In 2004, Geraldine Grandidier was looking for a bookshelf for her daughter that showed off the front covers of books, since bright and fun covers can often get children reading. She couldn’t find one, so she decided to build one herself. As a violin maker, Geraldine had the skills and background to do it in her workshop – and when other parents saw it, they asked if she could make them one, too. Tidy Books was born!
Time for an interview with Geraldine!
Hello I am Geraldine, I am French and I started Tidy Books in 2004, I have a daughter Adele (named after Adele Hugo ) and a son Emile (after Emile Zola ). I was inspired to name my children after authors and I ended up in the children’s bookcase business! Tidy Books makes original storage for kids which makes sense to them, encourages their love of reading and fosters their independence. Our products are practical, stylish and eco friendly.
What was your background prior to starting Tidy Books?
I am a violin maker by trade, now it’s my hobby as Tidy books keeps me busy full time ! I came to England to learn my trade at the Newark school of violin making where I met my husband Matthew and then I worked at the Royal Academy of Music as a maker and assistant curator. I made 2 violas which are now part of their prestigious collection.
How did you get interested in kids design?
Because I couldn’t find what I wanted for my daughter Adele ! I was looking for a bookcase for her and all I could find were adults bookcases dressed up as children’s bookcases, they didn’t make sense to me. Kids chose books by the cover not the spine. Tidy Books was the first front facing bookcase for the home on the market. I have since developed other products on the same premise, they fill a real need, work for kids and fosters their independence and look good in your home !
As a child, what were your favorite toys? Do you think they impacted the kinds of things you now design?
I had very few toys as a child, I remember 2 dolls my grandmother gave me. I think I like useful things. I don’t need a lot. I’m not a minimalist in a designer way, but minimalist in a practical way.
What were your favorite books when you were growing up?
Oui oui and La Comtesse de Segur.
When did you create your first piece of furniture?
What have been the most interesting and/or rewarding parts of making Furniture?
It is quite phenomenal to have designed a bookcase from my small house in East London that has changed the way books are presented to children worldwide and has sparked so much interest. A simple product with a big impact on children’s lives. I am very proud of how I introduced water lacquer, it would have been much easier to stick to acrylic lacquer like most of the industry, but I dont think its acceptable because of the toxic fumes (even if safety tested to standards) for the producer and the environment. Changing the standards !
What do you feel makes your work unique?
What I design comes from a real need. Independence in children is very important to me. So what works for them is what drives what I do. I’m not interested in making a slightly better version of something that is already out there, it has to be a new concept.
Describe a typical day for you at work.
As soon as I wake up I read for 30 minutes something business related, at the moment its on social media, I like to keep learning and see what can help the business. Then I check emails from home, to see if there is anything I need to answer because of time zones and also anything I need to think about before I reply later. I come to the office, I have a lot of catch ups with each person at the office throughout the day or quick meetings with everyone. Communication is key ! I have to look at each area of the business so they grow in sinc (design, sales, marketing , pr etc…) I try and go to an event/conference /network at least once a month, I like to keep learning ! In the evening a go accross all the social media platforms to see what we are doing and reply to others etc..
What is your process like when designing a new piece of furniture?
I never sit and think let’s design something, I am an observant so I look around and ideas pop in my head, I’ll write it down, if that idea stays with me and seems more and more relevant then I’ll do a search but I would already know if it existed, I’m just making sure. Once it is clear in my head what I want, the purpose of the product, I start the design process, quick drawings, then technical drawings for first samples. I usually get it right 1st time because I really think of the usage of the product.
Anything you need to bear in mind when designing for children?
Can they use themselves in a straightforward way. Round corners for safety.
What things and which people inspire you?
Coco Chanel, she was fiercely independent. My grandmother for her common sense and sense of humor. My children. My husband because he is one of the most talented and skilled and modest combination I have ever met.
Do you have any advice to engage a non-reader?
Make books available, as part of the environment. My experience is that all children are attracted by books if they are visible. Start with a subject that is easy for you /appeals to you. Talk about it. Tell the stories : the genius of books is phenomenal, for a few pounds you can travel the world, meet phenomenal people, who ever you like from your bed ! What are your career aspirations over the next ten years? A Tidy Books product in every home ! Build Tidy Books to a global lifestyle brand rooted in tradition.
Are you currently working on any projects that you would like to mention?
A storage to sort out small toys and organise.
If one of our readers is in your city, London, for 24 hours. What things would you recommend they do?
I’m a real tourist myself even though I’ve lived here for years. I would walk from Buckingham Palace through Hyde Park up to Big Ben ! then back for an indian meal (must have in London !) in the Mile End Area !