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Embracing the sensory dimension – where design meets materiality

When designing, materiality is one of the most essential considerations in creating a space that is welcoming, comfortable and luxurious. King Head of Textiles, Sebastian Nash, explores the importance of creating a considered material palette.

Embracing the sensory dimension – where design meets materiality


August 18th, 2021

Materiality is a core pillar of design. While architecture provides structure and delineates a space, it is the material palette that draws out the spirit of a room or building: adding a soul to the body of architecture.

In its purest essence, the material palette is a composition of layers and tones, where even the most minimalist aesthetic is built from a careful interplay of wall treatments and flooring, fabrics and fixtures. Each element of the material interplay leans into an evocative narrative of place – giving visitors or residents cues to respond to their surroundings.

This composition is arguably nowhere more important than in the home, where comfort and relaxation can be drawn from furnishings that have a ‘touch me’ quality. They inspire an irresistible urge to run a hand across the surface, evoking a desire to make oneself at home and stretch out.

Sebastian Nash, King Head of Textiles

The sensory experience is everything, as King Head of Textiles, Sebastian Nash, explains.

“When designing the King Collection, the look and feel of the textiles are of the utmost importance. For King, there is no compromise on comfort or quality.”

King balances the timelessness of materials that have a long history in our lives such as timber, natural fabrics and leather with a forward-looking creativity.

“The cornerstone of the King Collection is our iconic True Touch leather. This beautiful, soft leather is arguably the finest upholstery leathers available today,” Nash says. “The tannery in Germany that produces TrueTouch has a history of tanning dating back 800 years.”

The True Touch colour palette is as rich and luxurious as its history, and its aroma of natural premium leather adds to the sensation of opulence.

“They are innovators within the industry, creating specialised leathers for other premium brands such as Rolls Royce and BMW, as well as British luxury motor yacht brands. TrueTouch has no surface correction and only the lightest pigment, this allows the leather to breathe, making the leather warm in winter and cool in summer.”

King commissions its textiles and leathers directly, working closely with the source to ensure the materials express the design intent.

“For example, Bowen fabric, an Australian wool blended boucle, was added to the collection because it works with our curved chair and sofa designs, such as the Oliver Chair designed in collaboration with leading Australian designer Charles Wilson.”

King, Oliver Tub Chair

From the start of the material selection process, King has the customer and their experience at the centre of the creative story. The question is always: how will this material, this design, this crafted piece, enhance a person’s life?

“King customers value quality, longevity and sustainability,” Nash says. “We design the fabric, leather and rug collections to align with these shared values and reflect our unique Australian heritage.”

A new design – Oceania – added to the King Collection this year, exemplifies the fusion of place-based design and materiality. The artistry has been translated into multiple textile mediums, including a rug using natural unbleached New Zealand wool, a printed fabric and an outdoor woven jacquard using Sunbrella 100% solution-dyed acrylic yarn.

“Oceania has been unapologetically hand-drawn and takes its inspiration from the incredible landscapes across Australia,” Nash explains.

“It is bold, modern and confident yet has a carefree attitude that reflects the Australian lifestyle.”

King, Oceania Collection

There is a similarity when selecting materials to selecting instruments for a symphony – every texture, colour and form is part of a harmonious whole.

Nash says when the King Collection is being designed, careful consideration is given to how the fabric, leather and rug colours and tones will work together.

“This gives rooms a tailored look and allows customers to add extra pieces of furniture when needed. For example, if a customer has a sofa in our Whiteley fabric they can add occasional chairs, ottomans and scatter cushions in many different complementary fabrics or leathers.

“Our aim is to help our customers create a relaxed, natural flow of fabrics, leathers and rugs that all work together in the different rooms of their home.” 

With over 40 years of furniture making experience, King has long standing craftspeople who bring rich and deep expertise in working with many different materials. David King, Chairman of King, who founded the business in 1977 is also very hands-on in the creative side of the company.

As robustness is an essential element for furnishings designed for lasting value, there is an underlying rigour in the testing and quality control applied to material choices.

King performs thorough in-house testing, and also consults external experts.

“The King sewing room in Sydney allows us to test different fabrics on the furniture and make adjustments. We also use independent laboratory tests such as the Australian Wool Testing Authority.”

King rugs are endorsed by Care and Fair, an industry-led not for profit organisation dedicated to breaking the vicious cycle of illegal child labour in the carpet knotting communities of India, Nepal and Pakistan. King also donates a proportion of the profit from each King rug to the healthcare and educational needs of these communities. 

Sustainability of people and planet is embedded into every process, and King retains end-to-end oversight and control from design to manufacture and delivery.

“This gives us the freedom to make sustainable choices,” Nash says. The King team works closely with suppliers, supporting them as they improve and evolve their processes. 

“For example, our leather suppliers are incredibly committed to sustainability. In recent years, they have significantly reduced carbon emissions and water usage.”

Like design itself, materiality is constantly evolving.

 “I am fortunate that in my role I get the opportunity to travel and visit international specialist trade fairs where mills and tanneries show their latest ideas and ranges,” Nash says.

“We make a point of visiting the mills themselves, so we understand their process. A special part of my role is meeting with the design teams to develop products that are unique to King. As relationships grow with key suppliers, we start to innovate with new designs and qualities, which is exciting.”

The ambition is always to touch those who will make King furnishings part of their lives.

“Textiles have an emotional dimension,” Nash says. “We are passionate about the beauty of material and how it can be translated onto a piece of furniture that will add positively to a person’s life.

“The right colours, textures and pieces of furniture can make an ordinary room special, joyous and very personal.” 

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