hibou Home and Paris-based Bartsch, both of which manufacture in Britain. They use subtle colour palettes and timeless imagery that won't have parents screaming for the hills within weeks of the paper going up. Hibou Home has launched three new designs for 2013, Into The Wild, Animal Parade and Secret Garden. You can buy Bartsch wallpapers (which are expensive, at around 149 euros per roll) in the UK through Bobo Kids

Nursery and toddler furniture

Obviously babies need to something to sleep in and a single bed just isn't going to work. Ideally friends or family will hand over their Moses baskets and cots, but buying new can make sense if you're planning to have several children.

UK brand East Coast sells cots and nursery furniture made from sustainable bamboo, and prices are good, with cots priced from around £159. US brand Oeuf uses FSC-certified woods and MDF for its products, and no toxic or VOC-emitting chemicals. Its products are manufactured in Latvia and can be bought in the UK through Naturalmat. For Moses baskets made from maize, see Nature's Purest, which has baskets priced at around £80, which should last a baby until it's six months old.


Oeuf Classic toddler bed (to age 6) is made from FSC-certified MDF. £195.
Bamboo cot and changing unit from East Coast, prices from £159,
Maize woven Moses basket from Nature's Purest, around £80.
Sparrow bedside table by US brand Oeuf, from

Designer chairs

For those who want to inculcate their children from an early age with a love for mid-century modern design, Vitra manufactures the classic Verner Panton S chair for children. It's 25 per cent smaller than the adult size and is made from recyclable polypropylene (it also contains two per cent recycled material). Prices from around £110.  

The children's LouLou Ghost chair by Philippe Starck for manufacturer Kartell is another designer piece for the interior design sophisticate. Made from recyclable polycarbonate, these chairs retail at around £65. Mini versions of many classic pieces can be found online at children's furniture specialist Mood (Mini Objects of Desire).

And while not a mid-century modern, it's on the way to becoming a design classic - the Stokke Tripp Trapp chair has been a best-seller since it was launched in 1972. Norwegian company Stokke is eco-friendly and ethical and this chair is well worth buying because it's so hardwearing and grows up with your child.