When you think sofa bed, most people would describe the typical boxy shaped couch reserved for holiday homes and sleepovers. There’s often a sacrifice on design style and comfort when it comes to choosing a quality sofa. If you crave stylish furniture but need to accommodate your visiting in-laws don’t worry, you won’t have to purchase that blow up mattress any more.
Like a ray of sunshine, Innovation™ Living is the breath of fresh air the sofa industry desperately needed. Stylish, modern and amazingly comfortable, Innovation™ Living’s sofas took the traditional sofa design and flipped it on its head. In doing so, they are quickly becoming one of Australia’s hottest furniture brands. With two retail stores in Melbourne, Innovation™ Living is set to transform the way we think of sofa beds.
We sat down with Tom from Innovation™ Living at his Hawthorn store in Melbourne to discuss how far Innovation Living is pushing the boundaries of sofa design.
Tom, can you tells us how you joined your father working with Innovation™ Living?
“I studied a bachelor of environmental science and after I graduated, I moved up to the Gold Coast to continue my masters in Marine Science. I was on the Gold Coast but living in Coffs Harbour. It was pretty hard, I didn’t have a job for eight months. It was after this that I decided to come back home to Melbourne. My old man had set up his own furniture company, about 21 years ago. He had already had the Innovation™ brand for a few years in his stores and saw potential to expand. I had already worked there a few years throughout my time at university.”
“When I moved home, he offered me the opportunity to set up the café and work with the Innovation™ brand. He recognised that I already had experience in coffee because I had been working part time as a barista up on the Gold Coast. It happened quite quickly really, around March last year we put a big wall down the middle of his shop in Richmond and divided the space by putting Innovation™ products on one side with the coffee machine and all the other products and furniture on the other side.”
“About 6 or 7 months after we had set it up our lease ran out and the landlord decided not to let us renew it and promptly sold the building to a developer. It wasn’t great but it has sort of worked out really well because we were able to separate the two businesses. So, rather than putting a wall down the middle we were able to get two separate shops. In December last year we opened up here in Hawthorn, and now everything works really well. We get a regular coffee crowd coming in the mornings and the Innovation™ furniture has a place for itself.”
Furniture sales and coffee making is a bit of step away from Marine Science?
“It’s funny where you end up. My old man missed me and setting up Innovation™ Living was definitely his way to get me to move back home. He’s a bit of sweetheart, he gives me a lot of freedom and I try to run it the best I can for him. I try to use my understanding of people and being able to work on the floor talking to people about the product is part of that. I also like to be behind the coffee machine rather than sitting in an office managing. I like chatting with people, investing my own time getting to know their needs, and Innovation™ Living has flourished since we’ve moved to Hawthorn.”
Can you give us some insight into the Innovation Living™ brand?
“Innovation™ is a multinational company. Throughout Europe there’s something like 200 retail stores selling their sofa products, just as in America, it’s enormous. In Australia we have two stores which are run by my father Neil and myself, and a brand store up in Brisbane that sells the product as well as a few retailers that stock some of our items. We’ve done it a little different to Europe and America, where they do a lot of shop in shops (stores within stores) but we have focused on brand stores and using all the branding that they have set up, to set us apart from other stores.”
We’re intrigued about the Innovation™ brand, can you explain to us where it came from?
“Essentially innovation started back in the early 1970’s affectionately with the flower power movement and they were making beanbags of all things. The Player™ beanbag, which they designed in the 1970’s is one that we still sell now. For a long time they were manufacturers for other retail stores, but then in the 1980’s they set up their own business and started to focus on sofa beds and have, for the most part , only been available in Denmark.
How did Innovation go from being exclusively stocked in Europe to now being sold on Australian shores?
“Towards the end of the 1990’s, they set up a factory in China to cater for the demand of the Innovation™ products. The difference with Innovation™ is that the factory is actually owned by the company, the quality control is actually done by a Danish man who runs the quality control over there. There’s also constant feedback between retailers and the factory, so if something needs tweaking for the Australian market we can always let them know. They are constantly evolving the product, making new things, and there’s a lot of testing done before they release something.”
