A Chat With Rebecca Nguyen


During our recent visit to the New Designers show in London, we came across the work of Rebecca Nguyen – a Birmingham-based graduate designer and creator of a stunning collection of beautiful, concrete bathroom accessories.  


Named ‘Coalease’, the collection is made from Jesmonite Portland stone and polished brass, and consists of a vanity tray, toothbrush holder and a soap dish. Jesmonite is a composite material of acrylic resin and gypsum, and is a ‘greener’ alternative to other resin-based materials. Sleek and minimalist, the Coalease collection represents a sympathetic marrying of raw, industrial materials with a smooth, luxe finish. 

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The use of concrete is something we’d often associate with construction sites or multi-story car parks, not luxurious pieces for the home. Rebecca explains that she chose concrete in an attempt to revitalise the material and what it means for our homes:

I came across the style of Brutalism, and it has such a negative reputation, I thought why don’t we bring concrete into our homes and welcome it again?’

If you haven’t heard the term ‘Brutalism’ before, it’s a style that emerged during the 1950’s, and derived from the early-20th century modernist movement. Brutalism is one of the most controversial architectural styles in history - with its imposing, concrete structures and monolithic appearance. However, a newfound appreciation for this style of architecture has risen recently and iconic Brutalist buildings are being restored and listed.

One of the most iconic examples of Brutalist architecture is the Grade II listed Barbican Estate in London – made up of housing, schools and a library. The Barbican was a big influencer for Rebecca and Coalease. When asked how she came up with a collection of bathroom accessories from a set of buildings, she said it was easy to focus on something so abstract as it allowed for a more organic, original concept to be built:

‘The corrugated lines are inspired by the Barbican air ventilation and I literally just went from there. It’s crazy how one piece of a building can inspire a whole collection.’

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As well as the Barbican, Rebecca takes inspiration from the work of Scottish product designer, David Taylor. Known for his experimental use of raw materials to create stunning artisan homewares, it’s easy to see why Rebecca wanted to emanate the same vibes from her own work.

‘David Taylor really inspired me to welcome raw materials into my designs. He’s an open-minded designer who plays and explores with different waste materials - combining texture and colours to form unusual products.’

Interested in Rebecca’s design process, and how it resulted in a collection as refined as Coalease, she tells us it involved a ‘rollercoaster loop’ of sketching, CAD, model making and experimenting. She also explains that the process involved a lot of trial and error:

‘Things can go terribly wrong or perfectly right. And you’re riding on the design process loop until you’ve got a final product.’

Impressively, Rebecca makes her designs in a room in her house, as opposed to a workshop - preferring the quiet and the ability to listen to inspirational music as she experiments.

Rebecca’s hoping Coalease will reach retailers shelves soon, which we have no doubt it will. Rebecca also has a stunning candle collection, which you can view on her website. We can’t wait to see what other designs she will come up with in the near future.

To see what other inspiring designers we came across at the New Designers show, click here. And we have more designer-related posts coming soon, so make sure to sign up to our mailing list for alerts.