Lucy Kurrein is a designer in high demand. Having worked for renowned design houses such as Matthew Hilton and PearsonLloyd, Lucy now has her own London studio and collaborates with renowned international furniture brands including SCP, Capdell, Joined+Jointed, and Molinari - the latter of which saw the creation of the exclusive Rondo collection. We talked to Lucy about finding inspiration in unlikely places, discovering her own style and why good design takes time.
How did Rondo first come about and what was the initial inspiration?
I think Rondo is characterised first and foremost by the pairing of myself and Molinari, the producer. I have Jimmy McDonald, founder of the London Design Fair, who made the introduction to thank for that. I was inspired by Molinari's Italian furniture manufacturing heritage and leather-working prowess, and wanted to try to layer this with my own take on ergonomics. I wanted it to feel very rounded, inviting you to wrap yourself around it and nest into it - to move away from the stereotype of the square Italian sofa. But I also wanted it to feel streamlined and elegant, to be in-keeping with that typically Italian proportion. This was a challenge, since I wanted to work with such rounded forms. I found good inspiration in leather punch bags for boxing, and I think this reference carries through into the final design.
Rondo celebrates the art of leather working; what are your favourite materials to work with and why?
I've been working a lot with upholstery recently, which has allowed me to focus on the interplay between people and flexible material. When a material is flexible it adds a whole new dimension to take advantage of.
Do you design with anyone in mind as a potential user?
I design for myself but I can’t help but judge my ideas through other people's eyes too - friends and family etc. You can never really be sure how people will react though, so in the end I follow my own gut. It sounds callous, but I have to trust that my own objectives must reflect those of at least a few others.
How would you describe your process and what does a typical day in the studio look like?
My process is fairly long. I shy away from work where the turnaround is short; if it’s possible I like to sit with a brief for a few weeks or more before starting. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how I come up with an idea or direction, but it will always be a result of observation. My process is to resolve the idea and details of the design as best I can without manufacturing a full-working prototype. This takes a lot of sketching, model-making and digital modelling.
Your portfolio is very diverse, would you say there is a unifying aesthetic?
It's always evolving, but I feel like I'm finding my handwriting in my upholstery. I think my work is more unified by principles than aesthetics though.
What would you say are the main challenges of designing furniture?
Aside from the obvious design challenges, I’d say that finding good, like-minded producers to work with is a big hurdle. I have been very lucky to have the wonderful London-based producer/retailer SCP give me my first break and kick-start my career. Getting that first contract is tricky, but fortunately it's now easier than ever for designer/makers to set up and self-produce their own work.
Do you have a favourite classic design or a designer you've always admired?
I admire Pierre Paulin for his bold, confident shaped-upholstery and also Poul Kjaerholm for his honest and logical construction. They both have very coherent portfolios, which is something I really respect.
What advice would you give to young emerging designers?
Take your time. Carve your own path.
A collaboration between Lucy and Trentino-based design house, Molinari Living, the Rondo collection is exclusive to The Conran Shop, with sofa and armchair versions available both in-store and online.
Studio photography courtesy of lucykurrein.com