Exploring the Dutch Family Roots behind an Australian Design Brand
Founded nearly twenty years ago on the design pillars of material simplicity, accessibility, and a Nordic sensibility, the family-owned and operated House of Orange are leading the way in the Australian furniture design space.
Inherently Dutch in design and yet antipodean in spirit, House of Orange is unique in its vision to ‘offer accessible, quality furniture pieces to the Australian market’. With a focus on enduring and adaptable items, House of Orange started out importing European homewares, then launched into crafting their own locally made-to-order collection and fifteen years ago became the exclusive distributor of the iconic Dutch brand HK Living – and their team has been growing and diversifying ever since.
“We started designing and making quite simple furniture but have honed our style over the years, crafting key pieces that are essential within every home – inside and out. We’re now known for our globally recognisable pieces that are timeless and versatile,” brand director Ursula Van Schoonhoven says.”We’re also one of the few local furniture manufacturers left, and we’re proud of that.”
We sat down with Ursula to chat more about building her family brand on the foundations of classic design, how House of Orange has evolved into an Australian lifestyle brand, and the celebration of their latest artisanal Balinese collection to join the company.
Timber furniture pieces and artisanal lighting by Kim Soo Home, available from House of Orange | Styling by Rachel Vigor | Photography by Courtney King
Take us back to where the House of Orange story began and the family-orientated vision that underpins this company.
Ursula Van Schoonhoven: My husband Hans and I started House of Orange in an old building off a little laneway in Armadale, Melbourne, just after our second daughter was born. We lived locally, and our two children grew up coming to the back of the stores after school, so it was very much a family affair – so much so that our products were all named after the people we love. The April table is named after our firstborn daughter, the Frankie bunk bed is named after our beloved dog, and the Nina loft bed is named after our second daughter. For the first ten years, our family grew up alongside our growing business, and our little family became like core staff members. We feel that this gave our workshop and showroom a certain ‘realness’ about it that we integrated as part of our brand’s DNA, and Hans and I still work together every day at House of Orange.
Our story started when Hans and I couldn’t find the simple, solid, and quiet designs we wanted in furniture at an affordable price point. This encouraged Hans to craft his own designs, and when a prototype of his table was sold at House of Orange within a day, we never looked back. We immediately understood that this simplicity in furniture design also resonated deeply with others.
Another fundamental moment in our business was when we began to offer our customers the option to explore six customisable, hand-finished washes over our timber collection, ranging from deep black to natural white. At the time, there was nothing quite like it in Australia, and our customers loved this opportunity to personalise their furniture pieces to suit their differing aesthetics and decor at home.
A living room offers a nostalgic 1970s feel with layered pieces from House of Orange.
What was the catalyst for becoming the Australian distributor of HK Living?
Ursula Van Schoonhoven: We were looking for a way to connect our Dutch background to our retail offering and then build on that story. We both share a passion for the Dutch way of ‘mixing things up’ when it comes to home decor and we specifically love their focus on lighting and blurring genres.
HKliving is a brand based in Dronten, the Netherlands, that embodies this unique Dutch mix and captures the mood and curated detail of this Nordic feel. We discovered HKliving in its early days, and House of Orange soon became its first big distributor outside of Europe. While they are now available in seventy countries worldwide, we are the exclusive distributor in Australia and have maintained our longstanding, personal relationship with the brand and its founders. We’ve also lived with so many of their pieces in our own family home, so we’ve always wholly embraced the HKliving collection and the story of this creative European brand.
As both a manufacturer and importer, can you tell us how your product offering has diversified since you launched the company?
Ursula Van Schoonhoven: We have listened to our customers and adapted to stay ahead of evolving design movements. We’ve also learned that the best thing we can do as a team is to focus on the core pillars of our offering and make them the best they can be rather than going too broad with our product offering to please everyone. We’re consistently streamlining our services and products, from how we package our items to the choice and quality of the timber we offer to our advances in becoming a more sustainable business.
As one of the few local furniture manufacturers left in Australia, our team feels proud that we have continued producing and handcrafting many of our pieces. For example, our top-selling products, such as the Frankie bunk bed and Nina loft bed, are still hugely popular – we sell more than 700 of these locally handmade beds alongside 1,200 locally manufactured mattresses a year. Each bed is constructed from environmentally sustainable timbers and materials, they are easy to assemble, and packaged with reusable furniture blankets instead of bubble wrap, cardboard, or polystyrene and are all Furntech certified.
The popular Original Frankie bunk bed is locally made to order by House of Orange | Styling by Rachel Vigor | Photography by Courtney King
A collection of decor and furniture pieces from House of Orange builds a cosy and inviting Nordic aesthetic | Styling by Rachel Vigor | Photography by Derek Swalwell
“As one of the few local furniture manufacturers left in Australia, our team feels proud that we have continued producing and handcrafting many of our pieces.“
House of Orange is celebrating the launch of their latest brand to join the collection; Kim Soo. Can you tell us about the artisanal story behind this Balinese brand and what excites you about this range?
Ursula Van Schoonhoven: We’ve admired the family-owned and operated Kim Soo Home brand since they started in 2015 and have always loved their passion for the same things that House of Orange loves about the nature of timber as a key material. The Australian mother-daughter trio behind this brand is based in Bali and is surrounded by exceptional artisans from Indonesia. They produce some extraordinarily beautiful pieces with the right combination of patina and a sense of spirit. With more than 200 products spanning ceramics, textiles, and everything in between, Kim Soo’s collections beautifully intertwine.
The Kim Soo Home story began out of a decaying and wonderful old Dutch Colonial-style building in Seminyak, where all three women lived in this setting and drew inspiration from the spiritual surroundings, the bohemia on their doorstep, and the quirky beauty within. Their products aim to celebrate the local people, places, and soul. We were instantly captivated when we first walked into their Balinese space and knew we wanted to capture more of this feeling within our own House of Orange lifestyle offering.
What else is on the horizon for House of Orange, are there any other new collections that we can look forward to in 2024?
Ursula Van Schoonhoven: Stay tuned for some exciting new collections arriving from the HKliving brand this year, including new sofas in interesting forms, beautiful colour palettes, and plenty of vintage-inspired silhouettes.
We have also embarked on an inspiring beach house project where we are crafting the entire interiors with our collections and will be sure to reveal the photoshoot once completed. Lastly, we have some exciting plans to launch a Sydney-based House of Orange showroom.