(Page 3 of 3)
Which brings us to that fateful crib-shopping trip. Netto’s discovery of the dearth of cool baby furniture came at a propitious time. By then he’d worked as an interior designer for five years; he was feeling restless, weary of the service industry’s vicissitudes and eager to make a more permanent—and more lucrative—mark on the world of design. So he pared back his client list and went on “a vigilante mission to return quality to the baby furniture market.”
He started with white lacquer, rich wood, and simple lines. “I knew I wanted to use white lacquer,” he says: “It’s very happy-making, very sleek, and very practical, because it’s easy to clean.” The result was an elegant crib, dresser, and changing table made with the same care as furniture for the rest of the house. The pure aesthetics and solid construction imbue the pieces with lasting value, Netto says. Unlike other baby furniture, it need never be thrown away, which makes it relatively friendly to the environment (as does the use of sustainable woods and non-toxic finishes).
Of course, this high quality comes with a price tag to match. Each piece costs upwards of $1,500, for which Netto is unapologetic. “NettoCollection is luxurious, sensual, somewhat decadent,” and worthy of any room in the house, he says. A Netto crib is not just a place for the baby to sleep, but an anchor, both spatially and aesthetically, amid the chaos of a child’s room.
NettoCollection debuted in 2003, and his instincts about the desire for well-designed baby furniture were quickly affirmed. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jerry Seinfeld bought Netto furniture—though his most prized celebrity endorsement is from Jack Black (“I’m a huge Nacho Libre fan”). Interest in hip, upscale baby products has exploded, and modern baby paraphernalia—clothes, toys, and accessories, as well as furniture—is now widely available, although it still represents a fairly small percentage of the total baby market. Shelter magazines laud Netto as one of the pioneers of this trend, calling him “the father of modern baby furniture.”
In Netto’s Soho design studio, samples of four lines of cribs, changing tables, and dressers gleam in the light from the lofty windows, at home among the Hans Wegner chairs and cool concrete floors. Netto recently launched CUB, a less expensive line of products, and will soon introduce a line based on the more voluptuous Louis XV style. He’s tweaking designs for a low wingback chair meant to be comfortable for both toddlers and parents and is toying with the idea of designing a lamp.
Now that the nursery has been embraced as a forum for high design, the challenge for Netto is to build on his early success and make his business profitable in a lasting way, while taking the time “to enjoy the fruits of our pioneering, reckless, overspending vision.” He worries that someone else will come along and make a fortune in modern baby furniture, “while I’m this sort of anecdote, I’m the Tesla of modern baby.” But that seems fairly unlikely. Modern baby has arrived, and so has David Netto.