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Australian Design with Charles Wilson

03 Mar 2021 |  Design

Charles Wilson

Award-winning Australian designer Charles Wilson is spending time on his family farm in rural NSW. There’s a couple of Luna chairs, the product of one of his many King collaborations, on the front veranda. Charles loves the way they contrast so beautifully with the rustic timber boards. As he points out, there aren’t many contemporary outdoor chairs that sit easily in such a quintessentially Australian setting.

Delta III

Luna Outdoor Chair in Salt

That’s as far as Charles will be drawn on the question of why his designs resonate so completely with the Australian lifestyle. While he may not be one to talk to the relevance of his own work, seeing his designs out in the world is a feeling that never gets old. “I love seeing my work finding its way into beautiful houses and having friends send me photos of a recent purchase,” says Charles. “It’s something I could never be jaded about.” 

Seymour Chair

Seymour Chair in Byron Russet

A meaningful collaboration

Charles has been collaborating with King for over a decade. From his early King designs, like the Seymour chair, through to his latest collections, including Luna and the award-winning Zaza, each collaboration has made a meaningful contribution to Australian design.

For Charles, working with the King team over a long period has led to a relationship where robust discussion and honest communication is all part of the process.

As Charles explains, “We’ve reached a stage where I’m grateful when the King team are able to sway me in a different direction. To me, that’s obviously a sign of a good collaboration... King is terrifically respectful of the design intent and is determined to honour it.”

Zaza Sofa

Timeless Australian Design

Charles was raised on the family farm in country NSW. These days he splits his time between the rural property and his home in Sydney.

As a designer who’s grown up with the bush as his backdrop, he’s often asked if the Australian landscape influences his design. For Charles, the short answer is no, but the long answer is a little more complex. It lies somewhere between those rustic timber floorboards where his Luna chairs are sitting, and it comes back to contrast.

Contrast is a constant theme in the diverse designs that Charles has worked on with King. And just maybe it’s the thread that connects his work to the Australian landscape, an innate response to the contrasts of red dirt and blue skies, the contradiction of modern cities built on sweeping coasts, and a timeless land that is forever changing.

The secret to Zaza's success

ZazaZaza Outdoor in Malbu Blush

Take Zaza, the bestselling King sofa designed by Charles is full of contrasts, and it’s those seemingly contradictory elements that encapsulate its charm. As Charles explains, “I think the key to Zaza’s success is the soft organic look on a modular sofa, which can sometimes be a contradiction in terms.”

Launched first as an indoor sofa, the Zaza collection was soon extended to include outdoor. Once again, Zaza was a delightful contradiction. “Zaza Outdoor is a response to bringing the indoors outside,” says Charles. “Looking at it out of context, you don't necessarily know it's an outdoor sofa. Zaza achieves a fluidity and gentleness that I think we pulled off pretty well.”

Shared values

A sustained collaboration relies on two things: clear communication and shared values. For both Charles and King, the values aligned from the outset. “We share an appreciation of timeless design and the importance for finishes to be functional and innovative,” says Charles, “David King sensed that in my work from early on and now I feel we’ve really hit our stride and understand where the brand is heading and the furniture we’re developing.”

King and Charles have a shared interest in creating designs that enhance people's lives. From both sides, there's deep thinking about how mechanisms function and how furniture is used. For Charles, this shared approach brings a mutual respect, as he says, “I develop an idea, modelling and resolving the guts of it and then hand it over to the King team. They do the hard yards building prototypes, testing and resolving issues. I feel they always work to enhance the idea rather than compromise or detract from it.”

The gift of Luna

The Luna collection is the perfect example of a working collaboration at its best. What started as an idea for storage evolved into the soft curves of the Luna Chair. As Charles explains, the long journey to the final Luna design followed an indirect line, as is often the case in the development process.

“Luna is an excellent collaboration,” says Charles. “I tussled with the design team about different approaches, and there was a healthy debate that ended up with us following the direction of the expanded mesh.”

Luna Outdoor

With a seat moulded from expanded mesh, the Luna Chair is robust in design while appearing almost weightless. It a testament to the design that the collection is expanding to include barstools and dining chairs. As Charles says, “Luna is the gift that keeps on giving.”


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