The Lai kids used to do their homework at the dining table, which was placed in the balcony of their condominium apartment.
That worked well when they just had paper-based assignments to complete. But when the circuit breaker and home-based learning were announced, their mum, Ms Vivien Teo, 37, decided her primary schoolers needed more space for online learning.
Their play area under a loft bed made way for an additional desk, so Caden, nine, and Gerlene, seven, can study there at the same time.
Eldest child Valene, 11, also got her own room since she will be entering her teenage years soon. The family lives in a 144 sq m, four-bedroom apartment.
“When you’re working, you don’t have time to think about what you need to do around the home,” says Ms Teo, who founded children’s furniture company Kids Haven eight years ago.
It was only during the circuit breaker that she spent more time at home and took stock of her kids’ emergent needs – like how they needed a more conducive environment to study.
She reckons other parents thought likewise. Even though she had to close her showroom, customers snapped up ergonomic study desks online, so much so that all shipments sold out even before arrival.
Teepees, a lifestyle accessory to hunker down in, also proved popular, with many opting for the more premium range costing about $180.
Ms Teo’s family also jumped on the trend, holding a “camp out” party on their large balcony, complete with a barbecue pit and outdoor movie screen.
According to five kids’ furniture retailers interviewed by The Sunday Times, circuit-breaker buys tended to be functional, like study desks, storage containers and bedding with fun designs; or activity-based, such as play tents and toys, as families sought to keep their little ones entertained at home.
Furniture giant Ikea reported a slight increase in sales of kids’ furniture and accessories since the circuit breaker. Its top-selling items in this category included storage boxes and lids, whiteboard pens, drawing paper rolls and easels.
Where to buy furniture for kids
The Swedish retailer is not just a store, but also a family destination. While pandemic safety measures have kept its popular Smaland indoor playground closed, it is still the go-to place for everything from baby chairs to soft toys to beds at affordable prices. A Slakt bed frame (80cm x 200cm) with a slatted base, for instance, costs $189. Its new collection will be out in the next few months.
Founded by a mum 12 years ago, Piccolo House sells an in-house range of beds that are made in Malaysia and painted with non-toxic paint.
It also carries furniture and lifestyle accessories from various international brands. Its White House Bed (below), which was popular during the circuit breaker, costs $569.
This eight-year-old store focuses on items for kids and teenagers, with beds made in countries such as China, Turkey and the United States.
A basic modular bed frame goes for about $700, while higher-end models can cost about $5,000.
Besides imported furniture, this retailer carries eye-catching bedding, toys and other lifestyle accessories such as play tents.
Founded by a mother of three five years ago, it also sells an in-house range of Deer rugs. A Combiflex white single modular bed from Dutch brand Bopita costs $859.
This five-year-old store offers Danish furniture for babies and children, which come with a five-year warranty.
Prices for its popular Limited Edition Kids Bunk Bed start at $1,990 under a current promotion. Kuhl Home is a sister company to Danish Design Co, a designer furniture retailer.
“Parents have turned to us to look for inspiration and ideas to create a better home environment for their little ones,” says its spokesman.
As furniture companies transformed to fully online operations almost overnight, e-sales picked up speed.
For instance, Piccolo House saw its online sales surge by 60 per cent during the circuit breaker, says owner Stacey Png.
Best-selling items included its unicorn-print bedding range, study desks, bookshelves and bookcases, storage bins and a house-shaped bed that was easy to self-assemble.
Some companies also connected with customers through a variety of services beyond online stores. Kuhl Home, for instance, offered virtual showroom tours of its kids’ furniture from Denmark and a WhatsApp concierge service, says its marketing manager, Ms Leo Shu May.
Over the last few weeks, business has further picked up as showrooms reopen.
But Deer Industries’ founder Joyce Coenraads observes that families come with a shopping list in hand. There are few browsers.
“It does feel like customers visiting our retail showroom are more targeted than before. There is less ‘fun shopping’,” she notes.
As furniture tends to be a big-ticket item, customers want to be able to see and touch products in person, says Ms Teo from Kids Haven. She is also seeing an increase in demand for modular beds, which can be reconfigured for a child’s changing needs, as renovations resume in phase two.
Families who have already created child-friendly environments at home are reaping the benefits of the new nesting lifestyle, like Ms Fynn Sor, 37, a former secondary school teacher behind the popular activity blog, Happy Tot Shelf.
Her family moved into their five-room flat in Sengkang in February after spending three years in California for her husband’s work as an engineering manager.
The couple planned their space around their children’s growing needs by minimising built-in works and choosing smaller-scale furniture, which gives them the flexibility to change things around.
Her two older children share a bedroom that allows them to climb the walls – literally.
Zachary, seven, and Riley, five, love scaling their rock wall and using the trapeze bar or hammock swing, which can be attached to a custom-made ceiling hook.
Ms Sor bought the rock wall grips, trapeze bar and swing from Amazon for about $170. Her interior design firm installed the wooden panel and grips, and fabricated the hook, for just over $2,200.
The couple taught their older kids to use the equipment safely and make sensible decisions.
“I believe it’s necessary that children have the chance to take risks and, in turn, discover their bodies’ capabilities and limitations. They develop confidence and learn to overcome fear. These are all essential life skills,” says Ms Sor, who just launched a book titled The Happy Learning Book For Siblings: 50 Awesome Activities For Siblings To Learn And Play Together At Home.
Her children, including one-year-old Abby, also have a “creativity room” where they have access to supplies to learn and create on their own.
Since phase two, her family has been able to spend more time outdoors, but the older kids still use the swing and rock wall when they are at home, she says.
“Children need to move and these movement corners around my home have been so helpful in giving my children the outlets to expend their energy.”