Join us in saluting the designers and brands whose innovative creations herald an exciting new decade of British design. Drum roll please...
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR: JASPER MORRISON
British designer Jasper Morrison is notoriously understated. Speaking to ELLE Decoration in 2017, he described himself as ‘a chair designer who does a lot of other things, too’. This certainly rings true for 2019, with his creative endeavours ranging from an exquisite collection of tableware for Finnish brand Iittala to a pared-back set of stools for Mattiazzi and a limited-edition collection of cork furniture.
Morrison’s refusal to shout, either in his work or the way he discusses it, belies the influence he has had on the global design scene for almost 40 years. Critical acclaim came early; a year after completing his masters at Royal College of Art in 1985, his ‘Thinking Man’s Chair’ was presented at a show by Zeev Aram, where Giulio Cappellini saw it and put it into production.
Morrison’s ‘Super Normal’ design signature was conceived when he encountered a stool by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa at the 2005 Milan FurnitureFair. Morrison described it as ‘so discreet that nobody was paying it much attention’ – yet this became the seed that inspired the two men to create a whole new genre of everyday objects. It’s telling that his recent ‘Zampa’ collection of stools for Italian company Mattiazzi continues this exploration: a simple but utterly beautiful solution to the human need to find somewhere to sit.
‘I don’t ever design anything to be “Super Normal”,’he says, ‘but rather work to give things a similar set of qualities: familiarity, longevity, being discreet but having atmospheric presence. As with this year’s “Corks” exhibition, though, sometimes, for the sake of doing something different, I ignore the issue completely!’
Exhibited at the Kasmin Gallery in New York last summer, Morrison’s first solo show in the US featured numerous pieces – even a fire surround – sculpted entirely from cork and reminiscent of his 2004 ‘Cork Family’ stools for Vitra. Cut from blocks of remnants from wine bottle cork production, the furniture is particularly timely given its ecological credentials.
In spite of the diversity of his output, Morrison still stands by his original ‘chair designer’ description: ‘We always seem to have about five or six chair projects on the go,’ he says. What does receiving this award mean to him? ‘I’m very grateful,’ he says with characteristic humility. ‘Not being a designer of flashy stuff, I don’t expect the attention, but it has come as a welcome surprise, so thank you!’ jaspermorrison.com
Interior Designer of the Year: Bryan O’Sullivan Studio
Last year, one of the most Instagrammed spaces in London was undoubtedly The Snug, a glamorous private salon for 10, which is part of The Berkeley hotel’s new bar that opened in June. This cosy space seduced all with its dusky pink palette and swirling mural of beatific muses by New York artist TM Davy. Such a prestigious hospitality commission was the highlight of what was an exciting 2019 for London-based agency Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, one which helped it scoop our Interior Designer award.
‘I am honoured and bowled over. Thank you so much for the belief in our work. What a way to start 2020!’Irish-born interior designer and founder Bryan O’Sullivan enthuses about the win over email from India, where he’s on honeymoon with husband James O’Neill, also the studio’s commercial director. ‘We’ve just opened aNew York office and are working on a residential project in the Hamptons,’ he adds.
Schemes with the Maybourne Hotel Group have also snowballed into suites and bedrooms at Claridge’s, while other plans on the drawing board of the 25-strong team include another Mayfair hotel bar, residences in Catalonia and Portugal, a yacht and a hotel in Dublin. All impressively global for an agency just in its seventh year, but then O’Sullivan learnt from the best, having enjoyed stints with DavidCollins Studio, Annabelle Selldorf, Martin Brudnizki and Luis Laplace before starting his own venture.
O’Sullivan is particularly talented at orchestrating hospitality spaces, it’s in his DNA. As a young boy, his first taste of design was sketching toy houses with his grandfather; a builder, hotelier and self-taught draftsman. Closer to home his parents ran a restaurant, coffee shop and bar in Kenmare, County Kerry. ‘When they were opening a new bar I got really involved, designing everything down to the teacups. I also used to chef there during the summers,’ he says.
Luckily, business wasn’t everything though. O’Sullivan’s mother collects contemporary Irish art and visiting exhibitions and drawing and painting was always encouraged. ‘We had a jotter pad and crayons anytime we went away as kids. It must have worked, I studied architecture and my brother is a graphic designer.’
Eileen Gray was an early design hero and O’Sullivan cites recurring influences as 1940s and 50s French andItalian design. ‘I love the clean lines and unashamed glamour of it all,’ he says. ‘This era is a constant source of inspiration for our work, which I would sum up as considered, simple and fabulous.’ The next step for the studio is to launch a line of its favourite custom-designed pieces, potentially to be sold alongside curated antiques in a dedicated commercial gallery space.
So, what’s the secret of his success? ‘The team. Without their dedication and creativity, we wouldn’t be anywhere. I’m lucky enough to have two founding members,Evelyn Conway and Paul McHale, still by my side, keeping the show on the road.’ We look forward to more entertaining spaces in 2020. bos-studio.com
Young Design Talent: Lucy Kurrein
Being fearless is clearly an invaluable virtue when it comes to pursuing a design career, and Lucy Kurrein has it in spades. As she says of her Docklands-based design studio’s debut year in 2013: ‘I didn’t hold back. I approached two established manufacturers, London-based SCP and Spanish manufacturer Capdell, who commissioned my ‘Panel’ chair on the spot during Salone del Mobile. That was my big break, and the work has been relatively constant ever since.’
Upholstery is her forte, with a roster of sculptural pieces already created for the likes of Offecct, SCP, Molinari Living, Joined + Jointed and, most recently, Heal’s with her ‘Isola’ range. It’s a raft of partners she very much appreciates, as she says, ‘Bringing new design to market is a risky business, so this award means everything tome and the brilliant producers I work with.’
Kurrein built an impressive pedigree prior to going solo, from roots that run deep in both form and function.‘I grew up in a leafy 1980s housing estate in a suburb in Leeds,’ she says. ‘My mum was into antiques, so the interior was a mixture of art deco and the set of Murder, She Wrote! Dad worked in printing, but had studied industrial design, so he kept a workshop in the garage.’
From these beginnings, the drawing-obsessed young Kurrein headed off to study an art foundation course, but wise tutors set her on a different path of 3D design, which culminated in a contemporary furniture degree at Bucks University. Her prototypes for a student project with Ercol were spotted by Matthew Hilton, and an apprenticeship with the leading British designer followed graduation. ‘Matthew taught me how to sculpt, how to move on from primary shapes and how to be daring,’ she says. Expanding her experience beyond the domestic, between 2009 and 2013, Kurrein worked for London design consultancy Pearson Lloyd on projects from retail to transport, but ultimately seating proved to be her passion.
Now she is a solo enterprise, one of her biggest champions is SCP-founder Sheridan Coakley, so what has he taught her? ‘Among many other things, how to throw a good party!’ she laughs. For 2020, Kurrein says she is working on wooden pieces in a slight departure from her usual projects. As for advice for any other aspiring young designers, just three words imparted by designer Michael Young have consistently spurred her on: ‘Do good work.’ lucykurrein.com
To see the full list of winners grab a copy of the March 2020 issue of ELLE Decoration, out now!
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.