Nicole Lawrence loves a good curve, but there’s nothing blasé about her affinity for a gently sweeping surface. Her interest stems from an engineering mindset and her endless curiosity in industrial design and architecture.
As with the inception of many great things, Nicole designed her first piece of furniture after a long and unsuccessful search for a shelf. Cue: her Smooth Shelf – a visually intriguing yet ultimately practical piece. It explores curves with respect and confidence, and would sit happily in any room of the home: bathroom, kitchen, bedroom – you name it.
We also have our eye on Table lamp #1; a piece that perfectly encapsulates her approach to design and sets her apart from the rest. Creating something that hits functionality and aesthetics on all levels is an age-old balancing act, and Nicole has nailed it in this lamp.
If you weren’t into curves before, be prepared to have your tune changed. Read our chat with this driven young designer and scroll for some seriously pleasing images of her first collection.
The Table Lamp #1 is such a hero piece in your first collection; it really stood out to our whole team. Can you tell us about your vision for this piece?
This work was born from a conversation with a good friend, jeweller and artist Seb Brown about the possibility of making a lamp for his studio/workspace. Seb showed me a sculpture he had made and this became the foundation for my design. My process was to design something that was first functional and then beautiful as it was sitting in Brown’s workshop which would require him to use it as task lighting, but also as a decorative piece referencing his sculptural work to be seen by clients visiting his space.
The ability of the shades rotating allows you to direct the light down onto your work surface, towards your book, or bounce light off your wall whilst also being able to dim from full brightness down to a soft candle-like glow depending on your mood.
I hope that whoever uses this light can play with this functionality and that this lamp can fit into any room. I also designed this lamp to include a long-lasting LED strip; all parts are replaceable and repairable as I believe now more than ever before, designers are responsible for creating sustainable and considered products.
Curves and smooth lines surround your work. Have these elements always been present in your work and how has your practice evolved?
I have always loved a good curve, it’s an incredibly complex shape to design as the options are endless. You can manipulate a curve till you go mad trying to capture the right flow and lines but once you find it it’s a very satisfying feeling.
Before this collection came a few lighting products that explored different functionalities and design elements such as articulation, construction methods, and manual dimming. I have worked in lighting design and fabrication for 6 years now and have grown as a designer in that sphere so this Smooth Collection is my first exploration of furniture pieces.
What inspired this strong series of work?
This body of work started with my hunt for a unique shelf to sit next to my stove on my kitchen bench. I was quite underwhelmed with the options on the market. I wanted something bright and soft yet a practical piece at its core. The result of this unsuccessful search was me designing the Smooth Shelf in the Small size.
I had not intended to design a whole collection but it came pretty naturally once I started exploring this shape. Manufacturing processes also drive my design process. Historically curves were much more difficult to manufacture but there have been some amazing advancements in technologies and equipment in the last decade to make curves more achievable. My process utilises these technologies.
I also am of course always inspired by mid-century architects and designers who really knew their way around a curve.
What excites you about Contemporary Design in 2020 and the years ahead?
I am excited to see the way designers are responding to the pandemic; virtual exhibitions, augmented reality, and interactive websites to help people enjoy, understand and engage with their work without the physical space.
I am also excited to be a part of the conversation about designers’ responsibilities in regards to sustainable practices in design. Creating quality, considered products, and designing for the life of the product after the point of sale is in the spotlight.
These design principles are the way of the future – especially as more product stewardship policies come into our industry as they have already started to in Europe.
This year the rug was somewhat pulled out from beneath us all. How has this impacted or shown itself in your work?
Ahhh, 2020, not the greatest time to launch my first collection. However, it has meant that I have been able to have a singular focus on my work without the distractions of a social life. It’s bittersweet I suppose, I do miss my friends deeply but I am so grateful for the privilege to be able to continue to work and stay in good health.
The support of the design community here in Melbourne and Internationally has been heartwarming. People are still here to support you, celebrate your work, share ideas, advice, and stories.
If there were no limitations to what you could design/make, what would you do?
I would love to design a complete kitchen (and everything in it!). As a space, I think it’s the perfect meeting place for my design principles. It’s also my favourite room of the home.
A well-designed kitchen is a joy to use and I have always loved exploring how designers, architects, and engineers work innovatively with space and functions in all sorts of applications. These principles would be amazing to explore in a kitchen.
Photography by Jesus Manongdo and Victoria Zschommler, with additional photography, styling and flowers by Hattie Molloy.