IWD2020 Series: Helen Kontouris, LEN Furniture

IWD2020 Series: Helen Kontouris, LEN Furniture

Speaking with designer Helen Kontouris, of LEN Furniture, as part of our 2020 International Women’s Day conversation series.

About Helen Kontouris

Since the launch of her design studio over 15 years ago, Helen Kontouris has become one of Australia’s best-known design talents. Kontouris joined the Stylecraft portfolio in 2012 as part of the One Third collaboration of Australian designers. Kontouris went on to establish the brand LEN, as a way to showcase her exclusive design partnership with Stylecraft. Her first release under LEN, Softscape, was successfully launched in 2013 and has proved timeless across varied applications. Since 2013, Helen has successfully launched the Lehenga Tables, Botanical Planters, and her newest modular seating range, Bauhaus.

What are your career highlights to date?

There are so many highlights I sincerely appreciate being involved in or being a recipient of over the years, yet there are a few that really stand out. Creating a retreat for Australian Open tennis stars to relax in between matches along with corporate sponsors for the AO and NGV when I designed their 400 sqm space called the “NGV Room” would have to be one. Being on a panel discussion and getting to meet and get to know Mary Featherstone on the ABC Radio National by Design podcast presented by Fenella Kernebone would definitely be another. Also having my 101 Chair and La La Lamp being acquired for the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, along with La La Lamp also acquired for inclusion in the Permanent collection of Fondazione Cosmit Eventi in Italy.

How did you find the experience of being commissioned by the NGV to design seating for their Great Hall?

I've worked with NGV on many occasions now and being commissioned to create the seating for their Great Hall was a fantastic way to immerse myself in the building and space. Designing the furniture and thinking about how I wanted hundreds of thousands of visitors to this space to feel while in the building and how I intended people to use the furniture while they visited the space was inspiring yet it had its challenges. The result was Bauhaus, a compact collection of seating with quilted soft forms combined with a bold identity, encouraging interchangeable formations.

Do you have any advice for a female designer who may be looking to take the next step in their career?

I think it’s incredibly important to remember to have fun and enjoy the process. Sometimes I think the design industry can become too serious and designers place themselves in very stressful situations. If I was to speak to myself 20 years ago, I think this is what advice I’d give to myself!

View the Bauhaus seating collection online, designed by Helen Kontouris.