Each designer awarded a Design Guild Mark for a piece of their work can be confident that they have created a design which demonstrates design excellence.  The Design Guild Mark judging process is rigorous, involving a carefully selected panel of industry leading design professionals.  Within this series we will introduce you to a selection of the Design Guild Mark judges, learn about their design ethos and which previous winners particularly caught their eye. We complete our series by meeting designer Lucy Kurrein.

Design Guild Mark.  An award for excellence in British design

Lucy Kurrein is a furniture designer specialising in upholstery. Born in 1985, she grew up in Yorkshire in the north of England. She took her art foundation course at Leeds College of Art before moving to Buckinghamshire to study furniture design. After graduating, Lucy worked for furniture designer Matthew Hilton then design consultancy PearsonLloyd, before founding her own studio in 2013. She was quickly recognised as Newcomer of the Year 2014 at the Mixology Awards and Young Designer of the Year 2015 by Homes and Gardens. Her work has been published in Architectural Digest, Wallpaper*, OnOffice, Elle Decoration, The Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal and Le Monde, and exhibited in London, Milan, Paris, New York and Hong Kong. She teaches design at Kingston University and has spoken at Nottingham Trent University, Central Saint Martins, Rycotewood Furniture Centre, Bucks University and the Building Crafts College. Clients include SCP, Capdell, Joined + Jointed, Molinari, Offecct, and Heal’s. She divides her time between Paris and London, where she has a studio in a community of creative businesses housed in shipping containers overlooking the River Thames.

What does design excellence mean to you?

For me, excellent design needs to make an instant connection and stir a feeling of joy inside you. It’s important that this feeling deepens as you live with and use an object, so you’ll be motivated to care for it, keep it and if you need to part with it you’ll pass it on to someone else who can love it after you. This emotional longevity is important for sustainability but also for enriching our lives; the objects we’re surrounded with should be like friends we’re always happy to come home to. 

What is your personal approach to design/design ethos?

Creating this connection is the challenge for me as a designer. It means cultivating a deep sensibility for objects and how they relate to the body. I always start with how I want someone sitting on one of my sofas to feel – how their body position will affect their emotions and behaviours. Then I sketch and model and iterate on the shapes until they feel right and strong. I give my designs the time they need to evolve until I get that feeling of connection back from a model, as though it’s gained its own independent presence and voice.

Why is it important to you to support the Design Guild Mark?

The Design Guild Mark is interesting because it’s awarded to designers by a panel of other designers from their industry, so entrants are submitting their work to healthy critique from their peers. Dialogue like this is essential to the growth of individual creators and also raises the bar for quality in design overall, benefiting the lives of the people we’re designing for. It’s about spreading the joy of living with brilliantly designed furniture as widely as possible, both through the focus on volume production and the awareness generated for winning designs. 

What are you looking forward to discovering within the 2022 entries for the Design Guild Mark?

I’ll be looking out for designers whose work shows something of themselves, drawing on their own experiences and intuition to create expressive shapes or unique detailing. The endless ways we manipulate and combine materials to express ourselves as humans is the core of what makes design fascinating to me, so I’m looking forward to a day of connecting with other creators through their work and experiencing these other perspectives. 

Which previous winning design particularly caught your eye and why?

Sarah Kay’s Jethro table for SCP – a beautifully balanced and painstakingly detailed solid wood table. I love it because it’s as sculptural as it is practical. The fact it flat-packs is a feat of engineering for a solid wood table of this size and makes it more accessible for people to enjoy. Sarah’s particular understanding and close dialogue with wood makes her work stand out to me; she’s an example of a designer with a unique sensibility of her own, whose work has a long-lasting appeal.

DGM 238 – Jethro, designed by Sarah Kay for SCP Ltd

Although the initial concept for Jethro was conceived from a rather rustic tradition, the table and bench combine robustness with a refined, quiet elegance. One of the key features is the deep chamfer cut into the inside faces of the legs creating facets which reflect light and a slim edge which contrasts with the broad face of the leg. The same edge is applied to the table top. The intention was to make the table seem both sturdy and light.

Sarah Kay initially trained as a fine furniture maker and has been designing and making things since 1996. She is the holder of 4 Bespoke Guild Marks and 5 Design Guild Marks. Sarah produces both bespoke pieces to commission as well as designs for production. SCP is a company committed to creating furniture that is modern, lasting and timeless and have been collaborating with Sarah for 14 years. Sarah said:

“It’s a bit intimidating to be reviewed by this panel of industry professionals and all the more rewarding because of it when the Design Guild Mark is awarded! I think the Design Guild Mark provides an important opportunity to have your peers critically examine new work, which helps drive high standards not just in design and manufacture, but also sustainability.”

Design Guild Mark.  An award for excellence in British design.
The prestigious Design Guild Mark is awarded by The Furniture Makers’ Company in order to drive excellence and raise the profile of British design and innovation. 


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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