February 14, 2008

NYT: BREAKING Having A Kid Changes Glass Coffee Tables, Things

safer_noguchi_table_nyt.jpgSo I read in the newspaper tha having both a kid and nice furniture can be a challenge. Has anyone else heard of this?

For example, these new-fangled Noguchi coffee tables have glass tops, and "Barcelona chairs" are like "razor blades." Huh.

But wait, the sidebar tells another story:

[the mom from Long Island with the fancy living room carpet] has tried to spot-clean things like sneaker dirt, chocolate milk and urine. “The other day he dropped grape jelly,” she said. “That was fun.”
So you let your kid wear shoes in the house, carry jam sandwiches around, and eat in the living room?
...the couple [who used to live in a Park Slope brownstone] watched in horror as one of Fia’s 4-year-old friends fell from the fourth-floor landing down a flight of stairs. “She did a perfect flip in the air and landed on her feet,” Ms. McLean said. “It scared me to death. I never told the parents.” She and Mr. Stratton came to think that a less vertical space might be more prudent.
Yeah, stairs are so high-design. I hear there's a lot of one-story houses in Long Island.

Clearly, what all these parents need is more blogging; this might be the first designer parenting article in five years to not mention weblogs.

Parent Shock: Kids Are Not Decor [nyt]
sidebar: Lessons From the Intersection of Children and High Design [


I don't understand what happens to some people who, as soon as they become parents, suddenly surrender their entire lives - and homes - to their children. We were warned by many, many people that our house was not at all kid-friendly and that we would have to make all kinds of changes and get rid of a lot of our furniture, put child-proof locks on everything, etc. But we were skeptical and took a "wait and see" approach. So far, we've made essentially no changes at all and our daughter (who is now 21 nmonths old) has been very good about not getting hurt or damaging anything. As you say, a few fundamental ground rules (i.e. not wearing shoes in the house, not jumping on the Noguchi table, not eating outside of the kitchen or dining room, etc.) are easy to enforce if done so from the beginning, and consistently. Our daughter has always understood how to behave and how to treat objects in the house, and we have never had any issues - aside from handprints on the glass walls and the stainless-steel cabinet doors, but we can live with that.

Comments like Darren's about the well behaved 21 mth old just make me chuckle... I've worked with toddlers for almost 20 years and have a 2 & 4 year old, and I'm sorry to say its not your ground rules its the luck of an even tempered, flexible kid. Our four year old should be rented out as a safety inspector, if it can be climbed on, taken apart or explored she's on it, by 10 mths we had a level of childproofing that still amazes me. Our 2 year old, you tell "thats not for touching" or "keep your feet on the floor" and he does it... every time, without argument. The house rules have always been consistant, heaven knows I know how important it is to have and enforce them... but she thinks of things we would never dream of. No feet on the couch takes on a whole new meaning when its the only part of her not balanced on the top of the couch... anyhow, glad to hear the 21 mth old listens, but look out for the next one :)

i'm with celeste - with our parent friends we joke that there is "baby proofing," and for our daughter, "natalie proofing." she's just a little too curious for her own good, and we're almost to the point of hanging produce baskets from the ceiling to keep our stuff in lest we want it hidden around the house, taken apart, or turned into a toddler science experiment (such as her current favorite, what happens if i smoosh playdoh here?). our friends with toddlers all know that if we come over, you gotta natalie proof first even if it's stuff their toddlers never touch.

[we forget that most everyone collecting data on kids is using a sample size that's way too small, usually 1 or 2. it's something to remember as we get ready for the kid's birthday party at our house. A bunch of kids who may not have spent four years practicing their "gallery hands: behind your back." -ed.]

I don't watch those shows like Supernanny and Nanny 911 much, but the episodes all seem to resume to the following plot line: Parents claim that they need help because unlike other people's kids, theirs "just don't listen when told no" and "don't respond to discipline". Then the nanny goes in there and establishes sets of rules that are consistently enforced, with clearly understood punishment for disobeying, and magically the kid starts to do as he/she is told. Those shows are over-simplifications, of course, but there's certainly some truth to the concept.

At our daughter's first birthday party, we were horrified when the other little hellions went on a rampage in our house, breaking a C. Jere sculpture and one of our counter stools. The parents just apologized half-heartedly and made no attempt to stop them, saying things like "we just can't control him". Sigh...

i should probably just walk away, but...

there are some kids, like mine, that are very well behaved. she's 2, it takes a couple of times for it to sink in (after being told no, removed from the situation, etc.) that you do not climb on the dining room table, or you don't take the DVDs out of their cases and chuck them across the room. she doesn't do those things anymore, but her curiosity is amazing, and it seems like every single day she discovers something new to get her hands on. things that we as parents, who have baby proofed and think all is good, don't even think of.

then you go to someone else's house and it's a bevy of new situations, new things to explore, and the next thing you know, yours is the kid who's found out how to wiggle behind the couch and retrieve the poor dog's bones he thought he had hidden well from his master's toddler. what do you do? shrug, apologize to the dog, and add it to your growing list of things to check each and every time you go to a different house.

