We asked King Living Head of Products David Hardwick, architect Martyn Weaver and designer Tom Fereday if there’s a distinct Australian design style. Enough has been written about Australia’s cultural cringe that we don’t have to revisit it here, except to say that, largely, we’ve moved on. Australians can look out to the world confidently, with a sense of our own identity. But of most interest to architects and designers, does that extend to the houses we build, and the things we create to put in them?
Is there an Australian design style?
David Hardwick, Head of Products at King Living, says yes, and he sees it as a factor of our lifestyle as much as our cultural identity. “With Australia growing as this lifestyle superpower, it’s giving us more confidence to translate our unique lifestyle, and our very dramatic landscape, into a unique expression,” he says. “It’s hard to put your finger on precisely as it’s still developing, but I’d say it’s very pared back and simple. I think Australians are quite humble by nature, so we’re not going to make big, bold statements. Certainly, our furniture designs are about really paring a product back to its bare elements and giving it this nice relaxed and calm expression.”
This idea of a connection between an Australian design style and the Australian way of life is echoed by Martyn Weaver, director at Weaver + Co. The British-born architect brings a global perspective to the discussion, having worked in London and New York before settling in Melbourne seven years ago. “I’ve always been interested in domestic architecture. In New York many people aspire to being in a home with clean lines and a pure, unifying aesthetic, as a balance to the gritty and stressful nature of everyday life there,” he says. “By contrast, in Australia the home is less formal, very personal in style and a comfortable gathering place for friends and family. And my design aesthetic has evolved accordingly, from spaces which are highly curated and minimal to a much more layered approach.”
The influence of our landscape on design
Weaver also credits the Australian landscape as a powerful influence. “In the built environment, the use of natural materials, responding to and connecting with what’s around us, often informs design outcomes,” he says. It’s a point of view shared by designer Tom Fereday, whose ETO desk will soon be launched as part of the King Living range. “I’m always strongly influenced by working from Australia,” says Fereday. “Certainly the space, colours and light of Australia are unique and when developing pieces, I’m influenced by this context.” But he also says that a specific Australian design style is difficult to define. “From my perspective, I believe that trying to assess a specific visual aesthetic is particularly challenging now that work is globally shared through social media and international fairs.”
Looking at Australian design through international eyes
That Australian-designed products are prominent in the global industry is, of course, another sign of the maturation of our industry. And it’s reflected in King Living’s expansion into other countries, with showrooms in China, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and, in the coming months, Canada. According to Hardwick, it seems that King Living’s very “Australian-ness” is one of the key aspects of the company’s offering that’s drawing interest. “We thought when we went into Asia that we might have to make changes to our products to suit that market, in terms of size or finishes or colours, but we just haven’t had to,” he says. “We’ve found that people are really embracing the Australian product as it is and they don’t want it to be compromised. They want that Australian product and what that expresses, which I’d argue is the Australian lifestyle.”
So much for cultural cringe, then. Even if we can’t define it specifically, it seems that the qualities and values inherent in Australian design are highly desirable to the rest of the world. Of course, being Australian, we won’t go on about it too much! Let’s just keep making beautiful, functional things.
To explore King Living’s fully Australian-designed collection of furniture, beds, lighting and rugs, click here.