We wanted to thank everyone who was a part of our Starter Chair exhibition, including all of the makers who showcased and visitors who attended. We had 25 child-sized chairs on display for the exhibition held during NYCxDesign week. At one point during the opening weekend, it felt like the gallery had transformed into a daycare with the takeover of little kiddos and strollers. It was a delight to see the scale of the chairs beside children and especially to see the chairs in-use as intended by their makers.
Amongst the collection was our in-house design inspired by our childhood experiences. Like many, Steve and I were all too familiar with weekly piano lessons as a child. The piano bench became the one piece of furniture in our family homes we had a sense of ownership of at a young age. We knew during each practice session that under the hinged seat beneath lie not only our sheet music but a few personal possessions in a space we could call our own. This is the inspiration behind our Keepsake Chair with a soft close top that opens to reveal storage.
Our dear friend and teacher at Pratt, John Medley, whose name is familiar to many as he crafted many fixtures for our gallery over the years, including the full-sized chair behind our desk, also helped make our Keepsake Chair out of white oak. John also constructed the Shaker-inspired peg rails to hang the chairs for this exhibition.
We curated a variety of contemporary chairs made by Japanese and American designers and makers. Notably of these are the iconic Swiss café-inspired Castor Chair made by Karimoku and designed by studio Big Game. The combination of solid and plywood pieces ensures that the chair is stable yet light enough to move and stack away.
There were also the Hollie and Hole Chair made by Tendo Mokko of bent plywood, commonly found in libraries and children’s institutions across Japan. The stories behind the making of a product as told by the manufacturer always pique our curiosity. For instance, we loved how British designer Alex MacDonald spent months at the Tendo Mokko factory in Japan to learn about the production process to design a sustainable chair that employs their bentwood expertise. He named the chair after is then toddler, Hollie, who is now in college 25 years later – confirmation that well-designed furniture can stand the test of time.
There was also the Arda Chair, born out of a collaboration with Hida and the great designer Enzo Mari to utilize a new wood compression technology that makes cedar durable enough for furniture. It has an exaggerated oval-shaped seat comfortable for little bottoms.
From designer Toshimitsu Sasaki was the last model ever in production of the Mori No Kotoba Chair, which translates to “words of the forest.” While we think that the production of furniture simply yields finished pieces, it also generates a large amount of waste from materials discarded due to perceived flaws. This chair reconsiders these practices and poetically highlights the imperfections by making them a prominent design detail.
Amongst the collection were several chairs that were commissioned specifically for the exhibition. One such chair was the Toddler Chair, a collaboration with Hender Scheme designer Ryo Kashiwazaki. It is crafted from a vintage tubular steel kindergarten chair commonly found in Japan and reupholstered with the brand’s signature vegetan leather. Personally, we love the proportions that even work well as an adult’s low bedside table. Many visitors were overcome by memories of their childhood school days in Japan.
On opening day guests were greeted with a welcome sign that our niece, Shen, helped with. She practiced long and hard to write a message, which was made into a decal for our front door.
Mini chairs need furniture feet too!
Kettl, our friends and neighbour around the corner on Bowery, provided the refreshments. Their Soba Cha and Sencha cold brew were perfectly paired with soba cha crunch, matcha and houjicha butter cookies – a colossal hit with the kiddos. Parents, apologies for eliciting the sugar rush. Miles from Kettl, who we can’t thank enough for preparing the cold brews, stopped by later in the day with his sweet baby Yuzu Ha.
We also held our first-ever contest via in-person and Instagram entries. It was a random draw for two pandemic babies to win a handcrafted children’s chair personalized with an engraving of their name and birthdate. By the end of the exhibition, we had an overwhelming amount of entries and decided to increase the number of giveaways from two to four children. The winning pandemic babies receiving our five-legged chairs are Julian, Evan, Finlay and Blake! It’s our hope that these chairs act as a symbol of enduring comfort to the youngest members of our community affected by the pandemic.
It was extra special that toddler Celine was able to come down from upstate NY with her Dad, designer Brian Persico. After warming up to the crowd, she became the perfect model for her Dad’s Windham and Curlew Chair, which we commissioned for the exhibition.
Also commissioned for the exhibition were the Bole and Bialy Chair by Brooklyn-based designer Pat Kim, modelled above by 16-month old Subaru and Sora. The twins were also the perfect size to test run the chairs by Brian!
It was also heartwarming to witness how child-sized furniture can foster independence, for instance, with the recently bipedal Haru who loved to explore each chair once he was out of his stroller. In many ways, being around adult furniture causes children to depend on adults to help them move and learn but with furniture made to their scale, they can maneuver confidently.
That’s a wrap for this exhibition! Thank you again to everyone who was involved, especially to Dani Sujin Lee, Vicky Wong and Noriyasu Moritada who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help bring to life this exhibition.
You can view a small selection of the collection here or contact us to inquire about any chairs not yet listed online.