Lucy Kurrein: utilitarian design and leather upholstery

We speak to furniture designer Lucy Kurrein to ask about her style aesthetic, lighting projects and an upcoming Swedish collaboration

Lucy Kurrein minimalist chair and dresser furniture design

Profile photo © Kristy Noble

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Since the launch of her London studio in 2013, Lucy Kurrein has been a much sought after designer.

She’s worked with SCP, Heal’s and Molinari and, in 2015, she was presented with the Mixology Awards title for Newcomer of the year.

Wayne Hemingway fashion and home design

Is there anything from your childhood that sparked your interest in design?

I grew up in a town in Yorkshire. I spent a lot of my time drawing which is what eventually got me into art college, and the design followed from there.

Is there one moment or time in your life or career so far that you’d say you’re most thankful for?

I’m grateful to the tutors at the Leeds College of Art for pushing me towards 3D design. It was something I hadn’t considered until then, but I haven’t looked back since.

Can you talk to us about your aesthetic, describe your style and where you find inspiration?

My work is rooted in some fundamental principles; I’m a modernist and also a bit of a minimalist verging on a utilitarianist. Juxtaposed with this, my upholstery has a real generosity about it that dabbles with the notion of ‘luxury’. I think this is an unlikely tension that has a role in defining my aesthetic. I look to art and history which are important to me, but often inspiration is in the everyday.

Can you describe your studio space to us?

My studio is in Trinity Buoy Wharf, a community of small arts-based businesses in the London Docklands. The location is heavily coated in maritime history and is home to London’s very own lighthouse and a 550 tonne steel lightship. My studio is a shipping container overlooking the Thames; the daylight pours in and it’s great for watching the river life. I’m quickly filling it with objects and reference materials.

What’s your day-to-day job like and what’s your favourite part in the design process?

I work on my own which can be solitary, but I love shutting myself away in my studio and getting absorbed in a project. My job is to resolve a design as best I can without manufacturing a full working prototype. This takes a lot of sketching, model making and digital modelling. I really love factory visits though as the producers I personally work with are real maestros and bring a lot of value to a project.

Lucy Kurrein Lily tables in white, black and yellow

Your recent launch is the Rondo sofa for Molinari for which you used leather. What is this material like to work with and how did you explore its possibilities?

The first thing to recall about leather is that it comes shaped like a cow and not on a roll! This is a consideration when it comes to placing seams. It also has little or zero stretch which needs to be taken into account too, especially when making rounded shapes. But working with such a beautiful material makes my job very easy.

What materials that you’ve not worked with before interest you?

I’m looking at doing some lighting for a London-based producer at the moment, so I’m about to embark on a whole new set of objectives and materials. Too early to say what they’ll be though!

How do you think the digital revolution is changing and evolving the world of design?

It’s making design quicker and in theory easier, but I don’t think speed is always a good thing.

What is your bestselling product?

My Lily tables sell really well, I’ve got one at home and it’s great for pulling up to the sofa. It’s also a very ‘lightweight’ scale that fits well into our small flat.

When you set out on a new design what is the main objective that you want to achieve?

I want people to resonate with it and I want that appeal to be long-lasting.

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What’s next? Do you have any upcoming plans for this year that you can tell us about?

It’s a busy year, I’m developing a sofa with a Swedish producer at the moment, to be launched in 2018. I’ll be adding to the Rondo range and working on the aforementioned lighting project, and I’ve always got something on the go with SCP.