From jewellery to bags and now interior design, the multi-talented Lara Bohinc takes us inside her decadent atelier in London’s Bayswater, in an interview from autumn 2017.
Lara Bohinc (rhymes with “prince”) always cuts quite a dash around town. There’s the signature red lips (MAC’s Lady Danger, if you’re asking), those Hollywood cheekbones, her own bold jewellery, and she’s usually rocking a fashion-forward number like a Roksanda frock, or a figure-hugging vintage denim jumpsuit. She has in the past referred to her looks as “Rachel from Blade Runner goes to Glastonbury.”
So it should perhaps come as no surprise that when I visit the jewellery-turned-furniture designer at her recently opened atelier on a quiet Bayswater residential square, I find her wearing a Mother of Pearl dress that is the same peach shade as her marble floor. Which in turn echoes some of the furniture pieces and home accessories on display – a striking geometric composition formed from a variety of different coloured marble. It’s like stepping through a portal to discover Bohinc’s super-stylish world in 360-degree surround vision.
And yet this is just a happy, stylish accident. Bohinc laughs off the matchy-matchy dress and marble as pure coincidence, but acknowledges she’s struck lucky with the interior architecture, which was inherited from the previous incumbent. “It was the home of the architect Harvey Langston-Jones, he laid the floor,” she says in her Slavic drawl, adding “It’s incredible, no?”
This is not the first time such serendipity has blessed Slovenian-born Bohinc, who lives in Marylebone with her partner Ben and nine-year-old daughter Coco. Her stellar jewellery-design career was kickstarted in the 90s when she was studying an MA in Jewellery & Metalwork at London’s RCA. It was an exciting time to be in the capital, so much the creative hotbed that in 1997 Vanity Fair devoted an entire issue to the city’s movers and shakers, declaring “London Swings! Again!” on the cover. The same year Bohinc designed some elaborate headpieces for a friend’s graduate show. Spied by Vogue’s influential fashion director Lucinda Chambers one ended up crowning supermodel Georgina Grenville in a Mario Testino cover shoot – and so Bohinc’s star was in the ascent. “It was quite popular at the time to have extreme jewellery on the catwalk, often pieces that weren’t even that wearable,” she recalls of her collaborations with labels as diverse as Costume Nationale, Kosuke Tsumura and Guy Laroche.
“It really took off then and grew organically from there,” she says. Winning the British Fashion Council’s New Generation award after graduation secured her status as the hot new talent in town – and a one-woman studio in Clerkenwell. This was followed just a few years later by a Hoxton Square headquarters with a team of staff.
Earrings, rings and necklaces – even when selling to the likes of Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer or Elle MacPherson – didn’t satisfy Bohinc’s boundless creativity for long. Indeed it was a dissatisfaction with the limitations of post-graduate design courses in Ljubljana that drew her to the Royal College and London in the first place. Jewellery was never going to be her sole vocation.
By 2000 she was also designing bags. Inspired by Marlene Dietrich, they juxtaposed a variety of materials such as metal, leather, sterling silver and Perspex. And while jewellery remained a constant, she consistently dabbled elsewhere, producing other small objects – such as an art deco-inspired cigarette case for Japanese brand Sobranie, an elegant mirror compact for Shiseido – in the same way she did as a girl.
“I was always making a variety of things,” she says of her childhood, “little pieces from wires, plastic, leather and also casting resins, some jewellery. I was always moving furniture around. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be but I knew it had to be some form of three-dimensional design.” Her ambitions were supported by her mother, who, although a judge, was “quite creative and always drawing”, and her civil engineer father who was elated when she shelved aspirations to become an actor for a degree in industrial design at the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Art. “He was so relieved and happy, he said that is a really good profession,” she says.
Bohinc’s degree enabled her to explore design in its broadest sense. “One minute we were creating a hoover, the next cutlery. I realised I’m not the most technical person, although ironically lately I’ve become more interested in it in a decorative way,” she says referring to her beautiful, and rather monumental Solaris Kinetic Table. Priced at £54,000, it signalled a major departure from her previous work in fashion, beauty and jewellery. The table is composed of four stacked marble discs edged in brass and connected to a rotation spindle which give each a range of orbit, so their positions can be adjusted to suit. It was conceived in collaboration with British stone specialists Lapicida for Wallpaper* magazine’s Handmade exhibition at Milan Design Week 2014. While she had already created pretty etched glass candleholders for Skultuna (one of her best-sellers), this was the iconic headliner that catapulted Bohinc into the luxury interior design sphere.
Despite the scaling up, her designs have been described as “jewellery for the home”. There’s her fondness for warm metallics – brass is a recurring material and bronze glazes appear on her ceramic Fortress Column vases – and the shared inspirations – celestial bodies and the solar system have been preoccupations. Beyond that, Bohinc’s long-standing love of geometry and 20th century architecture clearly shines through. “Inspiration can range from nature to architecture to art,” she says, “but yes I like things based on geometry – art deco, Memphis, Brutalism – my work is less about organic form and more about geometric expression. The movements might be as far apart as arts and crafts or Zaha Hadid, I like to break it down and not stick to a particular period.” Indeed, there’s nothing static, or immutable about Bohinc. She’s unrelenting in her quest to explore new materials and design disciplines. Her recent works include vases in Murano glass, ceramics and acrylic lighting, all made by Italian manufacturers. She has travelled much further afield to Wajima, a remote area of Japan, where she has enjoyed a Japanese government-sponsored design residency with Urushi lacquer masters.
“It’s right on the coast and all they do there is lacquerwork and fishing, the seafood and sushi was amazing! Most craftspeople work from home, in very small spaces and generally the items they make are quite small – boxes, combs and so on. Everything is made by hand and each artisan specialises in a different technique, engraving, painting on lacquer, plain lacquering.” This will be the first time Bohinc has combined jewellery and furniture into one collection. She’s working on a vanity desk and small stool-like chair, some boxes and jewellery – and it’s been a long process.
“It’s extremely time-consuming, you might apply 30 layers of lacquer and each coat has to dry in particular humid conditions,” she explains. The vanity desk has taken six months, so expect prices to be in the thousands. Although Bohinc doesn’t miss the many limitations of designing jewellery, this range excites her: “I always wanted to make big colourful pieces and you can’t do that with metal. You can do it with acrylic, but I prefer to work with natural materials, so it’s really nice. “The artisan I’m working with has developed his own colour palette with unusually vivid and pastel shades like petrol blue, bright yellow, green and pink.” Trust Bohinc to eschew the usual traditional red and black lacquer work and create something more dynamic.
She’s expanding her ceramics range and a collaboration with Matter of Stuff to produce some metal chairs is in progress. On her wishlist is creating cutlery and bathroom taps, but she’s also doing a course in kinetic art. It seems London, where she’s been since 1994, has proved to be her oyster, and looks to be her adopted home city for some time to come. “Whenever I come back from Slovenia or recently Japan, I remember what I love. It’s the mix of different nationalities and cultures and people are very permissive. It’s my favourite place.”
Lara Bohinc atelier, by appointment bohincstudio.com
This interview was originally published in the Autumn 2017 edition of The Glossary