Apr 12, 2014

Kids, Dogs & Design

According to Jerry Seinfeld, "a two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it." Indeed, we could not agree more. Add a dog, and the chaos will multiply exponentially.

Since the very dawn of the Olive Green Window, people have asked us the critical question: how does one manage to mix kids, dogs and design? Now after some years of trial and error, we would like to take the opportunity to show you a collection of photos of every day situations (divided in five categories) in which the miniature members of our pack interact with design. Afterwards, everyone can draw their own conclusions regarding this interesting topic.

1. Marks and scratches
In vintage items, marks and scratches are one clear indicator separating vintage from new. Rather than seeing those as unequivocally negative, we'd like to regard such imperfections as inevitable makings of time, as signs of years passed. That being said we do not mean that we would not prefer a vintage piece in good over poor condition, or would not like to take good care of these items. But being fond of vintage, one needs to have a sufficient tolerance for imperfections.

Serious paint work on the 82B table top by Alvar Aalto

Along the same lines, with kids and dogs one needs to have sufficient tolerance for newly appearing marks and scratches, both permanent and temporary by nature. Most of our daily meals (and all of Sofi's painting and drawing) are enjoyed around the 82B table by Alvar Aalto. Simply said, we love the fact that its laminate top has proven to be practically indestructible!

Sometimes, especially when we are entertaining guests, we use the Tulip table by Eero Saarinen. The Tulip was found from an internet auction and therefore we did not have the possibility to evaluate its condition in a live setting. Once it arrived, it was immediately clear that it had belonged to someone with kids - the table top around the edges is covered with little (spoon?) marks. Does it matter? Were we disappointed? No, not really. It is still a stunningly beautiful table - with a story to tell for the diners.

Spoon marked Tulip

Hiding pens, pencils, markers and all other miscellaneous drawing / writing instruments is an active and continuous process. This preventive activity is something that one quite quickly develops first a skill, then an obsession. We all know it too well - the first day you let go and tune down the 24/7 monitoring, things start to happen in a blink of an eye.

Pencil marks on a brick wall

Of course, sometimes the most interesting things seem to happen on the other side of the door. In those occasions, if you are small and can not reach a door knob, alternative approaches might be tried to break the barrier.

Nail marks on the door

2. Invasion of toys, trash and other junk
We rarely buy new toys, and most pieces in Sofi's collection are recycled treasures or gifts from friends and family. This does not mean her collection would be somehow limited. On the contrary, the pieces are numerous enough to populate the apartment quite densely. We try to keep most of them in Sofi's room, but she has very cleverly and conveniently managed to maintain a toy station in the living room around the Cadovius bookshelf. And as most nights she fails to have sufficient interest in organising them in a proper manner, the Lego blocks remain on the floor just waiting to be stepped on.

Endless battle against the invasion of toys

Urho can be also very creative with his interests, especially when spending time at home alone. The sight below is not uncommon, if something as interesting as for example household cardboard is left by the door waiting to be carried out. Urho takes the corrective feedback like a dachshund - with a miserable, apologising face but not really understanding how something so entertaining and fun could just not be common practise!

It used to be my playground

3. Missing essentials
Most vintage furniture collectors know that one of the most important factors determining the value of a given item is the condition. For us, the concept of condition includes for example materials, upholstery, finishing, original labels - basically everything tangible there is to be considered in a given object. Considering the exploring nature of kids, the sustainability of condition should never been taken for granted.

Something wrong?

As an example, there is a short story to be shared. A while back Pekka witnessed a curious moment in the dining room. On one of her explorations, Sofi had been crawling underneath the Cherner chairs around the Saarinen table. In a very systematic manner she had made her way from one chair to the next one and ripped off the original Plycraft labels attached underneath the seats. All Pekka could do was to bite his lip, accept defeat, and collect and store the random pieces those precious labels in a safe place. 

Original Plycraft label - ripped off

Where it was

4. Knocked down in action
On a frequent basis and as no surprise to anyone, things get knocked down. For example, the day it arrived the Toio floor lamp by Achille Castiglioni got knocked down resulting in a broken bulb. Luckily Sofi, the person responsible for the knock down did not get crushed underneath. Day two the Toio moved in Pekka's office.

And as the photo below indicates, the Toio is only one of many knocked down items. 

