Frou Frou Sweatshop? Designer Puts His Little Kids To Work Making $3,500 Cabinets

It’s cute! And legal!

Dutch designer Lucas Maassen has a furniture factory in Eindhoven that sounds like something out of an Upton Sinclair novel. The factory is run primarily by his three sons Thijme, Julian, and Maris. Respectively, they’re 9, 7, and 7. But wait: It’s legal!

Dutch child labor laws let the boys work up to 3 hours a week. So, each Tuesday, instead of watching TV or playing with their toys like all those lazy kids, they schlep into Maassen & Sons, and get to work painting dad’s furniture (assorted wooden chairs and cabinets and mirrors) in cheery colors for 1 Euro a pop.

It might sound like a gimmick—a devilishly cute way to sell a few chairs in a crap economy—except that for the Maassen family, the project has served a deeper purpose: It has helped the boys develop an enviable work ethic. "They take the work very seriously," Maassen tells Co.Design. They even signed employee contracts, which stipulate things like when the work day starts (3 p.m.), how long of a break they’re allowed (15 minutes), and how many vacation days they’re entitled to (12, depending on how long they’ve been employed).

"They love doing it," Maassen says. "They think it’s great to work in the family business." Certainly, they don’t mind the extra cash. Maassen forbids them from spending more than 6 minutes on each piece, which means that they can breeze through 30 units and earn 30 Euros a week. Big money! (Maybe that explains why, as Maassen says, "all their friends want to join the company as well.") The downside, though, is that the quality of the work suffers some. Each of the boys might have the income of someone twice his age, but his paint jobs look every bit like the stuff of a 7-year-old, and charmingly so.

Prices range from $750 for a chair to $ 3,500 for a large cabinet. Email for purchasing and shipping info.

[Images courtesy of Lucas Maassen]

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  • Pauline

    I love this post ~ my children are also paid a small wage to undertake work in my business. I like to consider them as apprentices. They are aged 13 and 14 years but started very young like these 3 children. I am very conscious to involve them in developing skills which will assist in their future career choices. I'm not sure I could sell these furniture pieces these youngsters have produced ~ but I guess somebody wants them!? 

  • Numardu

    I love that they are learning how jobs work, discipline, responsibility and  earning money, but the furniture, from what one can see in this article, is rubbish, and I certainly would never spend all that money in any of those pieces.

  • Haymcdee

    Haha! I'm glad to know these little tykes who only work 3 hours a week are entitled to more vacation days than most Americans. 
    Very cute kids though - and I think their work is great! :)