After a couple of years living in west London, multidisciplinary designer Lara Bohinc’s accent is now a silky steely blend of Sloane and Slav. And it’s that same silk and steel that defines her signature style – a precise yet sensuous mix of curvaceous forms.
Bohinc attributes her interest in “intersecting geometries” to her childhood maths lessons. “I wasn’t much good at physics or chemistry, but I was really good at maths,” she says. “And I always loved geometry and proportions.” Years later, she’s still never really left the classroom, and whether she’s musing over 3-D curves or playing with Japanese geometric puzzles, it’s that meeting of visual flair and mathematical rigour that’s at the heart of the Lara Bohinc look.
A beguiling mix of strictness and playfulness runs through Bohinc’s pieces, whether jewellery and accessories for the body, objects and furniture for the home, or her public commissions. This last is the newest development – she’s designed the concrete and brass Friendship Bench for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which will sit opposite Trellick Tower from the end of April. “The title was inspired by my daughter’s primary school, where they have a bench of the same name,” explains Bohinc. “The idea is that if you would like to make friends you sit on this bench and kids will come and talk to you. Golborne Road is such a friendly area with so many communities living side by side, I thought it symbolised what already exists here.”
The journey to crafting street architecture has certainly involved plenty of hard work, but there’s more than a hint of modesty when Bohinc explains why she first decided to set up her namesake label. “I tried to work for other people but no one really wanted me, so I set up my own brand,” she says. Instead, she was picked up by tastemakers straight out of the Royal College of Art, where she studied metalwork and jewellery after her initial grounding in Industrial Design in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Headpieces she’d created for a friend’s RCA graduation show were spotted by Vogue, and her first editorial work was with the then little-known Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino.
Jewellery became Bohinc’s first professional calling card, but she explains that this wasn’t because of any specific devotion to the art, it was just an easy way to get started. “It’s one of the reasons there are so many jewellery designers, because you can literally start at the kitchen table,” she says. “You just need some small tools and a little burner and you can make it in your home.” So from little acorns and oak kitchen benches, grow big brands. The development was organic, she says. After the jewellery, “it just grew into accessories, and over the last few years I wanted to go back to where I started, designing more products and objects.”
Now those objects, including three collections for the home with Lapicida, are a key part of her burgeoning design empire. Her collaboration with the stone specialists started in 2014 at the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition at Milan’s Salone del Mobile furniture fair. Bohinc was paired with Lapicida, and the result was the limited edition Solaris table. It was the biggest thing she’d ever done, and allowed her to stretch her creative talents into the home. “I’d felt constrained after years working on a small scale,” she says.
Traversing the line between making things that people wear and objects that are in people’s homes was a fun challenge for Bohinc. “My jewellery pieces are objects for the body and my furniture is jewellery for the home,” she says. Using many of the same techniques and materials across the two disciplines means that the process is comparable. “To design a table and to design a ring can take exactly the same amount of time. It’s just scale.”
With a range that includes candlesticks, mirrors, bowls and tables, Bohinc’s home pieces offer the opportunity to play with complex stone marquetry, and to learn more about the specificities of marble. “The beautiful thing about big pieces of stone is that there are no two alike,” she says. “It’s almost like a painting by nature, it can vary quite a lot in colour and pattern. Every time you use a stone you’re playing with a unique set of parameters. Much more so than in jewellery where the stones you use are a lot more standardised because they’re smaller.”
Alongside the natural pleasure of the materials, technology is also at the heart of the design process, from the 3-D printed models she makes for each piece, to the laser and water-jet cutting used to create the final work. Again, Bohinc is self-effacing about her process. “I think using technology comes from my time at the Royal College. I was lazy at making things. I like things to look complicated, but I don’t have the patience to make them.”
And from (faux) laziness we touch on another L-word. Luxury. Something she hates for its overuse. "The cost of the materials I work with is really quite high. So it's luxury in that sense," she says. But more importantly for Bohinc, luxury is the opportunity to create things that endure. "It's better to buy less of something you really love, and have pieces that mean something to you." Her aim is to create objects that can be passed from generation to generation, lasting well into the future.
And what does that future hold for Bohinc? Following new collections of ceramic vases and lights for her own line, as well as the aforementioned public commission, it doesn't look like she'll be resting on her laurels anytime soon. "There are so many things I would love to do, from furniture to theatre. I'd love to do cutlery as well, and taps, glass. That's the beauty of being a designer, you don't have to get bored. As soon as you get bored you design something else."