“This means that our showrooms are constantly evolving. Over the last 5 or 6 years we’ve seen a massive swing in the direction that the brand is going. We used to do a lot of chrome based designs and now it’s gone strongly towards timber, more mid-century Danish design and new Nordic style. The designers certainly don’t rest on their laurels, every year they’re constantly trying to improve and refresh.”
Your products certainly don’t look like conventional sofa beds?
“I think with a lot of our products there’s not much of a compromise, you can get a stylish looking couch and at the same time you can fold it down to be a bed. Traditionally sofa beds are pretty awful. The way that ours are designed is to minimise the points of contact with harsh surfaces and as a result, you don’t have supportive bars digging into your back.
“You’d be shocked how many people come in and ask do you have any sofa beds? Or, which ones are your sofa beds? They are usually surprised when we inform them that all of them are sofa beds. To be fair, a lot of them don’t actually look like sofa beds but, that just shows that design is such a strong focus of ours. We think for what they are, there’s nothing out there better. We want people to be buying something really nice at a really affordable price.”
Sustainability seems to be quite important to your brand. Can you please explain this to us further?
“Essentially 100% of the foam used in the mattresses is all recycled. In Denmark they don’t care about the density of the foam, because they have their own miller, so they just buy recycled foam, put into the machine and then it cuts it up into the density that they require. For the fabrics it’s all lazer cut, so that they can reduce wastage. With a certain roll you can know exactly how much you are going to be able to get out of it and you can cut it in a way that you can reduce the waste enormously. Then on our end, particularly with my background, we try to do as much as we can. Everything is imported and it has to be wrapped, so we recycle all the cardboard packaging, reuse all the bags. For a global company they don’t use harsh chemicals or dyes in the treatment of their foam and the fabrics. They refuse to use heavy fire retardants, and they don’t put harsh chemicals in to make the fabric waterproof.”
Do you have a product that is particularly popular with your customers?
“Historically, our most popular product has been the Cubed 140, they were one of the first products we got in when we got the Innovation™ brand in 5 years ago. It’s really compact in its size but folds out to a double bed. It works really well for apartments and smaller living spaces. A lot of the time it’s what people are looking for, a lot of apartments in the city have much less space so it’s handy to have a couch that’s really comfortable that can fold out to a sofa.”
“Recently, this year we released a new design called the Frej and that’s been received really well. I think that when people think about Danish design, they imagine quality with a clean minimal elegance and, the Frej has those qualities. For a new product we’re really happy with it.”
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
“There’s something to be said about being your own boss. Even though at times I feel constrained to the business, I don’t ever feel bad working here. You can easily get caught up in things and hate what you do, but I really enjoy it. Now that we have two stores it’s a completely different customer base that we get to meet over the north side. Sort of a younger crowd, really keen on design and wanting to chat about things.”
“Sure Innovation™ Living is a big company globally but, in Melbourne we’re just a family. Most of our employees are family or friends. For us, it’s really nice when people decide to purchase something from us. Whilst it’s an international company we’re home grown too. For a really big company, there’s a lot of family ties. The head designer’s son helps him design some of the products. When all the guys meet us at the design fairs, we all stay in the same hotel together, the American, Australian and Danish. I guess that’s what the coffee is about, not just getting people to buy something but to sort of sit down and get to know them. We’re passionate about what we do and we like to share that with people.”
What can we expect from Innovation Living moving forward?
“You can expect big things! We are definitely looking at opening a third store. For what the product is, there is huge scope. We’re a relatively new brand to Australia and opening in Carlton has been really good for us because of the high exposure area.”
With its ingenious design, Danish quality and composition, Innovation™ Living is definitely at the forefront of sofa production. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next to improve on their already impressive designs. If you’re in the market for a stylish couch that can also transition effortlessly into a sofa bed, then Innovation Living’s products are the perfect solution for you.
- Image above, Tom of Innovation Living relaxing in one of the gorgeous Player Bean Bags.
Store Opening Times:
- Innovation Hawthorn:
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
231 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Vic, 3122
- Innovation Carlton:
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
264 Rathdowne Street Carlton North, Vic, 3054
The House of Home team would like to thank Tom and Neil for showing us around their stylish Innovation Living showrooms.