Little Folks Furniture is a small, independent brand which lives and breathes furniture. On the surface, it seems that the luxury children’s room creators are producing and selling lovely looking beds and furniture for children, but dig a little deeper, and you will discover a world of specialist knowledge and expertise, and that the deep roots of the company are in timber, and not just any timber, but in the eco-conscious selection of quality woods from natural sources of forests across the world.
It is exactly this passion and knowledge of how to source, design and work with quality woods that drives the brand. This integrity surrounding high quality, design and safety is at the heart of every decision they make, and is what truly sets them apart from the curators and the larger brands that aren’t able to get as close to their production.
Let us introduce Chris Lusty, Owner, MD, Creative Director and Product Designer at Little Folks Furniture.
After hours of chatting, it’s clear to discover that Chris knows everything and anything there is to know about working with timber, and creating carefully designed products, using sustainably sourced woods in order to produce stylish, high quality children’s furniture with longevity.
After an initial career in the medical industry, it’s no coincidence that Chris has returned to furniture design and manufacture. With a family history steeped in engineering and design, Chris’ driving force has been via influences and exposure to the industry from a young age…
We decided to do a little Q& A with Chris, to see if we could absorb some of his keen eye for children’s furniture expertise for ourselves.
How long have you worked in the furniture design world?
"I was doing holiday work in a furniture factory as a teenager, and started designing actual product then. I learnt on the job as it were and with the huge benefit of being exposed to manufacturing techniques, in what was a fairly sophisticated factory. It was also making nursery furniture (cots etc) so I quickly learnt the importance of safety standards and how you have to design and make things in a certain way. Many see this as restrictive – but honestly if you design and make things properly you can still produce wonderful product.
So I’ve been designing furniture for over 35 years – do the maths!
I used to draw everything by hand – including the technical drawings for the factories. But CAD (computer aided design) has transformed the process – although I still start the process with copious pencil sketches that are sometimes quite hard to decipher."
What made you want to start up Little Folks Furniture?
"There is a huge offer of children’s furniture as a result of how easy it is set up online – but mostly cheap pine bunks and beds made out of chipboard and foil finishes. On the whole this product doesn’t perform very well and is not very strong – and starting with it being not at all easy to assemble. Since we have been working with and developing specialist factories I wanted to utilise their time honed skills to make good quality, good value children’s furniture and that uses all the experience and expertise our team has. And it is a team effort – from the technologist through to the stylist that enables us to reflect today’s trends. So in summary, the Little Folks Furniture brand was borne of a desire to fill the gap of high quality furniture with years of longevity, produced by years of expertise in specialist factories."
What inspires you most?
"It’s difficult to give a simple answer. It starts with identifying the need – or if you like finding a better way of creating solutions that will be useful as well as beautiful. But for me it is a very holistic process. I have always been slightly obsessed with timber – which if treated properly and with respect - is incredibly diverse, is natural and can perform incredibly well too. So we try and manufacture where timber is grown and supply is sustainable, and we select woods that will enhance the design and which in the end, means mainly hard woods. I still get a buzz out of seeing the planks being kiln dried, of great heavyweight machines making proper joints. So much furniture nowadays is made using flimsy dowel joints and cams and dowels and does not respect good, raw materials."
What is your favourite Little Folks Furniture product?.
"I’ve got to say our Fargo High sleepers. The bed is perfectly understated despite its height and size – and underneath any number of combinations of furniture so that this is a truly versatile range. And all in deep, sophisticated paint colours that are achieved when you paint on hardwoods. Historically I’d say the Playbead Cot which has become a real classic design over the years. We launched the wooden cube highchair at the same time – which has also been vastly reproduced."
What's your favourite part of the furniture design, manufacture and retailing process?
"It’s a holistic process for us. I don’t necessarily separate design and manufacture so much as they are inter-dependent and good design should reflect good manufacturing processes. This belief is reflected in the fact that we have a small, tight team of expert knowledge and design, which enables us to get into and manage the detail of our product specifications."
What problems do you solve for your consumers?
"Increasingly the bedroom is becoming the child’s living room. They do more things in it and spend more time there. So mostly our product is about getting as much usefulness out of what is often a limited space – and still making that space comfortable and inspirational for the inhabitant!"
What are your top tips for parents looking for beds for their little ones?
"Always start with the bed and mattress. Children spend a lot of time sleeping and need a good bed and mattress. Invest in a good bed that is strong, safe and durable; a good bed will last and so is good value for money over the years. Also think about the mattress as children move more in their sleep than adults and they are changing shape as they grow. So get a good quality, responsive mattress – such as a spring interior.
Whatever type of bed you go for make sure it is strong and rigid as children will certainly put it through its paces. You just don’t want a bed breaking or collapsing with a child in it.
I’d also look at assembly. Lots of screws and bolts means it probably isn’t designed very well and chances are the assembly is so complicated mistakes will be made – which might lead to the product inadvertently failing."
What can we expect to see from Little Folks Furniture in the next three years?
"We have been careful not to develop too many ranges for ranges sake. Rather we have looked at each range to answer a specific set of challenges and design the best possible product in that category. We’re looking at a whole “growing bed” system that will evolve over a child’s life, and as always, clever storage solutions."
Where can we see a Little Folks Furniture product in the flesh?
"We work with a selected few retailers up and down the country. Specialist furniture retailers such as Barker and Stonehouse and And So To Bed."
Describe the Little Folks Furniture brand in three words.
"Exceptional Children’s Furniture"
Do you have any 'claim to fame'?
"Not really. But I have met some really fascinating people all around the world, particularly given the countries I have worked in."
Lastly, a little bit of fun. -
Traditional or Modern?
Top bunk or bottom bunk?
"Top – it’s a different perspective"
Mid sleeper bed or High Sleeper?
"High sleeper – only because I’d like to think I’d grown up a little."
Dinosaurs or Dogs?
Tea or Coffee?
"Depends on which country I’m in!"
Read more about Chris Lusty here, or if you’d like to chat about all things children’s furniture related, give the office a call on 01985 300588; you never know, you may even be able to speak to Chris directly, himself!