Design led childcare company New Shoots, approached Think & Shift to design a product that provides children a comforting sense of enclosure in their childcare centres; a chair that serves as a space for children to get away from the noise and busyness of their surrounding environment. The chair was required to be aesthetically on brand, safe, comfortable, user friendly for children and carers alike, extremely hard wearing and be produced in New Zealand with natural materials and a sustainable approach.
The Hideaway Chair is a bent ply wood and upholstered children’s chair, with an encompassing spherical shell made up of four swooping semi circular sections. Hideaway’s spherical form provides enclosure, for visual and audio privacy, as well as an invitation for children to sit in which ever fashion makes them feel most relaxed. The Chair is uncommonly low to the ground, suggesting to children that its for them, not for adults. Gaps between each bent ply section allow dirt to fall through and each upholstered panel is fixed to the chair using clips that allow them to be easily removed for cleaning or replacement. Additionally, the chair can be broken down to fit into a small box for more efficient and sustainable shipping.
Aesthetically the chair needed to fit the New Shoots ‘high design’ brand but also appeal to children over anyone else. The chair’s curving front profile gives it the visual softness required, while its faceted side profile makes it feel contemporary and unique. As well as looking clearly natural and high quality, all materials used are extremely hard wearing to survive the harshness of a childcare environment.
To design this product, we had to disregard everything we knew about ergonomics. In early stage research, we discovered evidence which backed up our intuition that children do not sit the same way adults do. We noted that, when given the opportunity, children in the centres sit upside-down, side-ways, curled up in a ball, with their friends, by themselves, with a blanket, on their knees, on their backs… Just about every way they can sit, other than the up-right, straight-backed position that adult chairs force them into. We therefore concluded that the design required was not a scaled down version of a ‘comforting’ adult’s chair, but a whole new approach to ergonomics and a feeling of comfort. Hideaway Chair is being used in New Shoots childcare facilities around New Zealand and is being developed for internal distribution in the near future. The Hideaway Chair prototype was manufactured by Starex