Pirates, princesses and the rainforest- the fashion for individual designs and fantasy worlds for children continues apace. While the basic colours remain white and grey, we are also seeing a return of more vibrant tones in children’s rooms.

The coming season will bring powerful blues, greens, pinks and reds – a trend very much in evidence at the imm cologne interiors show in January. Other prevailing trends with exhibitors included natural materials and multifunctional furniture with added value.

Sales of children’s furniture are on the up, but the chief beneficiaries are foreign manufacturers.

Beds, desks, closets – sales of children’s furniture in Germany topped €3.6 billion in 2013. Yet only a third of this was produced by home manufacturers. Noticeable, too, is a growing price divide. On the one hand, markets of the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) are being flooded with discount furniture, mainly from Poland, China and the Czech Republic. On the other, a new band of elite consumers with high demands has entered the market. In Germany, first-time mothers are now likely to be over 30, dispose of more income than earlier generations and dote upon their offspring. In other words, there’s a lot of money being invested in these little princes and princesses.

So what can kids’ furniture manufacturers from the DACH region do to carve out a slice of this market? The advice of Ursula Geismann, spokesperson of the Association of the German Furniture Industry, is to develop stylish and well-designed products: “For example, furniture that ‘grows’ with the child – a height-adjustable clothes rail in a closet, for instance, or the barred sides of a cot that will later serve as a climbing frame.” Geismann also urges manufacturers to invest in marketing: “Advertising for high-quality products is money well spent, because parents who are willing to pay more for children’s furniture are certainly prepared to buy German-made products.”

One company that has successfully bucked the trend for a number of years now is the pioneering Austrian manufacturer of natural wood furniture Team 7. With an emphasis on quality and durability in the high-end segment – and a comparatively high price tag – it sells 84 percent of its products abroad, exporting to Germany, Switzerland, the Benelux countries and Russia as well as an increasing number of non-European markets. “Particularly in the newer of our export markets, such as China and Korea, where Team 7 is still not so well known, there’s a big demand for ‘healthy’ children’s furniture,” explains managing director Georg Emprechtinger. “There’s a big market beyond Europe for superbly finished products made of materials that are tested and safe. That’s why our natural wood furniture is selling very well there.” Therefore his message to other suppliers from the DACH region is to trust in quality: “There’s no point trying to match the competition from China and Eastern Europe on price.”

By Eva Baumgardinger