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Special Furniture for Kids

From the High Point, N.C., furniture show come separate collections for children and youth.

Increasing demand for children's furniture is driving the nation's largest retailers, such as Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Rooms to Go, to open separate stores that specialize in children and youth.

"It's been a growth area in times where other areas aren't growing as quickly," said Jane Kitchen, editor of Kids Today, a trade magazine that covers the children's furnishings market.

Some of the largest makers, such as Broyhill and Bassett, offer extensive showrooms of just children's furniture. Smaller makers are trying to establish a niche in that area.

"The product's doing phenomenally," said Michael Satterfield, vice president for retail and marketing for Bassett.

Riverside's "Imaginations" line features images on its beds, chests and benches that are taken from inspirational children's books. (SHNS photo courtesy of Riverside Furniture)
A bench from Riverside's "Imaginations" line.
Stanley's new "Isabella" bed has removable "toile" fabric panels that come in blue and pink. The bed and its companion dresser aim for "mature, European-influenced style," according to Stanley. (SHNS photo courtesy of Stanley Furniture)

Riverside Furniture also dove in with its first complete children's line, called "Imaginations" — the result of a licensing agreement with Inch by Inch publications. The beds, dressers and chests all have images of characters from the teachings of three Inch by Inch books.

"It is the first very comprehensive youth collection that we've done," said Linda Owen, Riverside's director of marketing. "The category is just growing so dramatically."

Ohio designer Barbara Culp used to design all kinds of furniture styles when she started out 14 years ago, but her only focus now is on children's furniture.

"The demand kept increasing, increasing, increasing," said Culp, who makes whimsical designs for Smilze, a children's furniture company.

Demographics are driving the surge in furniture made exclusively for children and teens.

"When Baby Boomers had kids, they couldn't afford it," said Mary Frye, president of the Home Furnishings International Association, which represents retailers. "They're now furnishing their grandchildren's rooms.

"Now, we're doing it up right," added Frye, who awaits her first grandchild in November.

Parents themselves also have more money to spend, said Chris Madden, a style expert and frequent host on Home & Garden Television. "People are having (kids) later. They have more money."

There's always been specialty children's furniture, such as beds in the shape of race cars, but those items are quickly outgrown once the child moves out of that phase.

Now, furniture lines are designed to last a lot longer, manufacturers said. Several lines are just slightly smaller versions of bedroom sets designed for adults.

"It's gone to a very sophisticated style — recognizable elements from the adult furniture world and scaled appropriately for the age," said Glenn Prillaman, vice president and product manager for Stanley Furniture's "Young America" division. "From a design standpoint, you've just got many, many more options."

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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