Domestic Diversions

Queer eye for the little guy

The New York Times shows us how times have changed for our kids and their rooms.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. writes (excerpt):
Back in the dark ages of, say, the 1980’s, children considered their lives charmed if they had a stereo and a few posters on their walls. But with the two-income affluence of the 90’s, and the indulgent attitudes of parents who have children later in life, kids have greater expectations.

Bombarded with Pottery Barn’s PB teen catalogs and television shows like “Trading Spaces,” “MTV Cribs” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” children have their fingers crossed, hoping that when Santa lands, he will have found room on his sleigh for canopy beds, oversize throw pillows, retro lighting fixtures and the Urban Outfitters’ dish chair this season’s Tickle Me Elmo doll for the ‘tween set and maybe even a plasma television.

Pottery Barn Kids, which started six years ago, now has 78 stores, marketed to parents. But last April, the company started a spinoff, PB teen, which, like Cargokids and Bombay Kids, bypasses parents and appeals directly to children. PB teen’s second catalog, due in June, will be double the size of its first.

“Once they turn 10 or 11 they don’t really want to be thought of as kids,” said Patrick Wynhoff, a senior vice president of PB teen. “In Pottery Barn Kids, it’s more the parents and grandparents we’re trying to appeal to.” With PB teen, he said, “it’s the teen for the most part driving the decision. It has to excite the teen. The parent just has to find it acceptable.”

Mr. Wynhoff, of course, sees this as a good thing. “Maybe if they have a little pride in their room,” he said, “they’ll keep it a little cleaner than usual.”

While parents may complain that their children are the unwitting (or witting) pawns in a marketing campaign, they bear more than a little responsibility for the trend, if only because they take their offsprings’ taste far more seriously than their own parents did.

“Children are influencing parents more in their decisions,” said Jane Kitchen, the editor of Kids Today, a trade publication for the furniture industry. Ms. Kitchen said that while sales of all furniture rose 11 percent between 1998 and 2002, sales in the “youth bedroom” category, spanning ages 2 to 18, soared 32 percent in the same period.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.