The designer's contribution to design has earned her a Gold Medal from the King and Queen of Spain, and whose pieces are sold internationally as far as Japan and Australia. You might find her gazing out from one her 11 balconies or working away at one of her of latest designs.
A FAMILY NEST
Helena shares her spacious flat with her two children, Lucas and Mar, who are now 17 and 19. “We bought the apartment the day before Lucas was born, so we’ve been living here for quite a long time,” she tells us. Along with her children, Helena shares the apartment with her two cats, Catana and Fendi. When it came to building the family home, Helena was looking for a versatile space: “One that was very neutral and with noble materials that would be a space that could be changed or varied – a tabula rasa, or clean slate, that could hold all of one’s moods and the life changes that every person goes through.”
Helena couldn’t help but fall for the history of the building, which dates all the way back to the year 1900. “The building was built right at the turn of the century. I really fell in love with the period details from that time – the stucco ceilings, the wooden doors, the open spaces and the 11 balconies.”
Helena has since renovated and restored the apartment, but always with a respect for the history and original environment: old, painted wooden doors separate the large adjoining living rooms, hand-carved marble fireplaces are scattered throughout the home and wood floors merge with original, patterned tiles, some of which are cracked from 120 years of being walked on. “All of the houses in this area have floors like these. The tiles are what we call hidráulicos,” Helena notes, “and the pattern goes throughout the entire tile, not just on the surface, like with many modern tiles.”
Along with the being a family home, Helena’s apartment also doubles as a studio, where she works on sketches for new designs, as well as casting models of the pieces in clay and metal. Sitting by her antique wooden workbench, Helena often sands the pieces by hand until they have the perfect shape and feel: “When I sit down to work on a new piece, I try to design what I’m missing out in the world. My aspiration is to make elegant and unique pieces of good craftmanship that individuals can wear as an expression of their culture and character.”
Helena’s aesthetic has always been strongly inspired by nature, and her childhood was spent growing up in the Canary Islands – the stark, sculptural landscape of which still influences her designs to this day. But she didn’t always plan on becoming a jewellery designer. She initially studied for a career in politics, but after a year’s sabbatical spent in Florence attending art and jeweller classes, Helena knew her passions lay elsewhere. “I longed for a more creative world, but still with tangible, concrete results. I took night classes to learn the skills of a jeweller and began working with designers I admired, like Jacqueline Rabun.”
Helena Rohner’s big break came when she showed her designs in Paris, the success of which garnered orders for her work from retailers like Barney’s New York and even as far as Tokyo. 25 years later, Helena’s eponymous brand has two store locations in her native Spain, her pieces can be found at over 40 international retailers and her contributions to design have earned her the prestigious Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, presented to her by the King and Queen of Spain in 2015.
Despite her big successes, Helena’s biggest thrill is still to see her designs out in the wild, in real life. “My biggest challenge as an artist is to create a design that fits into someone else’s life. If I see someone on the street or on the metro wearing my one of my designs, I’m so overjoyed – I immediately want to run up and tell them.”
“My aspiration is to make elegant and unique pieces of good craftmanship that individuals can wear as an expression of their culture and character.”
Helena’s timeless yet contemporary design language isn’t limited to the world of jewellery, and she has designed a number of pieces for international design brands like Georg Jensen and Paul Smith. Most recently her organic forms have come to life in collaboration with ferm LIVING, in a series of timeless and elegant home accessories we’ve called the Helena Rohner Series. Inspired by wild, Nordic nature and Helena’s timeless, feminine design aesthetic, the series is comprised of three elegant hooks and a Sculptural Object. “I wanted the objects for ferm LIVING to feel like big pieces of jewellery – that’s why we decided to cast the objects in metal,” says Helena. Available in shining brass and stainless steel, the pieces have been hand-formed for the perfect ergonomic feel and organic shape.