When Norwegian designer Peter Obsvik couldn’t find a chair for his young son, Thor, that would fit both the table and the baby, he decided to design a chair himself. Thor was growing fast – he had already grown up in his high chair – so Opsvik wanted to design a chair that would evolve and grow with him. Results? The Tripp Trapp chair, which has since become a favorite of design-loving parents.
The chair’s light and rich name belies its importance in design. Introduced in 1972, the chair has been continuously manufactured by the Norwegian company Stokke for the past 50 years, with over 12 million chairs sold worldwide. Featured in a range of colors, their simple and innovative concept has made them into design history books, museum galleries, and in homes around the world. Tripp Trapp changed the aesthetic of children’s furniture in the 1970s, giving children a comfortable, inviting seat at the family table.
“I’m a huge fan of the Tripp Trapp. We have two and my 11-year-old son still uses it,” said design critic Alexandra Lange of the chair’s historical significance. “It’s one of those rare products that lives up to its billing.” Marketed as the “chair that grows with baby,” the Tripp Trapp stool is two wooden V-shaped pieces attached to a pair of pallets, one serving as a seat and the other as a footrest. The flat pieces can be easily raised and lowered, making the chair infinitely adjustable and practical for both children and adults.
“Tripp Trapp is timeless in many different ways,” says Lora Appleton, founder of Kinder MODERN, the world’s only gallery dedicated to children’s design. “Aesthetically, it still applies, and looks very modern. Functionally, it works with the developmental growth of the child. When they enter their body, they have more physical independence, and the chair supports that.”
The idea of giving children a child-sized seat at the table and bringing them physically closer to the heart of the family was not new to Scandinavian designers like Obsvik, but Americans found the idea revolutionary. “The kid doesn’t live in one area of the house or in the corner, but it wasn’t always okay to admit that,” Appleton says. Tripp Trapp countered the adage that children should be seen and not heard, and instead raised children to the center of the home and family.
The chair also opposed the idea of manufacturing cereals. As designers in the ’60s and ’70s embraced new technologies like injection-molded plastic, fiberglass, and molded plywood (think Eames chairs and Panton chairs), Opsvik stuck to the basics. “It was in stark contrast to a lot of the more futuristic-looking pieces out of France and the United States,” says Appleton. “But I think it had a lot to do with her country of origin and the interest in Scandinavia in healthy materials like wood. There was a general awareness at the time that family health was front and center.”
In the end, what has allowed the Tripp Trapp to endure for five decades is its embrace of a steady run of time. The chair is adaptable, and its exquisite wood construction has made it a prized second-hand property. “Before and after the Tripp Trapp, there were a lot of designs for children’s furniture that weren’t modified. You can use it for a year, and then you have to update it, which doesn’t make sense,” Lange explains. “Kids are always developing, and the Tripp Trapp acknowledges that, while also giving them independence.”
Here are some other options for a redirect child: