Australian Design, Collaboration & Innovation | Feature ArticleMelbourne, VIC, Australia
As one of Australia’s most renowned and established furniture designers and manufacturers, King Living are an important part of the local design community. Through their talented internal design team, collaborations with independent designers and an upcoming student design scholarship, they are using this role to advocate for authentic, ergonomic and innovative design – the results of which will be seen this week at Denfair.
Since King Living was founded by David King 40 years ago, their design approach has focused on employing young designers, many of whom are often still studying when they become part of the design team. Fostering relationships with up-and-coming Australian designers is something King Living take seriously, King Living are actively engaging with Sydney design schools and working on a design competition to help cultivate these relationships and support the next generation of Australian designers. In addition to the strong in-house design team, King Living embarked on a collaboration with designer Charles Wilson 10 years ago, and then this year began a collaboration with Tom Fereday. ‘Commissioning independent designers like Charles Wilson and Tom Fereday will often bring a different perspective to our concept and push our thinking along new paths’ says David Hardwick, Head of Product at King Living.
This year at Denfair, the effect of this approach to design and collaboration will be on display. In 2017, Charles Wilson’s Zaza sofa was launched, which won the 2018 Good Design Award. Charles has drawn from the experience of seeing the Zaza and his other King Living designs in the Denfair installation to inform his new lighting designs, the Solifiore Collection, and side tables which will be displayed at Denfair. ‘Seeing the installation last Denfair really illuminated the opportunities for new designs’, he says. The Solifiore Collection, which was very well received at Milan Design Week in April this year, are designed to work together in a cluster, as one might group pendant lights. ‘I was conscious of how it would look as a composition’, says Charles. ‘The lights are appealing, but also quite idiosyncratic.’
Alongside the lighting and side tables, a new version of the acclaimed Zaza lounge will also be launching, this time with an angled return that makes it a truly modular piece of furniture, capable of being configured in a variety of different arrangements.This modular construction exemplifies King Living‘s focus on creating furniture that give customers ‘a tangible benefit that can’t be found elsewhere’, explains David Hardwick. ‘We always maintain a relatively small range which ensures that every product has to provide the maximum level of performance and desirability.’ The Zaza introduced some new aesthetic elements into the sofa range, but the long working relationship and level of trust between King Living and Charles Wilson meant that they successfully created a contemporary modular sofa that changed very little from the original design renders.
As a vertically-integrated business, taking care of the entire process from design through to manufacture and sales means that King Living have a much greater level of control over the quality and performance of their designs. As Head of Product, David says he regularly sees 20 year old King Living sofas coming back for refurbishment – the customer so attached to the design that they simply cannot part with it. ‘We will happily pull the patterns out of the archive and make new covers, replace any worn foam and return the sofa in as-new condition’, he says. ‘All of our sofas are designed to be able to do this, it provides us with a great insight into how our products perform over a long period of use and helps to inform the continuous improvement of existing products and future development.’
This integration of design and manufacture influenced the new table range that Tom Fereday designed in collaboration with King Living, which will also be on previewed at Denfair. The table is the first in the world to offer interchangeable lighting and charging accessories, responding to changes in the way people live and work today. ‘The table integrates power and lighting seamlessly into one sophisticated yet minimal design, allowing people to truly customise the table to suit their needs’ says Tom. ‘The collaboration started with understanding King Living and their potential as a brand and manufacturer. Our common goal was to create a genuinely innovative table collection and from this common brief a new product was developed.’
Tom articulates how collaboration can create new opportunities, resulting in ‘unique outcomes that individually may never have been possible or might never have been conceived’. He believes that through collaboration ‘an even greater opportunity for innovation may present itself.’ King Living‘s prototyping and manufacturing expertise (which includes a factory in Sydney and a factory in Shanghai) opens up the opportunities for developing new and innovative products, as well as maintaining focus on the essentials of the craft of manufacturing quality furniture.
As they continue to develop collaborations with independent designers, and with their growing, young in-house design team, King Living remain committed to actively supporting Australian design. Their second exhibition at Denfair this month shows this approach in practice, proving it is possible to create design that is simultaneously innovative and timeless.