An Exhibition of Children's Chairs
May 14-22, 2022
Nalata Nalata is pleased to present Starter Chair, an exhibition of chairs lovingly made to stimulate and inspire the youngest members of our society—children. Each handmade chair highlights the skill and design of artisans from Japan and the United States, while focusing on the qualities that make a child’s first chair universally cherished as keepsakes into adulthood.
Starter Chair celebrates the moment when children begin to hold their own bodies up, develop a sense of individuality, and recognize their physical independence as they learn to navigate the world around them. Featuring pieces from renowned Japanese studios and craftspeople—including Makoto Koizumi, Ryuji Mitani, Karimoku and Tendo Mokko—alongside original commissions by local designers and artisans such as Pat Kim and Brian Persico, we brought together a collection of handcrafted chairs designed with a toddler’s size and behavior in mind. Common features, such as soft, rounded edges and timeless materials, can be found in each iteration, and their miniature proportions will enchant kids and parents alike.
How quickly children grow is astonishing. Renowned designer Makoto Koizumi celebrates this growth with his series of School Chairs for each year of development from infants to 2–5 year-olds. The chairs are made of locally sourced cypress wood from the Wakayama prefecture where these chairs can be found throughout schools in the area.
Within this collection, we proudly present a children’s chair designed in-house at Nalata Nalata. Drawing on our backgrounds in design and memories from our own childhood, we crafted a chair inspired by the piano benches that held not only sheet music from our lessons but also our most cherished treasures for safe-keeping. This wooden Keepsake Kids Chair features a hinged seat that lifts up to provide storage. Perfectly sized for coloring books, crayons, and maybe a small stuffed animal or two, the storage compartment offers a child the chance to claim some personal space of their own. As we set to debut this seat at Starter Chair, we look forward to seeing how kids will interact with our design in person.
Commissioned and designed in collaboration with Ryo Kashiwazaki of Hender Scheme, for the exhibition, is the Toddler Chair. Made of an old tubular metal kindergarten chair frame found in many Japanese classrooms, and upholstered in the brand’s signature raw, vegetable-tanned leather.
Drawing on the history of European and American furniture design, upstate New York-based designer Brian Persico adds a fresh take on the traditional ladderback chair with his Windham Children’s Chair. As a piece commissioned just for Starter Chair, this chair is made from trees found on his property and finished entirely by hand. The frame is made of ashwood, with antler pins lining the stiles. The seat is made of rawhide woven to form a mesh strong enough to hold up a 2 year old child, while keeping the chair open and light.
Although we often only see a final piece of furniture in our homes, the production of furniture can often times generate a large amount of waste with raw materials thrown away due to flaws. This handsome chair by the late designer Toshimitsu Sasaki asks that we reconsider these practices by giving its perceived imperfections a head seat at the table. As part of Hida’s Mori No Kotoba series, this chair is built around prominent gnarls in Japanese white oak lumber that have been scrapped and discarded. The simple chair features a slight bend in the backrest, further reinforcing the strength and feasibility of knots in a log. Built to fit toddlers 2 – 3 years old, we love that this chair provides young children with a tactile example of celebrating the natural expressions in materials that could be applied to a broader scope.
Sustainability is one of our foremost concerns when we think about the world that kids today grow up in. As such, we are excited to partner with Hida—one of the oldest furniture manufacturers that draws from the rich history of Japanese woodworking—to present Enzo Mari’s Arda Kids Chair. Based in the heavily forested region of its namesake, Hida’s practices are rooted in using indigenous cedar while maintaining the integrity of the surrounding forest. Hida developed a technique to compress cedar in order to add strength and durability where it would otherwise be too soft and unsuitable for furniture. The Arda Kids Chair was born out of a collaboration with the great designer Enzo Mari to utilize this new technology. The chair features a unique grain pattern that celebrates knars and imperfections in its wood, as well as a deep, oval seat that feels comfortable to sit on.
As a common motif in Japanese culture and mythology, the rabbit is reimagined to provide a strong structure for little seats in Yu Watanabe’s WF Kids Rabbit Chair. The chair is made of solid Japanese cypress and features wide legs to provide a sturdy base. The backrest is shaped like rabbit ears, adding a sense of unabashed playfulness that appeals to all ages. To highlight the unique grains and knots in the wood, the chair is finished with color oil in a Uzukuri process. This method allows for the grains to stand out with repeated use and polishing, ensuring that the chair’s rich texture stands the test of time.
Originally planned for NYCxDesign 2020, the delays and suspensions we experienced putting together Starter Chair made us acutely aware of the pandemic’s global interruption of childhood experiences. To help build a sense of community for the youngest people affected by the pandemic, we will select a number of children born in 2020-2022 and give them each a chair personalized with an engraving of their name and birthdate at the end of the exhibition. By connecting these kids over a shared experience of the exhibition, we hope that these chairs serve as a symbol of growing up in a warm and generous environment despite being born in uncertain times.