Dads On Design

photo by Bernard Wolf

Life is changing so rapidly. Families expand and children grow, and our need for beautiful, innovative, long-lasting, and multi-functional design solutions that will fit seamlessly into our lifestyle and home is undeniable. Architects, designers and fathers alike are answering this call for efficient and space saving solutions to enhance all our lives. Gone are the days of buying products that will be rendered obsolete before you can even get it into the house. Parents want a more sustainable alternative that will keep waste out of landfills, while at the same time, keep more money in their pockets. Creative and entrepreneurial fathers everywhere are recognizing this need, and stepping up to the plate.


As the needs of the modern family evolve and change, so does the landscape of baby gear, in part due to some very design-savvy dads. Case in point: Zak Normandin, founder of the Brooklyn based kids’ snack and cereal company, Little Duck Organics, was inspired by his children to make snack time better. And that he did. Instead of adding to landfills, Normandin thought outside the box, and developed a very innovative “box”, or more specifically plantable packaging, for his product Mighty Oats. Instead of creating unnecessary waste, the Mighty Oats cups are completely compostable, breaking down in six months time, while the outer cardboard is embedded with vegetable seeds that can be used to grow vegetables at home. “I wanted kids to be exposed to creativity and innovation in the products they were consuming daily, and for their options to be healthy and free from the added junk that was common in the grocery store,” says Normandin, “When I think back on what drove me to start Little Duck Organics, one of the big motivations was wanting to create that same experience that I had as a child for my own kids.” And with that goal in mind, Normandin has succeeded in providing not only tasty treats that are healthy for our kids, but he took things one step further and developed, innovative and creative packaging that was inspired by, and created for, his kids.

“Your kids are only young once so make the most of the opportunity to create a special realm for them.”

Winner of a Kind + Jugend Innovation Award for best product, bloom is another brand turning heads. Founded by four dads not willing to settle or change their design sensibilities or aesthetic, their mission was clear: to bring truly meaningful innovation and contemporary design to a world/industry that traditionally has been functional, but not in tune with the design sense of modern parents. Co-founder, Simon May recalls, “the infant space was awash with generic, poor-taste items that resigned baby to the nursery (in order to hide the cheap and nasty product). The goal was to bring baby back to the modern family home with products that matched the lifestyle and sense of style of the parents.” When bloom began in 2007, they were some of the first dads to enter the baby space, but today, dads are taking a more active role in parenting, both in and out of the home. May remembers, “…the baby space was an area that had previously been the domain of mums. Since then we have seen an influx of dads becoming involved… dads bring a unique perspective focused more on the way products are engineered… everyday modern parenting, now more than ever, is a team effort so it’s great to see both mums and dads’ perspectives taking shape in the wave of new furniture and gear hitting the market”.


Today’s modern family is constantly evolving and in flux, so having multi-generational, and long-term solutions is not a luxury, but rather a necessity. More and more we are seeing brands within the baby space developing products that are designed to grow with your child, instead of something that your child will grow out of. From strollers, to cribs, to car seats, to highchairs, now families have more long-lasting options to choose from. A perfect example comes from the Norwegian brand Stokke. Their revolutionary and iconic TrippTrapp chair, which was included as part of the Modern Family Pavilion at Dwell on Design in Los Angeles, CA, is a perfect example of design at its best. It is a truly beautiful and timeless piece that can be enjoyed by families for not just a few years, but generations.

photo by Bernard Wolf


As we see increasing strides in innovation with everyday products created to meet the growing challenges of the modern family, you might ask yourself how you can bring that same level of design and creativity into your child’s room. Whether it is a nursery, a bedroom, or a playroom, how should we go about designing spaces for our children? What things should we consider? Jesse Bornstein, the Santa Monica based architect and dad who spoke at the Dads And Design presentation during Dwell On Design this summer, knows a thing or two about designing for children – as he and his wife have two daughters to contend with. His advice, “…don’t stress. Embrace and take pleasure in the process. Your kids are only young once so make the most of the opportunity to create a special realm for them.” And that he did. Inspired by his children, Bornstein designed a home for his family in Santa Monica, playfully known as The Tree House. Designed to accommodate his children as they grew up, the multi-tiered structure connects to a rear house that is, as the name suggests, built around a tree. The mature Chinese elm tree can be experienced from every level of the house: “the trunk rising from the Entry Courtyard; the ascending branch structure as one climbs through the Stairwell; the canopy of branches over the Studio Balcony; the uppermost leaves dappling sunlight into the Loft.” Bornstein wanted to engage his daughters’ minds and senses by using real materials throughout, and creating outdoor spaces on each level so that they could enjoy “inside-outside” living. The role of the modern dad is an active participant in the ever shifting needs of the home, and like many fathers, Bornstein is up to the challenge of meeting not only his personal tastes and needs, but the constantly evolving tastes and needs of his “favorite clients – kids”. He suggests getting the kids involved in the process saying, “I’m a firm believer in project based learning and what better way for a child to learn than to participate in the design of their own space?” He goes on to say, “Let the creative process unfold. When all is said and done, even if the room ends up bearing little resemblance to your plan…there is bound to be some vibe that transfers to the end result, and you’ll have had that bonding experience with your child!”

“Dads bring a unique perspective focused more on the way products are engineered” , photo by Catherine Ledner