Products for kids showcase sleek crafting, function



Ashley Hutcheson/The Canadian PRess


Children's beds and chairs of all kinds are shown at the Interior Design Show in Toronto. A change table doubling as a dresser? Sure. But as a liquor cabinet? With the latest trend in baby decor emphasizing a more contemporary look blending multi-function, design and sustainability, just about anything is possible.


It seems one is never too young to get a lesson in style.

And for parents decorating spaces for their new bundles of joy, some are saying no to the frilly accoutrements commonly featured on bassinets and cribs and opting for pieces offering a more modern esthetic.

At the recent Interior Design Show in Toronto, retailers and distributors of contemporary products for kids showcased items blending sleek crafting, fashion and function - with some designed for use far beyond the initial months of a child's life.

Baby Guru, an online store specializing in modern nursery and playroom furniture, featured a crib nestled in with a change table, a practical piece for individuals living in lofts or apartments where space may be at a premium, said co-founder Jon Dyer.

Items that take into account the transition from infancy to childhood were also on display, including rich wooden and/or coloured adjustable high chairs capable of conversion into seats for toddlers or young children, and a bunk able to reconfigure into a loft bed suitable for placing a desk underneath for use by an older child.

Dyer said contrasting woods, walnut and white have been particularly popular as individuals try to match their child's room so the look is consistent with their own decor.

"We're looking at a lot of designers that are taking adult concepts and bringing it into the children's rooms. There's really been a hotbed of activity," he said.

"Designers are concentrating on multifunctionality, eco-friendly-type products and the style we would expect from other areas of our homes."

In a recent issue, Canadian House And Home cited "Modern Baby" among its top trends for interiors in 2008.

The magazine's design editor, Stacy Begg, said the trend is an extension of the mid-century look with an emphasis on lots of wood and white and not a lot of ornamentation, in contrast to traditional baby rooms that tend to be more decorative.

"I think a lot of it stems from people (that) are having babies later in life, so they've maybe already gotten the sort of modern vibe going on, so they don't really want to change their look," she said. "They want baby stuff that works for them ... (that) is more of an extension of their look as opposed to strictly baby."

Begg said even U.S. big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart are coming out with modern lines. While she said she believes it's starting to go mainstream, it remains a more high-end, urban look.

"I think the traditional will always be there and there's people who always want a more traditional baby room, but I think there were people who got into that mid-century Danish (look)," she said. "That look is really popular."

Christian Imler of Toronto-based Ella + Elliot said they feature items that grow with children and can be integrated in grown-up interiors - even serving as life-long functional pieces.

Wooden cribs with adjustable mattress platforms and side railings, featuring additional storage drawers tucked underneath, are capable of conversion into toddler beds or daybeds.

"People think, 'If I buy for a kid, I'm going to have to dispose of it in a couple of years.' Actually, you don't," Imler said. "If you look back at what our ancestors did, they kept a crib and they passed it on from generation to generation. It was well made, so there was no need to toss it and I think we have to go back to those roots."

A natural oak and white lacquered change table doubles as a dresser that some people even convert for use as a liquor cabinet, Imler said. A side drawer featuring ebonized ash, veneer and white lacquer suitable for storing changing items for little ones can be changed over into a bar space, complete with storage for martini glasses and ice buckets.

"The whole idea is that you don't need to buy furniture over and over again so you buy quality, and because you buy less it's also sustainable," said Imler.

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