“When I had my daughter I couldn’t find the right furniture for her, so I opted for customised furniture, designed by myself with emphasis on safety. The furniture I saw in the market had sharp edges and low quality wood and varnish which put me off,” says Marium Talha Rahman.
Mariam graduated as valedictorian from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) in 2011 in communication design and has worked as a graphic designer in different firms. But after her daughter’s birth she ventured into furniture making for children a year ago, though still designs logos and invitations for Sonya Batla and Noor Jehan Bilgrami. For her, graphic designing and furniture designing are similar because both involve creativity.
Once she had the furniture made for her child, she started thinking about making it for other children as well, as very few shops catered to children’s needs. With her graphic designing background and loads of creativity, her furniture clicked. “I did a lot of research on the do’s and don’ts that were required. All the designs are my own creation, though I have been inspired by Ikea and Pottery Barn Kids.”
Her furniture is a little more expensive than what is available in the market, because she uses good quality wood. But the quality, she emphasises, is such that it will last for years. And as children outgrow everything, she designs furniture in such a way that it can be converted into something else easily; for example a changing table with chest of drawers can become just a chest of drawers by removing the changing table when the child outgrows it. Similarly, a cot can be converted into a bed as the baby grows older. So there is value for money in this way, she adds.
Having immersed herself in furniture making, Marium doesn’t miss her previous work. “I am enjoying myself more and more, and I think this is my niche. Designing playrooms and nurseries, making magical areas that you dreamed of when you were young is quite invigorating. Today, there is more awareness about these things, and the market is just right as people can afford more now, and parents are more indulgent. I plan to expand my work and open a shop that caters exclusively to children’s furniture. But as my daughter is just a year old, I work from home and take orders.”
Marium Talha Rahman makes Furniture for children that grows along with them
Marium points out that safety is her first priority, second is functionality and then comes creativity as one needs proper designs to put toys, clothes and books in their places. “The common material used by most furniture makers is Medium Density Fibre (MDF), where you press two fibres together using glue and chemicals which gives out fumes for years that are harmful to children. I use solid wood such as oak in its place. I like the lighter colour and use dark colours on request.”
People assume that children’s furniture should be cheaper as it is smaller in size, but the fact is that labour and time put in it is the same as for grown-ups. It is also more difficult for carpenters to make small-scale furniture as they are not used to it, says Marium.
“As more and more shops start making furniture for children in the near future, good quality furniture will also be available and the cost will come down too,” Marium says hopefully. “I have tried to make my furniture reasonably affordable so that people can buy it easily, and modify my designs according to my clients’ wishes. I do not want to go into mass production, but hopefully my clientele will increase as I plan to incorporate new designs. I cater to babies, toddlers and children up to 12. I have made a tree-house bed which was a lot popular with kids and parents, at my exhibition which was held recently. Actually this is what I have in mind. In later years you never know what will happen.”
Marium says her mother encouraged her to become a graphic designer although she wanted to become an artist. But she thinks it has worked out well. As she had architectural photography and art as subjects at the IVS, she was able to continue her painting as well. She believes that what she is today and her love for doing things is because of her family’s support.
“My parents are creative, business people so they encouraged all of us siblings to do our own thing in life, and that is why I have a voracious appetite for doing multiple things. I cannot remain idle. While working as a graphic designer, I also taught at a school for some time and loved it. I am lucky to have supportive in-laws and a very supportive husband which helps tremendously, because without piece of mind you can’t do things properly.”
After her baby was born, Marium knew that she had to give attention to her child. “You have to set your priorities right and everything works out fine,” says a visibly contented Marium.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine May 15th, 2016