They say parenthood changes you. It most certainly means you have to buy a lot of stuff--just leaving the hospital with the new bundle of joy requires having already purchased a car seat. Then there’s the bouncer for the living room, the highchair for eating meals, and so on and so forth.
In 1972 a Norwegian company called Stokke rightly ascertained that parents could use a more streamlined system for plopping down their kids. They released the Tripp Trapp, an adjustable highchair seating system designed to grow up with kids, accommodating them from six months old to seven or so years old. Now, Stokke has tapped Oslo-based design group Permafrost with expanding the chairs utility yet again. It's called Stokke Steps, and it's an all-in-one bouncer seat and high chair.
Permafrost (who created these sweet wooden kid’s toys) added a baby bouncer to the Stokke chair. Whereas the original chair was meant for tots who had reached six months of age, the new model can seat even a newborn baby who can't yet hold up its own head. To make a seat that could gently cradle a newborn, the Permafrost designers had to rethink the physics of the bouncer.
A standard bouncer has a spring in the front, near the baby's feet. That metal coil creates the swinging effect that can soothe a fussy kid, but because of its position, the chair moves in one direction. Permafrost dispersed the movement by adding a set of double-hinged legs. "Instead of just hopping up and down there is also a horizontal movement in the bouncer, creating a swing that mimics the cradling movement of a parents arms," says designer Tore Vinje Brustad.
They also tinkered with the technology that allows each piece to easily attach and then unfasten to the primary structure. “There are several different components that are adjustable and removable, and making the handling of these functions easy and intuitive… has been an exercise in simplifying and clarifying the design,” Vinje Brustad tells Co.Design. The modularity of Stokke Steps revolves around a series of knobs that slide and then lock into place. Those circular mechanisms are meant to form a design language that communicates hotspots for operating the chair, while still looking stylishly unobtrusive.
Because the team was committed to building the chair primarily in wood (“in order to differentiate ourselves from the usual highchairs that look more like hospital equipment,” says Vinje Brustad), they had to go through many iterations to ensure that the beech wood and thermoplastic materials could meet strength and safety requirements.
“In the end, the quality of the final product is often closely related to the number of iterations you make in the refinement phase,” Vinje Brustad says. “Whenever we think we’re done we force ourselves to make one more prototype, and usually there is room for one little adjustment and improvement.”
As for user testing? Vinje Brustad says the team did some gonzo research: “Three out of four Permafrost partners have had babies during the time that Stokke Steps has been developed, and they have all been put to work immediately.”
The entire Stokke Steps bundle costs $450. Individual parts can be bought separately.