Once upon a time, Kelly Behun was destined for Wall Street. She spent a few months at Salomon Brothers after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, but quickly discovered that she had actually been more interested in how the lighting and ambiance of her environment could affect her learning of economics than in the learning of economics itself. A quick U-turn landed her at Bergdorf Goodman’s as an assistant buyer in a gorgeous office that overlooked Central Park and filled her with lofty feelings, which is when she knew that her destiny lay in the creation of unforgettable interiors.
After working with Ian Schrager Hotels’ design studio, where she was the protégé of Philippe Starck, and was introduced to the practical negotiations of space as sculpture and true innovation, she founded Kelly Behun | Studio in 2008. She has been crafting Narniaesque cloud-white perches in elegant apartments overlooking Manhattan in her signature white palette ever since.
Most recently, Behun has launched a line of unique furniture pieces in collaboration with artist Alex P. White. Inspired by the power of art and the desire to pioneer an alchemical site where art and design come together in startling functional treasures for the residential environment, Behun and White are at the forefront of a marvelous invention. Their first collection of experimental furniture and wallpaper is currently on show at R 20th Century in New York City and features Behun's organic, futuristic, intelligent creations, all named after or inspired by an artist or artwork, along with a smattering of archival pieces by Oscar Niemeyer, Sally England, Julia Krantz and Wendell Castle. The show, entitled After, runs through October 27.
After Lynda is one of three unique handcrafted poured resin tables influenced by the groundbreaking artwork of Lynda Benglis. “We are strong advocates of the mash-up phenomenon,” says White. “We believe that the key to a successful collaboration is the willingness to experiment and take risks,” adds Behun, “We are really excited about the Afer Lynda pieces—they are different to anything we have seen before; we can’t control the way the spills land and the kinds of patterns this creates, there is an immediacy and unpredictability about it which is made stable by the durable dried resin—this invents a new language for furniture.”
After Gordon is a collage cocktail table in lacquer and metal with a printed mirror top, of an original digital collage by Gordon Magnin. Edition 1 of 10. “The idea that art is meant to be on the wall has been subverted by this piece. It is not precious, you can put your feet up on it, spill wine on it, sit on it if you like. Being able to interact with art in this intimate way provides a new platform for the experience of art, which is something we are excited about exploring in our work,” says Behun.
After Lola is a unique collage table in lacquer and metal with a glass top and an original paper collage by Lola Dupre.
After Victor is a cocktail table in hand-forged steel with a digitally printed and laminated glass top. Edition 1 of 10. Inspired by the work of Op artist Victor Vasarely, this versatile table, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, re-imagines the way optical art can be experienced. It is both functional and atmospheric—it casts beautiful patterns over the floor.
Gaze is a series of crystalline wall mirrors featuring digitally printed imagery. After Charlotte, Behun’s favorite, is a photograph of Charlotte Rampling digitally printed on a mirror, and laminated on faceted substrates. “Charlotte, the beautifully inspiring and iconic image of woman, follows you as you walk around the mirror, and is also fractured by your own image. This creates an interesting dialog between the gazer and the icon, the self and the art,” says Behun.
After Burle is a unique dining table with a hand carved base covered in mosaic ceramic tile and featuring a free-form Macassar ebony top from the Pacific Northwest. The wood planks were sourced from a supplier in Oregon, though the root source of this type of wood is typically Indonesia.The mosaic pattern on the base of the table was inspired by a mix of two different motifs: the work of Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, especially the plazas he did in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the organic contours of topographical maps. “The irregular oblong shape of this table makes for interesting seating. It seats 14 or 15, and the unusual angles invite dinners to engage differently with each other. I am going try it out over Thanksgiving and will be excited to see how conversations are made different because of the shape of this table,” says Behun.
Courtesy of Daniel Kukla.
Goethe, in his book Theory of Colours, said that, “at the edge where light and dark meet color arises because lightness and darkness are the two central properties in the creation of color”. Like the Bridget Riley Op art that inspired the wallpaper art piece After Bridget, the white wavy lines placed close to each other create a volatile figure-ground relationship in the viewer, which opens a new vista in the experience of space. “Experiments like these invent new latitudes of perception,” says Behun, reminding us again that art as interior has the power to move our spatial realities into brand new places.
“It is when seemingly disparate ideas collide that creative sparks fly and the best design is realized. With this first collection of unique interior pieces, all of which feel so expressive of the zeitgeist, I feel we have captured something essential about today. After the opening of After, I was so excited to see the Marc Jacobs SS13 show, his black and white prints were amazing! It does inspire me to think about doing a bi-annual Kelly Behun | Studio line of special interior pieces.” We hope they do.