- Article by Elisa Scarton
“For us, sustainability isn’t just in designing one chair out of recycled plastic,” says King head of product, David Hardwick.
“That’s not the approach we take. Sustainability is very much fundamental to everything we do, and it’s been that way since the very beginning.”
If you’re familiar with King, you’re familiar with the longevity of its products. That’s not a design quirk. It’s very much a deliberate gesture on behalf of the Australian furniture company’s founder David King who set out in 1977 to design pieces that would last a lifetime rather than line landfill.
“We all know the story of washing machines and nylon washers. After three years, the whole thing ends up in the trash because that one tiny component fails,” says Hardwick.
“Our equivalent in the furniture industry is the sofa arm. So often, it’s the first to wear and rip, forcing its owner to get rid of the whole product.”
Unless, of course, it comes from King.
The company designs component-based furniture. If the arm or another piece of its indoor or outdoor collection were to break or wear, its in-house customer care team, King-Care, can remove and replace it at a cost that’s not prohibitive, regardless of whether the product was bought three or 30 years ago.
The same applies for all of the King tailored removable covers and any incorporated technology. The latter is, as Hardwick puts it, “plug and play”, so it can be replaced as technology evolves.
“Obviously, when it comes to sustainable furniture design, there’s more to consider than just functional obsolescence. There’s also stylistic obsolescence.
“We counter this by embracing a timeless design. We don’t follow trends, but seek an everlasting style, so our furniture won’t look dated 10 or 15 years down the track.”
In 1999, the FMIAA and NSW Environment Protection Authority award recognised the King commitment to sustainability. Since then, the company has taken even more steps to improve its processes.
It ensures all packaging is as recyclable as possible, introducing cardboard boxes in place of plastic and reusable bags in place of padding. Modular designs reduce wasted space in transport containers, lowering their carbon footprint.
And as much as King would like it’s pieces to last forever, it recognises that’s not always the case. With that in mind, the company has an end-of-life process.
Regardless of where you live in Australia, King will come and pick up your product, repurposing and correctly recycling its steel, foam, non-woven fabrics and timber components for you.
“We’re very much driven by a stewardship approach. So we never let go of our furniture. We provide it to our customers, but we always take responsibility for it,” explains Hardwick.
As manufacturers, King is also increasingly focused on waste. Excitedly, one of its most recent sustainability initiatives stems precisely from this.
“We’ve been using a lot more ceramic for our dining tabletops, which is a really great material that never fades in the sunlight and is heat, water and stain resistant,” Hardwick tells me.
“But when you cut a big dining tabletop out of a sheet, there’s some wastage and we’ve been thinking a lot about how best to use it.”
The solution is a collection of serving platters and table runners made from the clay off-cuts, which will be available at King soon, along with an increasingly large selection of furniture made from recycled fabrics and other materials. The company’s goal is for at least 80 per cent of its range to include recycled products by the end of 2022.
But this commitment never comes at the cost of quality.
“Premium materials and a well-constructed product. That’s where it all starts.
“[The Sydney designer] Charles Wilson once told me he’d never met a brand that spent so much time considering both what the furniture looks like on the outside and what’s happening inside.
“And I think that approach is still fundamental. If something performs well and looks incredible, is adaptable and flexible, it will inherently be sustainable.”
Read more about the King commitment to sustainability on its website or by speaking to one of its trade coordinators
And shop the pieces featured in this exclusive ADR photoshoot on the King website now.
Photography: Fiona Susanto. Styling: Marj Silva, Emma Blomfield.