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How to Design a Chic Modern Kid’s Room

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Necessity is the mother of invention for nearly all good designers. And so it was for Eric Pfeiffer, principal of the Oakland, CA-based Pfeiffer Lab. Back in 2005, Pfeiffer had two children under the age of 5 and was searching for the perfect small-scale table for them that could function as a play station, work table, and a creative surface as his kids grew up. The result? He ended up creating the Scando Table for Offi. That piece, along with many others, now graces the galleries of several museums – not just because they are beautiful objects, but because they transcend life stages. We caught up with Pfeiffer to find out how the creator of children’s modern classics would outfit the ultimate modern kids room.

Eric Pfeiffer
How do you create a space for a child that is kid-friendly without being overly childish?
Kids change, so the challenge is finding something that works when they are little to when they are 8 and 15. As a foundation, it’s good to start with a color that isn’t trendy, then build around the bed and nightstands with some pieces that make a statement but age well. In my home, we use artwork and items we can easily switch out, and as a rule, we never use movie characters – their appeal is too short term. Beyond that, we always look toward longevity for furniture. The Scando Table is a good example: When my daughter was 4, she would play at the table. It’s very low, only 11 inches off the ground, so even a 2-year-old can sit at it. And now that she’s 14, she does her homework at that table; she’s comfortable on the floor.

Other than a bed, what are some essentials for a child’s room?
I’ve always liked the idea of giving a child a chair his own size. It’s about giving them control of their lives, giving them something they can move and manipulate. It’s a place where they can go and draw or set up toys at their scale. For any kid-size table we’ve done, like the Chalkboard Table, we have a chair at the same size. Another good one is the Offi Tote Table: a lightweight table with a handle so kids can move it easily. Multi-functionality is key anywhere in the home; the Magis Trioli Chair offers lots of options for play.

What about storage? Kids accumulate so much stuff.
Accessible storage, both open and closed, is important. It encourages creativity because they can pull out what they need when they want it. Our Perf Boxes were not intended for children, but they work well for them and can move to an office when the children move out. The Eames Storage Unit also offers a nice balance between open and closed storage; it’s somewhere to throw stuff when guests come over.

Are there some pieces that transcend age, and so can grow up with the child?
People see childhood as a temporary condition and think, why would I spend $500 on a table when I could spend $100? But if you think about whether that piece will wind up in a landfill or be given to a second child or a neighbor, it makes sense to invest. A nice bookcase will cost you, but if it’s a well-made, long-lasting item, you only have to buy it once – not four times in a childhood then upgrade to real ones when the kids are grown.

If you can buy things that are not so kid-specific, like the Offi Bench Box¬†with Casters, that’s ideal. It gives a room versatile storage and offers a place to sit, but it doesn’t look childish.

What about using modern pieces in an older home? Any tricks of the trade?
I love that patina of age. Furniture is meant to be used. You don’t want to live in a gallery! My feeling is, if it’s made well and you like it, and it makes you happy, it works.

People get it in their head that they are doing a modern room and everything has to be modern, but that’s not interesting. We have these great old fiberglass school chairs that are built like tanks. Nothing about them is modern, but they look cool, and we will have them forever. If the pieces are made well, and they are right for the kid and they are right for you, they will work. You don’t want it to be so precious. A child’s room should be a place where he can make a mess sometimes and not get into trouble.

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Darren Falls

Darren is one of the Merchandise Managers for YLiving, and has had a long career in the Home Furnishings industry with companies like RH, Gumps and ABC Carpet & Home. He has a passion for art and design inspired by his time at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He spends his free time in his garden picking lemons and avoiding mowing the lawn, while playing with his long-haired dachshund.