Few people understand design for children better than Lora Appleton, the founder of kinder MODERN, a contemporary and vintage design gallery and design studio that makes and showcases work for children. In turn, few people understand Appleton better than her son, whom she credits as her primary muse. In this week’s Milkshake, we asked her how he’s taught her new ways of looking at design: “A few years in, when my son was able to walk around and look at things and notice material, I was really fascinated by how much the built environment was an influence on him,” she says. “If he went into a new place, where he’d never seen a type of material on the wall, he would directly go right for it – and there was this real sense of curiosity that seems obvious with kids, but it was really pointed, their thinking. And then years later, he was able to recall that material, notice that it was made into a chair by one of my designers, and make that correlation. And I thought that was really fascinating – the memory, the tactileness of thinking, all of that really connects with kids in a way that before being a mom, I didn’t really understand.”
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Also in this Milkshake: Lora shares why she thinks the 1950s might qualify as the golden age for children’s design: “The early 1950s to 1960s was such an incredibly robust period for design for children,” she says. “The things that were right – correct, good choices – very much focused on materiality. A lot of work from that period was very simple materials: birch ply, not a lot of paint glazes or things that could be harmful to children. They really understood how to boil things down to the most simplistic forms to give children options of curiosity, but not to give them the whole answer.” She also offers a quick show-and-tell featuring her favorite-ever design for kids: Hans Brockhage und Erwin Andrä’s rocking chair: “It was this incredible piece of furniture – a play item, if you will – that operated as a pedal car, so the child would sit in here,” she says. “It was made of birch ply, [with] a very simple metal armature for the wheels – and then when flipped, it was a rocking chair. This, to me, really signified a turning point for where play was headed in the 1950s, encouraging children to really get into what they were playing with in terms of furniture.”
For more from Lora – including her tribute to Mira Nakashima, one of the industry’s many (many) under-heralded, female-identifying designers – tune in!
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.