Kids in Museums News Editor, Maria Demetriou, visits the Geffrye Museum’s useful + beautiful: contemporary design for the home exhibition, part of the museum’s centenary celebrations.
Away from the hustle and bustle of super trendy and busy East London, lies a sanctuary in the form of the Geffrye Museum. As you enter the gates, you are greeted by the stunning walled garden and beautiful Geffrye Almshouse buildings, which date back to 1714 and were first built as retirement homes for pensioners.
As London expanded during the 19 century, Hoxton became the hub of London’s furniture and clothing trades. The Geffrye Museum was opened in 1914 to celebrate the interiors industry by providing a reference collection of furniture.
Today, visitors can explore the history of the home from 1600 to the present day. The homes are shown through a series of period living rooms and gardens which reflect changes in society as well as style and fashion.
The Geffrye prides itself on being family friendly and this is evident throughout the space, from the children’s café menu, to the various activity points and abundance of worksheets and back packs available to young visitors. Kids are constantly invited by mascot Sam (a friendly dog) to spot elements in the exhibit and are inspired to think about their own homes and the evolution of living spaces. Sam also highlights what can and can’t be touched.
The useful + beautiful display can be found in the basement. It’s a small collection of pieces showcasing innovation and creativity in domestic design, particularly highlighting how designers respond to objectives such as efficiency, sustainability, durability, usefulness and beauty.
There are handy iPad docks throughout the exhibit showing videos of the evolution and creation of the pieces, as well as clear signposting for objects and furniture that can be touched and sat on.
Younger children would like the Edie Child’s Stool by Joni and David Steiner, which is manufactured like a series of puzzle pieces and the Femur Stool, by Assa Ashuach Studio which is based on the human skeleton.
The highlight of the exhibit, however, is the Canvas Sofa, by YOY, where you can sit on a flat canvas image of a sofa that actually supports your weight – you’re encouraged to tweet a photo of this one!
Although, I found this exhibit beautiful and engaging, you need to be keen on design and interiors to really appreciate it, so from a family perspective, I think it is far more suited to secondary school students and teens with an interest in design and product development. Younger children will be far more intrigued by what they can find elsewhere in the museum.
useful + beautiful: contemporary design for the home is on at the Geffrye Museum until 25 August 2014. Tickets cost £5/£3 concessions. Under 16s are free and entry to the museum and gardens is also free. For more information about the exhibition and accompanying summer workshops for kids visit www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.