AJ (on the) Floor lamp

5. Explorations
During the last 1.5 years, we have focused all our energy and funds on the (endlessly) ongoing renovation project. Basically, this also means that we have had to postpone some of the ongoing restoration projects, one of them being the first generation Eames Lounge chair in the upstairs living room. The chair is in desperate need of new leather upholstery as the original has extensive cracks. The ripped leather has not, however, stopped us from using the chair. Quite contrary - the chair is in use every single day, as it has no structural problems. 

But as always, there is a catch. The ripped leather creates an easy access point to see what hides inside. And for one of us, this seems to be an open invitation to explore the inner parts of the chair. And even more miraculously, some filling from the arm pad has been removed and spread on the living room floor. Any guesses?

Entry point into the first generation Eames Lounge chair

Despite of being a very civilized representative of his breed, Urho also has his primitive moments. Often times, when given a new bone, he treats it like his ancestors when they found food and were not instantly hungry. The excess food is to be hidden well to save it for later consumption. In these occasions, Urho will first sneak around the rooms as long as he finds a suitable hiding place for his treasure.

A dog with a bloody snout

Then, he will place the bone in its hide and try to cover it. Unfortunately, unlike dirt outside in the nature, a fabric or carpet is not "transferable" in the same way than dirt is. As poor Urho does not understand this, sometimes his persistent but unsuccessful attempts leave a visible evidence on site. Fortunately, we had just covered the Toot Sofa by Piero Lissoni with a white sheet, when we came across the sight below. And fortunately, just like the sheet on top, the sofa covers are removable and washable.

A well hidden bone

So, how to conclude or thoughts around kids, dogs and design? Based on the selected examples above, and also reflecting to some key principles of functionalism, we would like to summarise as follows:
  1. Remember, it is just furniture. Yes, it might be vintage. Yes, it might be design. But it is still just furniture. Marks and scratches are marks and scratches at the time of purchase. Afterwards,  it is magically transformed to patina. And even in the case of complete disaster, nothing is irreplaceable. The world is full of junk. 
  2. If a piece is too precious, leave it. If something is too valuable, too fragile or too special, you already know NOT to get it. However, if you still can't resist, consider how it would look for example in your office. Alternatively, you might want to postpone your purchase for another 10 years. 
  3. Be smart when choosing materials. Match the material with the intended purpose. Choose durable materials which are easy to clean and maintain. In other words, the key driver has to be the intended function. Anything completely impractical is just waste of time and money. And investing in quality material pays off. Even with significant wear and tear, a quality material grows old with grace.  
  4. Get yourself the right cleaning tools and be prepared to use them often. Nowadays, almost anything can be cleaned. You just need to find the right detergent and choose the right approach. And if we are talking about walls, a new coat of paint won't take too much time. 
  5. Provide sufficient distractions. As long as kids and dogs are busy doing other things, they are not busy damaging your vintage furniture or drawing on the walls. Provide them distractions. Hang a painting board in their room. Build a huge sandbox on the backyard. Include them in your projects. Anything goes. Just keep them busy. 
  6. Enjoy your home. If you like where you live in, not everything needs to be perfect. The eye is a wondrous thing. It gets used to small imperfections really quickly. Every scratch adds to the character of your piece. 
  7. Relax. Don't take it too seriously. With kids and dogs, things happen. Again, it is just furniture. Again, the world is full of junk. 
In the end, it is a home, not a museum. The most important thing is to enjoy the shared moments. Afterwards, the good ones make you smile, but the disastrous ones at the time make the most memorable and entertaining stories!


  1. Mahtava kirjoitus. Hyvä asenne. Ihanat ja nerokkaat Sofi ja Urho. :)

  2. Ha haa- toi ilme on just niin "en se mää ollut".
    t.nimim. kissan-kynnet-ON-terävät

    1. Noista "en se minä ollut" ilmeistäkin saisi muuten joskus tosi hyvän sarjan! Urho on yllätetty sen verran moneen kertaan :-)

    2. Miten voikaan koiralla olla niin ilmeikäs kuono? Mainio tapaus.

      Ja Sofi, aikamoinen taiteilija. Liian pieni paperi!

    3. Totta! Pitäisi olla enemmän tilaa taiteilla :-)

  3. All true, well said!