Potts Point, NSW, Australia
Charismatic industrial designer Charles Wilson talks about his award-winning designs, the endurance of furniture design, and his latest collaboration with international brand, Castlery.
Growing up in rural New South Wales, it’s doubtful that Charles Wilson ever imagined he would be a much sought after industrial designer with a host of international brands wanting to collaborate with him. Having worked with iconic design house Herman Miller and Danish brand MENU, as well as closer to home with Woodmark International, Norman + Quaine and King Living as well as Woodmark International, Norman + Quaine and King Living, among others; It is no surprise that he was recently declared by the Australian Financial Review as arguably the most talented designer in Australia.
Carafe Table for Herman Miller. Image: Courtesy of Charles Wilson.
His recent collaboration with Singapore brand Castlery is the latest in a long line of successful partnerships. Castlery’s arrival on Aussie soil has filled the gap between mass market flat-packed furniture and more pricey luxury items, without compromising on the luxe appeal. The brand’s design ethos is to provide functional, well-made designer furniture at an entry-level price. Recently the brand shifted further and began working with independent designers internationally. After an extensive search and interviewing dozens of designers from around the globe, several designers from a range of countries were chosen, with Wilson representing Australian design, a wise choice given his local and award-winning reputation.
Gable Armchair for Castlery. Image: Jeremy Graham.
Released at Sydney’s Design Made exhibition, The Gable Collection consists of a shell made from rough plywood mouldings, then firmly upholstered. The intrinsic design stemming from sustainability and longevity creates an open and inviting feel to the range. When asked about the inspiration of the collection, Wilson tells me that he had in mind ‘not just a classic modernist feel, but one originating from oriental history’. The title ‘Gable’ because of the iconic lilting roof line found in pre-colonial Singapore architecture. Wilson’s designs aren’t always inspired so directly: “It all depends on the project – each one evolves in a different way, sometimes it’s a subtle instinctive thing, other times it is from by the in-depth study of a locale.” Having graduated from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design during the middle of a recession, Wilson co-founded the Argo collective, developing experimental furniture and decorative objects gradually leading into furniture design, Wilson created the Swivel chair for Norman + Quaine, which has become part of a permanent exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. The success of the design initiated Wilson’s ongoing working relationship with Sydney-based manufacturer Woodmark International.
Flute Grinders. Image: Courtesy Charles Wilson.
Wilson has seen further success from his work with King Living, a partnership he is also excited about. “King Living has an exceptional team of designers, engineers and industrial designers who I really enjoy working with.” Having released 4 ranges -Seymour Armchair, William Sofa, Andrea Sofa and Zaza Sofa, 2018 will see him add to this. “They say the mother of invention is necessity, so when we launched Zaza at Den Fair last year, there wasn’t much in the way of occasional furniture, inspiring me to work on a range including ottomans, side tables and lighting,” Wilson states.
Zaza Sofa for King Living. Image: Felix Forest.
Beyond all this, Wilson has also won a number of design awards, including The Australian Design Award for his Advent candelabra and The Bombay Sapphire Award for his Spool seating. The passion he has for designing well-considered, functional furniture and homewares is evident: “I love designing objects, which allows for a very methodical perfectionism that other types of art and design don’t necessarily have. For example, it would be almost impossible to perfect a building for an architect to the same degree you can with object design. I was never a particularly precise person but the use of technology allows for a level of perfectionism I didn’t otherwise have and that I do very much enjoy.”
Advent Candelabra for MENU. Image: Courtesy Charles Wilson.
When discussing the endurance furniture design has in this era, Wilson states that ‘Furniture is something that has, in an increasingly digital world, all the human factors of ergonomics and aesthetics and the zeitgeist of classic industrial design.’ “Other aspects of industrial design, which might have been equally as interesting a generation ago, are now basically passé. There is a lot that is interesting and beautiful about that.”
Tallboy, Broached Commission. Image: Felix Forest.
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