Lucy Kurrein is an award-winning British furniture designer, specialising in upholstered seating. Her work combines the rigour of industrial manufacturing with an intuitive approach to form and reference to historical design. Lucy is dedicated to the tactility and behaviour of materials, and has established a reputation for designing furniture with a refined silhouette and soft feel. Lucy founded her independent design practice in 2013, after a decade working with leading designers and consultancies in London. From her studio in Paris, she collaborates with established, international furniture manufacturers on designs for the workplace and home.
NaughtOne: What problem were you trying to solve when you got this brief?
Lucy Kurrein: For me the chair is about being present and openhearted, ready to hear and contribute, coming together properly in a world that seems to require rushing from one thing to the next. The physical workplace is increasingly about coming together for bonding and collaboration – perhaps needing to work very openly with people you haven’t spent so much time with – so it’s important that conversation flows, and your team feels comfortable and relaxed. Normally when you have flexible, movable furniture it all has a lightweight and temporary feel, as if you’ll just perch there a moment, but with this piece I wanted to make sure there was a feeling of solidity. The seat is also relatively low, so you’re invested once you’re sat down (it’s just the right amount of effort to get back up again!) Wheels in the base stay engaged once seated to allow micromovements as you interact with a group, which can expand and contract, ebb and flow. You can move this chair around effortlessly between situations, but once you sit down you feel grounded in the moment.
NaughtOne: How would you describe the comfort and sit of the chair?
Lucy Kurrein: It has a relatively low and generously sloped seat and angled back, so you fall back into the chair and it takes your weight off you – this makes you feel immediately relaxed, and is surprisingly effective, even on a chair of this size. I like always to try to create seats that gently cup you, offering comfort and support physically but also emotionally and mentally too. The base looks solid too, with a solid block rather than legs – you can’t see through underneath where you’re sitting, which is unusual for an agile chair. Also, it doesn’t get caught on things and drag them along, plus solidity means it doesn’t look visually messy in clusters. The reclined form and ample wide backrest make you sit in a relaxed posture with an open chest, encouraging a posture for open communication, listening, and curiosity that are so essential to innovation at work. It has no armrests and the sides of the backrest are parallel, so you can easily pivot from side to side as you engage in conversation.
NaughtOne: What inspired the overall form and shape of the chair?
Lucy Kurrein: What’s great about the size of the final chair is that it’s compact enough to manoeuvre around a workplace. Each one takes up the minimum space so you can gather more of them together in the same space without it feeling crowded or huddle them closer together for more intimate conversations in an open environment. Despite the small footprint, I wanted an expansive feel when sitting down. So I simplified the shape of the base to a pure oval in the smallest size it could be while maintaining stability, then tapered it up and out to meet the seat so there’s generous support when you’re sitting down. This achieves the agility and lightness needed for movement, with the grounded support you want while sitting down.
NaughtOne: The strap handle on the back of Pippin is a very striking feature. What was the inspiration behind it and what does it bring to the chair?
Lucy Kurrein: With the emphasis on movement, the strap handle became an important feature. You wouldn’t usually expect to be able – or allowed! – to move such a solid-looking chair around, so the prominent strap handle acts as a clear graphic invitation to grab the chair and whirl it about. On a practical note, the strap handle also means people will hold the chair in the way it’s easiest and safest to move, touching the part that’s most durable and easiest to clean. I wanted a form that would reference the pull-tab or bootstrap that stands upright on the back of a Dr Martens boot. I believed the familiarity of this iconography would translate well onto the chair, and make for a really accessible and usable strap. On top of these aspects of visual communication, I felt the right strap could bring a lot of satisfaction to moving the chair around. I wanted it to be an inviting and comfortable form in the hand, rigid enough to hold itself upright and yet soft enough to twist and respond as you pull it. It was quite a lot to ask from a small piece of rubbery material!
NaughtOne: What were some of the more challenging or technical aspects you encountered when working on the chair?
Lucy Kurrein: The chair had to be soft – both from the practical point of view of manoeuvring it around and for the relaxed feeling I wanted to create when people sit down. It is more technically challenging to work with these soft foams and removable covers, since everything is fluid and therefore outcomes are hard to predict, so we gave a lot of attention to getting the tension and pattern cutting just right. To counter the malleable foam with some visual structure and give emphasis back to the silhouette, I included a bold protruding seam. I like that it gives the design a strong visual identity too.
NaughtOne: NaughtOne and yourself have a passion about designing for a sustainable future. What sustainable design solutions did you consider in the process?
Lucy Kurrein: All the components of the chair fit together and come apart again like a 3D puzzle, so any component can be extracted and repaired, replaced, recycled or reprocessed. You can also change the spec of the chair as your needs change – switching castors for glides, or adding a handle at a later date for example. The design visually communicates this aspect as well, making it clear how the pieces come apart:
for example the rubber strap handle is held simply on with two slot-headed screws. All these construction details play into NaughtOne’s take-back programme, which means they can ensure the components of the chair will make it to the appropriate reprocessing plants when that time comes. Pippin is a chair that’s meant to be really used, coming under heavy wear-and-tear, so we felt we had to prioritise durability and serviceability in our material and construction choices.
Pippin is now available for specification into projects and will be available to order from July 1st 2023. Find out more about Pippin here, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.