The original Heal's firm was established in 1810 as a feather-dressing business by John Harris Heal and his son. In 1818, the business moved to Tottenham Court Road, London and expanded into bedding, bedstead and furniture manufacture and retailing. By the end of the 19th century it was one of the best-known furniture suppliers in London. In the early 20th century Heal's was one of the first retailers to bring electric lighting to the British market. During the second world war the factory at Tottenham Court Road was converted to produce parachutes. Heal's featured at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and in 1977 restored the banqueting table at Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Silver Jubilee.
The notability of Heal's rests upon the achievements of Sir Ambrose Heal, who worked in the company as craftsman, designer and finally Chairman, for 60 years from 1893 to 1953. Ambrose Heal's contribution to the business, and to British furniture-making and applied design, was his marriage of the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement to beauty and utility with the techniques and economics of commerce. The combination of 'Good Design' with industrial production was contrary to the moral, hand crafted principals of the Arts and Crafts Movement but was in line with certain European approaches to bringing high calibre product design to a middle class market.
Following the precedent of the Deutscher Werkbund, which had been established in Germany in 1907, Ambrose Heal was one of the group of designers, industrialists and business people who founded the Design and Industries Association in 1915, slogan "Nothing Need Be Ugly".
Heal developed his business as a design, manufacturing and retail concern in accord with the philosophy of which he was a key proponent.
Heal's was run as a family business designing, manufacturing and selling furniture, applied arts, interior decorating and household goods until 1983. The business has subsequently been in a number of ownerships trading as a retailer.