With the launch of the Model 04 sofa bed just around the corner, we sat down with Design Director, John O’Leary to understand what we were trying to achieve with the Model 04 and how we were able to bring this idea to life.
Q: What are we trying to achieve with Model 04?
J: We saw an opportunity with launching a sofa bed; we know our products are well suited to city-living, small spaces, renters and those with access issues. Our previous collections are designed for those environments, so it makes sense that we offer a sofa bed. By nature, it’s a multi-purpose item which fits with our ethos and what we are trying to achieve.
Traditionally, sofa beds are heavy, bulky and have complicated pull-out mechanisms. Look at the market, what does ‘sofa bed’ mean? Usually, it’s an uncomfortable sofa or an uncomfortable bed or both. The result is a poor product which doesn’t serve either sofa or bed well. We set out to design a product which overcame these problems.
In short, our aim was to create a very comfortable sofa which not only doubles as a very comfortable bed, but could also be used as the main sofa. It was also imperative to tick all our usual USPs: comes in boxes, delivered in 24 hours and assembled with no tools. Due to all of these variables, the demands and requirements of the product meant we had to design it from the ground up, developing all custom parts.
Q: What inspired Model 04?
J: In terms of the aesthetics, we wanted to create a sofa which looks and feels comfortable. Our customers buy online, so their initial consideration is from what it looks like. So, we had to get it right.
We designed the seat cushion to be thicker with more padding than our previous Models. It’s made from seven inch thick, high-density foam and has over 300 pocket springs. The side cushions were designed with simplicity in-mind. The lack of border and seam was purposeful, this was to ensure the cushions looked relaxed and could be used as a pillow. The back cushions are also taller and have more filling than our standard.
A lot of sofa beds look like sofa beds, so we made sure the Model 04 looks like a sofa. We know the designs of the Model 01 & 02 work well for us, so we’ve referenced them in the Model 04. We did this by creating clearance room between the floor and seat cushion – reducing the heaviness of the sofa from a style point of view.
Also, to add to the overall look of softness and comfort, we rounded the arms, base, seat cushion, back and legs.
Q: Why did you choose to design a sofa bed?
J: Apart from everything already mentioned, we chose to design a sofa bed because we knew there was high demand for it, which pushed it up the priority list.
Q: How did you go about designing Model 04, what’s the process?
J: We start by understanding the sofa bed market and highlight the issues. We work through and overcome each issue, step by step. We then do the same process during prototyping – we worked through up to a dozen full prototypes, with around 20-30 changes. To put this into context, we made three full prototypes for Model 01.
The reason for this is due to a lot of moving parts. The product is trying to push the boundaries of what a sofa and sofa bed can do, so most of the parts were custom made. For example, we designed the back legs to be built from metal with its caps placed at a 25 degree angle. This was to help with weight distribution and prevent the bed from tipping.
Throughout, we’d question the norm. The Swyft-lok is a very good example of this: how can we use the Swyft-lok to ensure a smooth transition from sofa to bed and with no tools. The Swyft-lok technology is an integral component used in all Swyft products, so it meant we had to come up with innovative ways to incorporate it into the sofa bed. The result: add hinges. Again, this was custom made.
Designing a product that looks beautiful, sits off the ground and has storage was a real challenge. Not many sofa beds offer this, especially storage. It took months of development to get all of the components right, we even had a specialist mattress manufacturer help develop the mattress topper.
Q: How long has it taken to design 04, from concept through to launch?
J: Six. Long. Months.
Q: From Model 04 perspective, what areas did you need to get right before launching the collection?
J: We needed to get all of the custom parts correct: from the angled back legs and the hinged Swyft-loks, to the runner and wheels, the casters, the topper, seat and mattress. From a safety point of view, the assembly was really important, we had to ensure the sofa didn’t tip over.
We had to get the comfort right, so worked on the cushion fillings. We had to develop the storage unit in the base, and get the shape of the arm right – a challenge from an upholstery perspective. We spent time on the rounding corners of the cushions, the base and seat pad to ensure the curvature was correct. When the back folds down, we added fabric protectors to the back to stop the fabrics rubbing. We added handles on the seat and custom made seat stops to prevent it from coming off.
It’s safe to say, the Model 04 demanded a lot of innovation.
If you’re losing sleep over the Model 04, have a look at the preview product pages and sign up to be notified as soon as the stock is live (weekend of 24th April!).