this thing's incredible

My Baby’s Play Set Transforms Into a Herman Miller–Style Coffee Table

It looks like something Herman Miller would make for thousand bucks, but the set costs just $150 and there’s no assembly required. Photo: courtesy of the retailer

When our baby started crawling and pulling up onto furniture, we realized we needed to transform the living room of our small New York City apartment into a safe, dual-purpose space. The couch and bookshelves were fine to double as a jungle gym, but our coffee table was a disaster — a too-high vintage cedar chest with one jagged death-trappy corner. It had to be replaced.

Around the same time, we were visiting our neighbors, who have a beautiful baby and a beautifully designed apartment — and they happened to have a new beautiful coffee table. Then they pulled two little chairs out from underneath and revealed it was really a kids’ table and chairs, doubling as a coffee table. Our baby scrambled over and pulled up on it immediately. The next week, I saw the same table-and-chair set mentioned in the Storq newsletter — it was a sign. Stylish parents were clearly getting onboard with this thing, and it was exactly what we needed. We found it on Amazon and swapped out our dangerous trunk. It looks like something Herman Miller would make and charge a thousand dollars for, but the set costs just $150 and there’s no assembly required.

Made of all-natural bentwood, it’s is wildly versatile and compact. It has a table that can also turn into a desk for a kid or two, plus two wee chairs that have a high setting and a low setting, if you flip them over. They can also turn to the side and become stools (or even a plant stand) and fit neatly underneath the table at the end of the day. There are handles carved into the table and chairs so you can effortlessly maneuver them. And the whole thing can be cleaned with a wet cloth. It has a Scandinavian-nursery-school vibe, fully subsidized by the government and filled with attractive, functional, minimal objets and children politely drawing and eating healthy snacks. Fittingly, the manufacturer, ECR4Kids, seems to be a wholesaler for preschool furniture, toys, teacher supplies, and other educational products.

There are seemingly infinite ways to use it for play. Right now, our daughter loves to pull up on the table, tug out the chairs, and play underneath it, storing various treasures below. She was delighted when we stuck our hands or a toy under the table and she could grab them in a Montessori-style discovery-peekaboo situation. And at the end of the day, after she sleeps (and we pray that she stays asleep), the table is a perfect, classy, wipeable place to put out a glass of wine.

ECR4Kids Bentwood Multipurpose Kids Table and Chair Set

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My Kid’s Play Set Is Also a Herman Miller–Style Coffee Table