A quiet revolution is shaking up the world of children's furniture. For centuries, conventional design wisdom dictated that children's seats and tables should look like miniature replicas of adult furniture.
No longer is this the case as colourful, child-friendly shapes and styles are produced using new materials, technologies and production methods.
V&A Museum of Childhood
Sit Down: Seating For Kids is this Bethnal Green museum's latest exhibition. Here, the oldest piece - a Swiss wooden box chair dating from 1600 - contrasts sharply with the contemporary, multipurpose Mico seats created by London-based Spanish designers El Ultimo Grito, (available from Magis, £174).
"Today's designers consider the psychology of a child and how they will interact with a seat," says the exhibition's curator, Catherine Bornet. "Mico seats, for example, aren't trying to state their function - they're giving the choice to the child."
Sit down: Seating For Kids
Run from 6 February until 13 June at V&A Museum Of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, E2 (020 8983 5200; www.museumofchildhood.org.uk). Admission is free. Nearest Tube station: Bethnal Green.
Still, parents haven't always found what they wanted so some have turned to designing children's seating themselves. A case in point is Bloom, an award-winning company founded in 2007 by four fathers with the shared goal of developing innovative designs that allow parents and babies to live together stylishly.
Bloom's Fresco high-chair (pictured top right), which features in the V&A exhibition, looks as chic as a bar stool and is highly practical as it adjusts to suit children from birth to 36 months (from £270).
Further well-designed Bloom products include Coco (right), a baby lounger with a curved, single-piece frame (from £130) and the Luxo Sleep baby bed (£650 excluding bedding). Stockists include John Lewis and Harrods.
Another successful Boom design is the folding, adjustable Alma cot, for use from birth to two years and specially designed for small urban spaces (£300 excluding bedding, from John Lewis).
Bloom: for stockists, call 07894 568463; www.bloombaby.com.
John Lewis: Oxford Street, W1 (0845 604 9049; www.johnlewis.com).
Harrods: Knightsbridge, SW1 (020 7730 1234; www.harrods.com).
An equally clever blend of high style and practicality is in Offi's children's collection. Many designs from this US-based furniture manufacturer are available in the UK from Nest.
Among the latest are the birch plywood Mini Drawer chair with integral storage, and Hide-N-Sit armchair with a lift-up seat for storing toys or art supplies. Old favourites include the Woody Chalkboard table with a durable, chalkboard surface and central bowl for holding chalks, and the Doodle Drawer desk (left) - a seat-cum-desk combo with an under-seat pull-out drawer and wraparound surface for doodling and eating. Another clever idea is the Nest Bassinet (cot with mattress) which converts to a playtable and toy bin.
Nest: 0114 243 3000; www.nest.co.uk.
Other stylish forays into this market include David Linley's Mini Aston armchair (£1,549) in pink or orange leather, based on an Aston Martin carseat, and Ligne Roset's Mini Togo fireside chair (£413) and Mini Dada rocking chair (£374). Meanwhile, the Eames elephant stool, produced by Vitra in 2007 as a limited edition to celebrate Charles Eames's 100th birthday, is now available in colourful polypropylene (£139).
Linley: 60 Pimlico Road, SW1 (020 7730 7300; www.davidlinley.com).
The latest additions to the popular Me Too collection by Italian manufacturer, Magis, include the Dodo rocking-bird seat in colourful polyethylene (£130) and Paradise Tree coat stand (left, £412), both designed by Oiva Toikka.
Magis: for stockists, call 01279 508111, or visit www.magismetoo.com.
Marks & Spencer
High street stalwart M&S is also getting in on the act with KidsZone, a new interiors collection for newborns to teens. This is M&S's most comprehensive children's collection to date and includes 20 cabinetry ranges (cots, beds, storage), lighting, soft furnishings and accessories.
Win a Sleep Station bedstead for kids and a £100 gift voucher
To celebrate the launch of M&S's new range for kids, we are giving away a fabulous Sleep Station bedstead, that comes with lots of clever built-in storage, worth £475, plus a £100 M&S gift voucher to spend on bedding and accessories.
before midnight on 2 March 2010.
M&S: 0845 302 1234; www.marksandspencer.com.
Anyone looking for a really special child's seat might consider a bespoke chair from Francis Sultana's gallery, designed as part of a project to raise funds for the NSPCC. These include Mathieu Mategot's Fifties-style, tubular-framed seat (£1,150) and Michael Wolfson's Origami Baby (£2,950), with colourful foam shapes that stick together with Velcro.
Francis Sultana: 60 Fulham Road, SW3 (020 7589 5946; www.francissultana.com).