Judson Beaumont began his career as a sculptor, crafting minimal, geometric wooden pieces. Then he saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the Toon Town extremes inspired him to go in a new direction. "I was taking my art too seriously," he says. "I had to lighten up a little bit." So he ditched the minimalism and began making fantastical, skewed pieces of furniture and inadvertently entered one of the fastest-growing markets in the industry: luxury furniture for children's rooms. Now he and his Straight Line Designs team create his Pee-wee's Playhouse-like pieces for prices ranging from $300 to $5,000 and even higher for custom pieces. "It costs a lot to make a carrot with drawers," Beaumont says.
Until recently, children's furnishings were found mostly in superstores such as Babies "R" Us. But a new crop of craftspeople and retailers are joining the $9 billion kids'-home-furnishings market by appealing to finicky parents who want more stylish options than Disney characters and are willing to pay big bucks for them. Online retailer PoshTots offers artisanal furniture like a Cinderella pumpkin-coach bed that sells for more than $40,000. Built to order by British furniture designer Mark Wilkinson, only three are in existence.
From 1998 to 2002, sales of kids' furniture rose 32%, compared with an 11% increase for the rest of the furniture industry. And companies like Pottery Barn (Pottery Barn Kids), Bombay Company (Bombay Kids) and Pier 1 Imports (Cargo Kids) are cashing in on the trend, introducing their own lines. Several factors are fueling the growth. Television shows, such as Trading Spaces for Kids and Knock First have made kids more opinionated about what their rooms should look like. And there are more kids. The number of U.S. births rose steadily from 1998 to 2000. Couples who have children later in life often have more disposable income, along with a predetermined home-design aesthetic, making them more likely to decorate their children's rooms to complement the rest of the house. Lighting stores report that one of the hottest decorating trends this fall is chandeliers for girls' rooms. PoshTots stocks a number of these, including the Emily Crystal Chandelier, which costs $1,150 and would not look out of place in the dining room. In fact, kids' furnishings like these give the rest of the house a lot to live up to.
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