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Youth goes modern

Modern/contemporary looks, which took center stage a few years ago on the furniture and home accents front, are making steady inroads in the juvenile/youth segment.

As with many trends, the movement started first in bedding and textiles but now has made its way to everything from gear, like high chairs and strollers, to apparel, wall d??cor, lighting and, of course, furniture for nurseries and kids' rooms.

Parents who subscribe to this design aesthetic are drawn to the clean lines and simplicity of form and want to spread those looks throughout the house, including their children's rooms.

There are several indications that modern is becoming more mainstream instead of just a passing fad. The two major juvenile trade shows, ABC Kids Expo and the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Assn. show, have initiated Modern Child areas on their exhibit floors as a way to highlight vendors that consistently debut original, creative and authentic product designs. They define that as furniture that features an innovative use of materials, addresses and solves challenges, is functional and is of contemporary design.

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair, North America's showcase for contemporary design, has more than 20 vendors devoted to juvenile/youth products and the number keeps growing.

In furniture, modern designs often are achieved either with very dark or light finishes rather than medium browns like those found on more traditional looks. The hardware tends to be brushed nickel, silver or some variation, and the overall style is clean and uncluttered.

Canyon Furniture and Opus Designs recently debuted contemporary collections that offer the choice of light or dark finishes. Canyon's group includes a sleigh bed, desk and hutch, dresser, mirror and nightstand offered in a merlot and light brown finish.

Opus's light finish is called Counterpoint, and the dark is Aura. Its collections include three beds ?? slat, bunk and a leather headboard model ?? two nightstands, desk, dresser and mirror and a drum-shaped armoire.

Young America's GenAmerica collection gives a nod to contemporary with the choice of a darker, merlot finish or a clear classic cherry finish. Brushed nickel hardware follows the modern trend as do woven baskets in the storage units in this nearly 20-piece collection.

Z Generation from Zocalo is known for its modern looks, including its tufted leather collection, Ariel, which now is available in pink, white and black. Recently, the company added a four-post twin bed to its popular Sterling Park collection, which features optional under-bed storage on casters.

Furniture retailers, especially those looking to capture the eyes of tween shoppers, are turning to modern designs to appeal to this demographic.

Jami Myers, buyer for upholstery and youth furniture for Breuners Arizona in Scottsdale, and Paul Kantor, co-owner of The Bedroom Source, Lindenhurst, N.Y., both were on the lookout for contemporary looks in High Point last month.

Another trend that goes hand-in-hand with modern is the growing need to make products iPod or MP3 compatible. Changes in technology often dictate the necessity for changes in furniture design, and companies like Lea Ind. and Skyline Furniture have tapped into this.

Lea Inds.' Hangtime and Freetime are dark and white versions of the same group that imbue many modern ideas, including iPod docking stations on the beds. The beds also include places for speakers, and the door panels feature interchangeable speaker grills or wood fronts. Tier units enable myriad configurations for storage and entertainment, providing lots of functionality, another hallmark of modern furniture.

Skyline's custom-upholstered headboards, which come in sizes from twin to California king, also feature iPod hook-ups and speakers, which are sure to be a hit with tweens and teens.

The simplicity and variety of modern designs means consumers now have a multitude of choices when it comes to turning youth bedrooms ?? from infant to teen ?? into the contemporary haven they're after.

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