Furniture designer King Living turns 40

Mr David King, sitting on the Strata Sofa, started King Living with his mother in 1977.
Mr David King, sitting on the Strata Sofa, started King Living with his mother in 1977. PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Australia's King Living furniture store, whose Singapore outlet is among its top performers, thrives on making quality products

It has been only two years since King Living, an award-winning Australian brand that designs, builds and sells its own furniture, opened its first store here.

But the store is already one of the top performers among the 40-year- old brand's 17 outlets. The company has 15 stores in Australia and one in New Zealand.

King Living Singapore is located in Hong Aik Building at 22 Kallang Avenue.

The Singapore outlet's success has been a pleasant surprise, says Mr David King, chairman of King Living, given that the company did not know what to expect when it entered the market here.

Mr King, 64, started the business in 1977 with his mother.

Customer sentiment here was not particularly comforting. From focus groups and surveys, the brand learnt that while Singaporeans liked going to Australia for holidays, they hardly knew about Australian furniture labels or designers. Home owners here also expressed a preference for European designs.

Mr King, who moved from Sydney to be based here, says: "Australia is not known as a design centre, but there's something about the country that appeals to Singaporeans... it's that relaxed lifestyle they really like. I was confident about the brand, but I wasn't sure if we would sell a thing."

And if there is one piece of furniture that a home owner can relax in, it is a roomy sofa they can sink into. Sofas are King Living's best-selling items in Singapore.

The brand has an extensive collection of sofas that have galvanised steel frames at their core, making the couches comfortable and durable. Prices start at $1,890 for the two-seater Plaza model.

King Living's couches also have patented technologies, such as the Postureflex Seating System, which is similar to that found in luxury motoring brands such as Porsche and Rolls-Royce; the TouchGlide Technology, which allows users to slide their fingers over buttons to move the seat into a desired position; and Gesture Control, a function that memorises favourite positions.

King Living also sells chairs, bed frames as well as dining and outdoor furniture. There is an ongoing anniversary sale, with discounts of up to 50 per cent.

The products are designed in-house and made in King Living- owned factories in Australia and China, which allows for faster production and delivery.

Another of the brand's selling point is the quality of the products, which the company is so confident about that it offers a 25-year warranty on all its steel-framed furniture.

The company has come a long way since Mr King and his mother started out making moulded foam chairs at home. They designed their own chairs and she sewed colourful covers for them. They then sold the chairs at the famous Paddy's Markets in Sydney.

In 1979, the company, which was called King Furniture then, launched its first sofa with the steel frame that is now found in all its sofas.

Mr King, who has other family members working in the business, says: "We know of people who have had a King Living piece for decades and are handing it down to their children. Buying a new sofa after three to five years is ridiculous. Ours last for generations and that's good for the planet."

Besides coming up with new models, King Living's designers and engineers often relook existing ones to see how they can be improved.

For example, the brand's iconic Delta sofa is in its third iteration since it was first launched in 1998. The Delta II sofa was famously featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005 and also made appearances at two of Vanity Fair's Oscars after- parties.

The Delta III has deep pockets stitched into the sides to store magazines and remote controls, as well as deeper seat cushions for comfort and support.

Mr King says: "Some amazing improvements have been made to it. It has been updated and is more relevant to what our customers want today. We're always looking to make our products better, avoiding decoration and unnecessary ornamentation."

There is no slowing down for the company, even as it hits its 40-year milestone. It is looking to expand regionally.

The Singapore store has also expanded with an additional floor and will launch a mattress range next month.

Reflecting on the company's longevity, Mr King says: "The other furniture companies that started around the same time as us are gone. I learnt from them that we have to keep innovating. I want to build a 100-year-old company that pushes the boundaries and constantly disrupts the industry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'King sofas built to last'. Print Edition | Subscribe