Those poor, abused parents. Suffering from unappreciative kids who touch things and screw up a room's feng shui.

Did no one learn the lessons of "Malcolm in the Middle."

The show about hellacious children flash-backed to the pre-child life of the parents. Living in a white modernist dream condo, their life was slowly destroyed by... children with no regard to aesthetics! Savages!

Kids will be kids, and parents should be the adults they need to be.

[everything i needed to know about parenting, i learned from frankie muniz -ed.]

What a bunch of stupid idiots. With the exception of the couple who bought a new house to accommodate their children, the other couples seemed to have the most warped priorities concerning children this side of a Dicken's novel.

A non-kid-friendly house is not a home. Having a child means sacrifice beyond shedding tears for your designer furniture. Life is not about decor.

Children are not pets. They are more important than YOU. While these couples squirm over decor themes and impressing strangers with their tastes, their children have everything ahead of them and may outlive their foolish parents by decades. Where is their focus?

I am an artist. With three kids under three, I waited 50 years to have this family. I want each of them to grab whatever I have and shake the life out of it. Throw it, punch it, spill it, and break it. With every snag, stain and tear, the value of my belongings increase in my eyes.

Life is not orderly. It is not decorated to our musings. It is an utter mess. But the most beautiful art objects I have in my life are the sticky fingered, drooling, smiling, happy mini-mes that rip my expensive clothes, grab my glasses and laugh in my face.

If you place a higher value on your rotting stuff than your kids, then you shouldn't be parents.

[but it's not rot; it's a patina! that one family's 18thc dining table has outlived a dozen generations of parents and kids. Safety issues aside, there's nothing wrong with having and liking nice stuff, or with teaching a kid how to appreciate and take care of it. but treat your stuff as more important than your kid, and they will remember it forever. -ed.]

Great comments, but I think I wasn't clear enough about our 4 yr old. Its not that she doesn't listen, its just that she thinks of things we would never think of to tell her not to do, or that it would never occur to us could be done - like trying to move enough stuff to stack it up, to climb the bookcase (which we had thoughtfully magnet locked the bottem doors to prevent such climbing)-- and as I said I've worked with under three's since 1988 so I keep thinking I know how they think (stupid me). Our little guy, on the other hand, would never dream of even trying that level of adventure, and actually says "why you do that?" to his sister, with puzzlement. But the people in this article, oh my goodness -- I wish I could send them the 4 yr old for an afternoon. And at our house, we're just planning on replacing the furniture when they both hit "civilized" hopefully in less then 20 years.

[by the same token, the parents in the article have to figure out how to live with the kids they have, not someone else's. an article like this is great for stimulating discussion and a look at each of our own situations, but it's a pretty superficial, incomplete, and stilted way to make judgments about their situations. -ed.]

Yes, and for being the selfish, aloof, minimalist, design slave, hipster parent that I, I'm sure that my kid will grow up to be just like Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and resent me and one day take revenge by trashing my Ferrari (note to self - if I ever get a Ferrari - hide the keys)... or worse, decorating her room in "shabby chic!"

Noguchi table - check (wrapped in foam for 7 months)

Barcelona chairs - check (corners still wrapped in foam)

Travertine floors - check (only a few bloody lips in over two years, not so bad)

Finn Juhl Chieftain Chair - check (legs and front stringer wrapped in foam, not for Teufelkind's safety, but for it's own).

I want my son to grow up appreciating design. It's a balance between safe and good-looking. Our plan was to change only what NEEDED changing (some art glass was put away) but for everything else just emphasize care and caution when he's around things that might hurt. He's done very well so far.

Plus, there's nothing cuter than a naked 18 month old shouting "Barfawoma" at the top of his lungs while standing on one of our Barcelona chairs...
Mies would be so proud :)

This reminds me of my mother giving us a really hard time about our house having wood floors. "Devra, aren't you worried about how hard the floors will be for the kids? That they might get hurt? Won't it hurt their knees to crawl on it?" My response? "Mom, what kind of floors did our apartment in New York city have when I was crawling around? What kind of floors did we have in Connecticut when we moved there?" Her answer "Um. Wood."

I felt compelled to point out I had made it thru my entire childhood without being damaged by a wood floor. Sometimes people don't realize how silly they sound until you have them repeat it a couple of times and then the light flips back on and they think, "Wait a sec, that doesn't make any sense."

We have Bertoia chairs, so far no one has gotten their head stuck. ; )

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