When Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik couldn’t find a chair for his young son, Thor, that fit both at the table and the child, he decided to design one himself. Thor was growing fast—he had already outgrown his highchair—so Opsvik wanted to design a chair that would evolve and grow with him. The result? The Tripp Trapp chair, which has since become a favorite of design-loving parents.
The chair’s lighthearted, singsong name belies its design significance. Released in 1972, the chair has been manufactured continuously by Norwegian company Stokke for the past 50 years, with over 12 million chairs sold worldwide. Featured in a panoply of colors, its simple yet ingenious concept has landed it in design history books and museum exhibitions, and in homes around the globe. The Tripp Trapp changed the aesthetic for children’s furniture in the 1970s, giving children an ergonomic and attractive seat at the family table.
“I’m a big fan of the Tripp Trapp. We have two and my 11-year-old still uses his,” design critic Alexandra Lange said of the chair’s historical significance. “It’s one of those rare products that actually lives up to its billing.” Marketed as “The Chair That Grows With the Child,” the Tripp Trapp is two V-shaped wooden pieces joined by a pair of platforms, one that serves as a seat and the other a footrest. The flat pieces can be easily raised and lowered, making the chair infinitely adjustable and functional for both children and adults.
“The Tripp Trapp is timeless in a few different ways,” says Lora Appleton, founder of kinder MODERN, the world’s only gallery specializing in design for children. “Aesthetically, it’s still current, it looks very fresh. And functionally, it works with the developmental growth of a child. As they come into their own body, they have more physical autonomy, and the chair supports that.”
The idea of giving children their own kid-sized seat at the table and bringing them physically closer to the heart of the family was not new for Scandinavian designers like Opsvik, but Americans found the notion was revolutionary. “A child doesn’t live in one area of the house or off in a corner, but it wasn’t always acceptable to acknowledge this,” says Appleton. The Tripp Trapp pushed up against the adage that children were to be seen and not heard, instead elevating children to the center of the home and the family.
The chair also went against the grain fabrication-wise. As designers in the 1960s and ’70s were embracing new technologies like injection-molded plastics, fiberglass, and molded plywood (think the Eames Chairs and the Panton Chair), Opsvik stuck to the basics. “It was in stark contrast to a lot of the more futuristic-looking pieces coming out of France and the U.S.,” says Appleton. “But I believe that had a lot to do with its country of origin and the concern in Scandinavia for healthy materials like wood. There was an overall consciousness at the time for the health of the family being front and center.”
Ultimately, what’s allowed the Tripp Trapp to endure five decades on is its embrace of the steady march of time. The chair is adaptable, and its hearty wood construction has made it a prized second-hand possession. “Both before and after the Tripp Trapp, there were lots of designs for children’s furniture that didn’t adjust. You could use it for a year, then had to upgrade, which just doesn’t make sense,” explains Lange. “Kids are always growing, and the Tripp Trapp acknowledges that, while also giving them independence.”
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