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  • Original design classics... and sausages!

    I love designs that help solve a problem or make life easier.  So as we’re celebrating our 15th birthday I thought I’d also celebrate three iconic designs that made a big difference to me when my kids were growing up.

    Time has flown since my three-year-old daughter’s struggle to find her favourite book inspired me to design a bookcase that made choosing books easier. That was the start of Tidy Books 15 years ago and ever since then I’ve been creating original designs that help children to become independent readers.

    Like a lot of mums, I’ll always remember my Maclaren pushchair. Forget the stress of trying to collapse your pushchair while holding onto a baby and shopping bags. Suddenly here was a lightweight, portable stroller that easily folded in on itself like an umbrella. It was revolutionary. And I love that it was designed by a former aviation engineer after he saw his daughter struggling with her pram. Like my bookcase, Maclaren’s iconic design – which is permanently on display at the Design Museum in London – was designed for a purpose and to be useful.

    iconic designs, original design, children's design, tidy books The iconic Maclaren buggy, invented in 1965. Photo: Maclaren

    The same ethos was behind the Stokke Tripp Trapp® high chair. Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik couldn’t find a high chair for his two-year-old son to sit at the table with the rest of his family – so he made one. I discovered the high chair when my son, Emile, was little and was so impressed by the thought that had gone into it. It was just the right height so I could pull the chair up to the table and have Emile with us when we were eating or sitting around chatting – which was brilliant for his development. What’s really clever about the Tripp Trapp® chair is that the seat and footplates are adjustable so it can be used all the way from baby stage to adulthood – hence being known as ‘a chair for life’. It looks lovely in the home, too, something I’ve always strived to achieve with my own Tidy Books original designs.

    Now sausages may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re designing a new product – but that’s exactly what inspired the iconic Micro scooter. Swiss banker Wim Ouboter had a favourite sausage shop that was a mile and a half from his office. The distance was too far to walk but not far enough away to bother getting the car out of the garage and parking. So he designed a scooter to get him there. It was definitely a hit in our household. With its robust design and two front wheels keeping the scooter stable, I was quite happy to let Emile whizz around on his, knowing he was safe while learning to enjoy the freedom of his own independent travel.

    The first, original Tidy Books bookcase which I made for my daughter Adele in 2004

     

    * So that’s three of my favourite design classics. What’s the iconic design that you love most?  

    tidy books, kids bookshelf, kids storage, kids furniture

    Geraldine is Tidy Books’ founder, designer and CEO, as well as mum to Adele and Emile.   She started Tidy Books in her violin workshop because she couldn’t find a good bookcase for her kids.  Now her Tidy Books bookcases and storage designs are encouraging independence and a love of reading in kids all over the world.

  • International Children’s Book Day

    It’s always great to discover people who are as passionate about kids and reading as I am and this month I’ve come across a brilliant Lithuanian children’s author who’s highlighting the calming power of books as part of International Children’s Book Day 

    Held annually in the first week of April, International Children’s Book Day is celebrated to inspire reading and to help bring attention to children’s books. Each year, a different country’s author is featured and this time around it’s children’s writer and illustrator Kęstutis Kasparavičius – who explains how books can slow us down.

    international children's book day; childrens books, children reading, tidy books Time slows down when you read a book. Image @mummyconstant

    ‘We live in the age of information overload, haste and rush. But if you take a book into your hands, you immediately feel a change. It seems that books have this wonderful quality – they help us slow down. As soon as you open a book and delve into its tranquil depths, you no longer fear that things will whizz by at a maddening speed while you see nothing.’

    That really rings true for me.  When I was young, whenever I was feeling anxious I could rely on reading a book to help me slow down my thoughts and feel calmer. And now, as an adult, once I’ve got my head in a book I can lose myself in the story and forget about the stresses of the day.

    Research shows a direct link between reading and mental health.

    One study showed that school-aged pupils who enjoyed reading were much more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who didn’t. But research by University College London found that children today are spending less time reading and more time on their screens – which is having an adverse effect on both their mental health and their literacy levels.

    Reading, says Kasparavičius, is the opportunity for kids to unplug from their phone or tablet and reconnect with what’s around them. ‘Books teach us to notice things. The universe of a book is wide open; it happily fuses reality with imagination and fantasy. Was it in a book or in reality that you were lying in the summer grass, or sitting with your legs crossed, watching clouds sail across the sky?’

    I love that sentiment. When children immerse themselves in a book, they discover different places, interesting characters and new situations – and that sparks their curiosity to learn more in the real world. As Kasparavičius concludes: ‘Someone who enjoys reading – be it a child or adult – is much more interesting than someone who doesn’t care for books, who is always racing against the clock, who never has time to sit down, who fails to notice much of what surrounds them.’ I couldn’t agree more.

    What will you be reading this month to celebrate International Children's Book Day?

    tidy books, kids bookshelf, kids storage, kids furnitureGeraldine is Tidy Books’ founder, designer and CEO, as well as mum to Adele and Emile.   She started Tidy Books in her violin workshop because she couldn’t find a good bookcase for her kids.  Now her Tidy Books bookcases and storage designs are encouraging independence and a love of reading in kids all over the world.

  • Is your child’s name inspired by a book?

    Have you ever been so inspired by a book that you chose a literary name for your baby ? Apparently, when J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books were published there was a rise in babies named after her famous characters – Harry, Hermione, Luna (Lovegood) and even baddie Lucius (Malfoy). And whenever Disney brings a character to life on screen there’s a surge in names like Elsa, from Frozen, and Ariel from The Little Princess.

    Funnily enough, I gave both my children literary names – only in my case they were inspired by the authors themselves. My daughter Adèle is named after Adèle Hugo, daughter of Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It’s also a shortened version of Adelaïde, a character from a series of novels written by Émile Zola – who’s my favourite author. Not surprisingly, I called my son Émile.

    literary baby names, baby names, literary names, tidy books, literary characters, children's names Adele and Emile: Inspired by literary characters

    As an avid reader in my teens, I always knew that if I had children I’d name them after my favourite authors. I loved reading stories and I loved the idea of there being a story behind my children’s names. It felt significant and special.

    I could never have predicted then that I would grow up to run a business related to children’s books, but I guess it makes sense really. I’m passionate about getting kids excited about reading – which is why our book case and book box can be personalised with your children’s names. It’s a way of giving them their own little story and making them feel special, too.

    Going back to my own children, I’m lucky that my husband, Matthew, agreed with the names I chose. Though I must admit that while he was instantly taken with the idea of a daughter called Adèle, he wasn’t so sure about ‘Émile’ at first. But then, when the mid-wife asked us what we were calling our new-born son, Matthew instantly said ‘Émile’. To which – to my surprise – the midwife replied, ‘Oh, after Émile Zola?’

    You see – it’s a lovely story, isn’t it?

    geraldine grandidier, tidy booksGeraldine is Tidy Books’ founder, designer and CEO, as well as mum to Adele and Emile.   She started Tidy Books in her violin workshop because she couldn’t find a good bookcase for her kids.  Now her Tidy Books bookcases and storage designs are encouraging independence and a love of reading in kids all over the world.

     

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