Last month we spoke to Ursula Seeba-Hannan, the founder of LenzWerk Holdings, about the newly opened LenzWerk showroom at Villa Nuvola, Monaco. Seeba-Hannan wanted to reimagine the concept of a design showroom and create a homely, curated space where discerning clients can unwind alongside the finest examples of German design. And the result is exactly that. Here, we talk about her background, the process of designing the showroom, how Kaia fits into Villa Nuvola, and much more.
How did you come to start Lenzwerk and what is the story behind your career in design and development?
A long time ago I studied dance and worked in theatre as a casting director. I was always intrigued by set design and scenography and in my mid-40s I left the theatre world to start my own design business. After a few years of doing this, a famous client asked me to completely reimagine his parents’ house. This project set me on a new trajectory and I founded LenzWerk Holdings soon after. The company now has eight different arms, including LenzWerk Konstrukt, Manufakt, Technik and our newest addition, the Monaco showroom. These various branches grew out of realising my needs as a designer. I met each new challenge with the mindset of “okay, I’ll find the solution myself.”
One of our most significant projects was in 2019 when we designed the Thomas Mann house in Los Angeles. The German government bought the house and asked me to rebuild and redesign it as a homage to one of Germany’s best-known authors. It was such a great honour to design this building.
You recently opened a new showroom in Monaco at the very prestigious Villa Nuvola. Can you tell us more about the building and the reasons for you to open in Monaco?
We had never really considered opening a showroom in Monaco until my son Jasper, who is now on the leading board, was approached by an investor. Once we visited Villa Nuvola it made complete sense. Monaco is notoriously difficult to open a business or showroom in. That’s because it’s a small and very exclusive place where everything has to be so well-curated. It was an incredible opportunity for LenzWerk.
Villa Nuvola is quite minimalist in terms of architecture, with sweeping curves, organic shapes and a mosaic white facade. You enter via a little garden and it’s a two-up, two down layout with a vast ground-floor space featuring an open entranceway, living room and kitchen. In terms of the history of the building, over the years people have struggled to make the vast and minimalist space feel welcoming. When we first saw it, we really saw the potential but knew that lots had to change.
What made you choose Villa Nuvola and what was the challenge with the interiors of this iconic building?
There’s a tendency for architects to focus on the exteriors without always considering how the form translates inside. One of our challenges with Villa Nuvola was making a relatively austere space feel cosy. From lights placed in the centre of the room – boring! – to the fact the building was divided into small rooms, there were lots of things to change to create a sense of warmth and cosiness. You come in now and there’s a real ‘wow’ effect.
How did you achieve this? And what was the vision you had in mind for Villa Nuvola?
In the master bedroom, for example, we laid white brushed oak floorboards, which changed the texture and layers of the room. We opened out the space around the kitchen and living room and created a spa area, the first free Dornbracht spa outside of Germany. Villa Nuvola is now an open space, filled with light and air. Our background in design and development enabled us to give back the house’s soul.
We wanted to completely reimagine the typical design showroom experience and create a home that people can step into and imagine as their own. Rather than featuring the brands in their own individual areas, we curated a space where the finest German designs sit alongside each other. The clients who come to us are discerning and they’re looking for an elevated, tailored experience. Villa Nuvola is the perfect space for that. People can view by appointment only, too, which means we can dedicate more time to making each client feel really welcome in the space.
What are the common threads running through your showroom, and how did the brands fit into this?
Choosing the brands was relatively easy because we had a clear vision for the LenzWerk showroom in Monaco. The consistent thread was this sense of curated, contemporary cosiness that gives people a new way of thinking about space. Because of the pandemic, people are turning more attention to their homes and how they live in them. We’ve all been brought back inside and we’re wanting to live in a more natural style. In the showroom, we balance pared-back colours and organic, sculptural forms with pops of boldness seen in our art collection.
Kaia goes wonderfully with our collection of designers. Manuela, Kaia’s director, is from Germany and we appreciate the connection with Bavaria, where Kaia’s mouth-blown glass workshops are located. At Villa Nuvola we use just two lighting brands, Kaia and Occhio, and they’re completely different yet complementary. Occhio makes lights that are more practical and use-focused, while Kaia’s are decorative. They work wonderfully together. What we love about Kaia lights is that they’re each custom-made, hand-made and completely bespoke.
Finally, what are some of your favourite Kaia lights?
The first Kaia light I fell in love with was the ONA. I saw it in London and included it in a project I worked on in Berlin. One of my more recent favourites is ORA. It’s funny because we have so many Kaia lights in every space in Villa Nuvola. Now we have Golden Fleece making a statement in the entrance, too.