I love designing products for children. It’s so satisfying to make something that meets a need and you know is going to help them in some way. My first-ever design – the front-facing bookcase – was inspired by witnessing my four-year-old daughter’s frustration trying to find a book on a traditional bookcase. Watching Adele I realised how illogical the old-style bookcase was and I was determined to make one that actually made sense to kids.
Adele was also the inspiration for my next product when I saw the difficulties of her sleeping on the top bunk. Her bedtime drink was balanced precariously on the edge of the bed, and when she’d finished reading her book there was nowhere to put it so she had to chuck it onto the floor. There was nothing on the market to address the problem – so I designed the Bunk Bed Buddy.
I’m not interested in designing something just for the sake of it, or because it’s trendy, or to make a different version of something that already exists. For me, it’s about designing something completely new that’s practical and purposeful. I want my products to make sense to kids and help them connect with their books, inspiring their love of reading and learning. Everything I make is designed to be fun and enjoyable for children, to draw them in and foster their sense of independence.
Of course, as a parent I also understand the need for children’s storage that works for grown-ups too. You know how kids take all their books out of the storage box to get to their favourite one at the bottom? With my portable book box they don’t have to do that because the books are on display and can easily be found. And that means parents don’t have to constantly tidy up afterwards!
I also make sure all my designs are stripped-back to keep them looking stylish so they blend easily into a home. It’s about creating a timeless classic that can be passed down through the generations. I’m not one for all bells and whistles. The portable box comes with a clock and you can add the alphabet to your bookcase – these helps kids with their learning but don’t distract from the books like cartoons and stickers would. I’m not interested in gimmicks. To me, the books always have to be the star of the show.
Tidy Books has been going for 12 years now and I still haven’t run out of ideas. I tell people I’m never working but I’m always working. Wherever I am – at home, in the park or in a cafe – I’m always watching and observing, thinking about what needs to be made next. But it’s never about the product itself, it’s always about the children. Whatever I design, it has to make sense to kids.