By Marc Barnes, Special to Furniture Today
HIGH POINT — It is highly likely that furniture designers who specialize in the kids furniture category look further than classic lines and finishes when it comes to designing storage options for kids’ rooms.
When it comes to ideas where things can be put away, it’s also likely that they are stepping into the role of peacemaker.
Childhood — and the spaces that children occupy — require storage, which children and adults see differently. A child sees a floor, the top of a bed or nightstand or dresser, the space underneath a bed or spilling out of half-closed closet doors as perfectly reasonable places to put their clothes, sports equipment, science projects and homework.
Parents don’t usually see it the same way. Most parents expect their children’s rooms to fall somewhere between Better Homes & Gardens and a raid by the local Department of Public Health.
What’s needed are more storage options. The good news is that producers have come up with a few.
Ted Weber, president of Bolton Furniture, said that his company incorporates storage underneath beds in its Bolton’s Low Loft bed line, which are available in white, cinnamon and espresso.
“We focus on timeless designs, and we present our collections in styles that our customers can use for a long time,” he said. “These are styles and finishes that are timeless and can be used for years to come.”
Weber said that storage options are indeed an asset in the category, as they are in all rooms.
“Incorporating storage in to the same footprint as the bed makes the best use of a small area,” said Weber. “Traditional storage, a functional chest and dresser are also important, and we are introducing two new collections with chest, dressers and bookcase options.”
He added that the storage pieces underneath the Low Lofts can be used into the future, as they are freestanding and be separated from the bed as children get older and room configurations change.
At Legacy Classic Kids, Scott Sullens, vice president of sales and merchandising, said that storage continues to be an important consideration in the youth category.
“There is not one parent who is not looking for more storage or an additional sleeping solution,” said Sullens. “We offer both underbed storage and trundle units with all our groups. The key for the customer is to see it on the retail floor. Retailers who show the storage will sell the storage.”
Sullens said that most of Legacy Classic Kids’ collections have at least one storage piece. Notably, the company has introduced vertical storage pieces like the locker in its Bunkhouse collection.
“Vertical storage is key because it’s storage going up a wall, not across,” he said. The market demand has guided Legacy’s designs to include drawers, adjustable shelves and pull-bars for towels and bathrobes, which makes the pieces an asset to the category.
“The storage piece can often be the ‘fashion piece’ of the group,” said Sullens. “These pieces stand out on a retail floor, while offering storage solutions for customers.”
The best part is that they can last for years. “We have a number of groups that are multi-generational,” he added. “These storage pieces will work just as well today as they will in 20 years.”
At Maxwood Furniture, marketing director Anne Jensen said that her company offers many different storage options for kids’ bed systems.
“Some of my favorite configurations have a stairway attached to our lofts and bunk beds as the entryway,” said Jensen. “These models have a great feature where each of the steps on the staircase have a built-in storage drawer. This unique option combines functionality and flair to give our consumers a stylish alternative to the traditional bunk bed.”
She said that another popular option is under-bed storage, with a few different variations available across three different lines: Maxtrix, Jackpot and M3. The storage drawers fit under each bed and roll in and out on a set of trundle wheels. She said that the design is a great space-saver and is perfect for small bedrooms.
In fact, Maxwood’s latest launch — the Newcastle Staircase Bunk Bed — features both storage in the staircase and underbed storage through a convertible trundle drawer. The inserts are removable, so they can be converted into a trundle bed for guests or sleepovers.
Jensen said that storage is an important consideration across its lines.
“We wanted to create a product that could grow with your everchanging family and that’s how we came up with the idea of Maxtrix,” she said. “As your child gets older, our beds can be changed to meet their new needs. Our furniture system is modular which means you can turn a toddler bed into a bunkbed or make a bunkbed into a loft with a study space underneath.
Jensen said that like the beds, the storage accessories can change as well. “Mix or match a toybox with an open cubby or add a bookshelf to the underbed of a loft. Our toy storage box can conveniently double as a place to store books or sweatshirts for your high school or college kids.”
Karl Eulberg, vice president of sales and marketing at Oak Furniture West, said that his company has recently rolled out some unique storage solutions in its Montana collection.
“We offer a vaptain’s bed that has sliding doors in the headboard to access a storage area, and the storage area has a light that is activated automatically when the door is slid open,” said Eulberg. “In addition, the unit has a USB charging function as an added feature.”
Within its Home Sweet Home collection, Oak Furniture West also has a taller space behind the stairs for storage of backpacks and sporting equipment, which is often part of a child’s space. Eulberg said that space for larger items, as with all storage options within the category, has proven popular with parents.
“When the youth furniture is purchased at retail, the parents are often thinking about how the furniture can help keep order in a child’s space,” he said. “When the furniture design clearly creates solutions to storage and organization, it is a huge incentive to purchase. When youth designs can incorporate thoughtful storage solutions at an affordable price, they win at retail.”
At Universal Furniture, Neil MacKenzie, director of marketing, said that his company’s Smartstuff product line starts out with the idea of providing both safety and function.
“With the kids’ rooms typically being the smallest, storage becomes a premium, and we try to maximize the product to ensure we are leveraging space,” said MacKenzie. “Under-bed storage, vertical options and even storage components that are underneath some desk chairs are all looked at.
“It’s a similar strategy to what we’ve done with our Spaces line of beds, as well. These products are for first-time home buyers and they too are also faced with storage needs.”
Within SmartStuff, the storage components are built into the product and available within each style category, with the idea in mind to address what both parents and kids want most.
“We believe the more flexibility that we can provide, the more it helps the retailer and customer with the products,” said MacKenzie. “It creates opportunities for the products to be maximized for the way people live.”
And the idea is for the furniture to last through childhood and beyond.
“You can see that with the evolution of our Spaces collection,” he added. “Storage is something that you don’t need just because you grow up. I think all of us are looking for more space and function with the items we look to make investments in.”
At Powell Furniture, Merchandising Manager Neely Jo Peck said that the Lacey collection, which is scaled smaller for ages 5 through 13 and finished in a creamy vanilla white, offers several storage options. They include a book case, a toy chest, a jewelry armoire and a vanity that converts into a desk.
“We understand that people moving into smaller spaces need to be creative on how to store kids’ items,” said Peck. “We are working constantly on coming up with more storage options that can be sold online and to brick and mortar stores.”
She added that Powell keeps the end user in mind when designing furniture in the youth category.
“We are trying to make sure that our storage pieces appeal to youth as well as the parents,” said Peck. “Adding charging stations and removable storage like baskets is something we try to implement.”
She added that storage helps drive sales. “Storage is key right now and the sales on these items prove it. Anything that can organize, store and basically keeps things tidier are always good items.”
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