IWD2020 Series

Location: NGV Great Hall

Designer: Helen Kontouris

Photography: Sean Fennessy

About Helen Kontouris

Since the start of her design studio over 15 years ago, Helen Kontouris has established herself as one of Australia’s best-recognized design talents. Kontouris joined the Stylecraft portfolio in 2012 as a part of the One Third collaboration of Australian designers. Kontouris went on to start LEN, as a manner to exhibit her extraordinary design partnership with Stylecraft. Her first launch with LEN, Softscape, which was launched successfully in 2013, has proved to be a classic and timeless throughout various applications. Since 2013, Helen has successfully released the Lehenga Tables, Botanical Planters, and her most recent 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 stand out. Creating a retreat for Australian Open tennis players 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 a part of 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 be another. Also, having my 101 Chair and La La Lamp being acquired for the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, and 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 different occasions now, and being commissioned to create the seating for their Great Hall was a great way to immerse myself in the building and space. Designing the furniture and thinking about how I wanted hundreds of thousands of visitors of the Great Hall to feel while inside the venue 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 any female designers who may be looking to take the next step in their career?

I think it’s essential 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 were to speak to myself 20 years ago, I believe this is the advice I’d give myself!