Collaborative design studio Atelier LK is the brainchild of New York-based artist Ruby Kean and London-based founder of A Good Chair, Lisa Jones. The pair launched in late 2021 with an exhibition entitled No. 43, held in the London Fields home of late Chinese-Lithuanian artist and dancer Ron Hitchins, featuring a range of Hitchins’s works alongside pieces from contemporary designers. We sat down with Ruby and Lisa to discuss the joys of transatlantic collaboration, core design principles and what they do to unwind.
How did your partnership come about?
Various mutual friends had been telling us to work together for years. In 2020 we finally had the time to make it happen, spending hours on the phone discussing our respective aesthetics and 20th-century design references. It felt really natural for us to collaborate. We’d been helping each other out on our separate projects for a few months when the idea for Atelier LK came to us.
How would you describe the design sensibility of Atelier LK?
Atelier LK creates warm and dynamic interiors that blend the timeless with the unexpected. We always work with a community of contemporary artists and designers for bespoke one off pieces which we combine with collectable vintage modernist design and our own bespoke in house collection.
Were there any challenges in transitioning from working individually to working as a duo?
We both like to work very collaboratively and so working in a partnership feels second nature. There have been no challenges, the greatest joy in what we do is being able to share the highs and lows together.
How do you navigate working from separate cities?
We both travel between London and New York a lot and travel to meet with our clients, to design fairs, etc, so we spend a lot of the year in the same place. When we’re not together we can often speak up to 10 times a day, on zoom meetings, and calls, some can be a few minutes but we’re in a constant flow of communication throughout the day from morning to late at night – especially with the time difference.
Can you tell us a bit about your project No. 43?
In September 2021, Atelier LK hosted its inaugural exhibition ‘No.43′ at the former home of artist Ron Hitchins in London. This defining project launched our studio, exhibiting a curated collection of Hitchins’ work. We also exhibited our collection of 20th-century furniture and objects, and that of 36 emerging and leading contemporary artists and designers. Artists including Joel Tomlin, Christabel MacGreevy and Tegen Williams were asked to respond to the unique space, either in being inspired by the space itself or the work and life story of Ron Hitchins, who was a true creator. Each room in the Victorian villa was carefully curated and designed as a home. It was a special immersive design moment and we were able to feature some of our favourite collected vintage pieces by Tobia Scarpa, Axel Einar Hjorth, Angelo Mangiarotti and Charlotte Perriand.
Where do you derive inspiration?
We both have an extensive library at home, we always gift each other and swap books. Whenever we’re traveling together we always book visits to artist’s homes, modernist homes, and we constantly derive inspiration from Ron Hitchins’s home and his life story, his approach to creating. Ron Hitchins’s home is where our studio began, where we first developed the Atelier LK aesthetic, and we still look to his work for inspiration for our bespoke designs.
What are some of your failsafe design principles when designing a new space?
One way is finding an exceptional piece of furniture which we build a scheme or concept around. Sometimes we lead with a piece of art that inspires the colour story.
What’s really important to us is getting a deep understanding of how our client likes to live and spend time in their home, that’s an essential part of our design process. If ultimately the space we design doesn’t feel authentic to them we wouldn’t be doing our work right.
Who are some of your design heroes?
We have so many, but a few pieces that we have been researching, or sourcing from recently have been Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Julian Lampens, Pierre Chareau, Jean Lurçat and Andre Sornay. We love hunting down rare pieces for our clients
Do you approach your own living spaces in the same way that you do your design projects?
We’re both avid collectors of contemporary and 20th Century design. Whenever we’re sourcing for our clients, they are always pieces that we’d both live with.
What do you do to switch off at the end of a long day?
We both love a bath.
Do you have any daily rituals?
We both find our morning rituals sacred, we try not to look at our phones for the first hour of the day – we love a good breakfast!
How do you balance the client’s taste with your own?
We spend a long time getting to know our clients at the beginning of each project, we often find a small idiosyncratic thing our client may say in passing tends to inform our concepts and can be quite intimately thought out.
You also design and produce bespoke furniture. Can you tell us a little bit about that process?
It starts with deep research and also the materiality in every scheme helps to form a materialistic balance when creating bespoke pieces.
What’s on the horizon for Atelier LK?
We’re working on an extensive portfolio of residential projects worldwide and most recently a hospitality project in the UK as well as an exhibition in NY – watch this space!
Finally, we ask all of our Journal interviewees to complete the following phrase: You Must Create… a space you want to be in every day