Evlynn Smith was not only one of the creative driving forces behind Precious McBane, possibly the most dynamic design duo in Britain, but in an extraordinarily rich and varied life she was also instrumental to the success of two important art ther-apy programmes in Scotland - the Gateway Exchange project for rehabilitating ex-prisoners and drug users and the Fighting Back workshops for people living with HIV and Aids. A great many people, therefore, will be touched by her sudden and premature death at the age of 40.

Edinburgh-born Smith is probably best known for the offbeat and playfully provocative furniture and interior designs she helped create for Precious McBane, the company she formed along with fellow Scot Meriel Scott in 1993. The

London-based duo even caused a stir with their first collection of couture furniture called Tartan Tales: Roaming in the Gloaming, which featured a standard lamp with an Aran knit lampshade and a tartan-upholstered eight-drawer tallboy which was pinched at the waist and known as the Lanky Lassie.

According to Stuart Macdonald, director of The Lighthouse, Scotland's centre for architecture and design, Evlynn Smith and Precious McBane ''were part of that important design Diaspora. Although they were based in London, they still retained their Scottish roots and Scottish characteristics were still discernable in their work''. .

Yet Precious McBane's idiosyncratic design vision resonated internationally, too, and their satin and laced-up back ''corset'' chairs were snapped up by Prince, while the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Sophie Dahl succumbed to their seriously luxurious Mongolian lambs-wool beanbags in the pages of Vogue. David Redhead, author and international design commentator, claims Precious McBane ''really did make a mark as they captured the mood of the time in the mid-1990s, which could be described as the 'fashionisation' of furniture.''.

High-profile clients led to heavyweight commissions, including a make-up room for the TV studios of Bloomberg, the highlight of which is a Perspex floor made up of 27,000 plastic display lipsticks, and the project the duo were working on at the time of Evlynn's death - the interior design for a boutique hotel in Clerkenwell called Zetter - due to be unveiled in 2004.

Yet there was more to Evlynn Smith than quirky, funky ''furnicouture''. The daughter of a painter and decorator and the youngest of five sisters, Evelynn Anne (she later dropped the ''e'' and the Anne) left school at 15 and trained to be a hairdresser. Moving to London in the early -1980s she met and married artist Sebastian Horsley.

In 1984, after a stint at Chelsea Art School, Evlynn and Sebastian settled in Edinburgh, and became co-directors of the Gateway Exchange, the rehabilitation initiative set up by Jimmy Boyle and his wife, Sarah, for ex-prisoners and drug users. Evlynn then co-founded Fighting Back, a programme of workshops based on methods of art therapy aimed at people living with HIV and Aids.

In 1990, however, shortly before the break-up of her marriage, Evlynn decided to return to London to take a degree in sculpture at St Martin's Art College - and she made her mark almost from the outset. Her

second-year show - Privy, Prive, Private - which featured a

pale pink rubber hand basin

in a womb-like rubber room, explored many of the sensual themes and materials that would inform her later work with Precious McBane.

Evlynn Smith's death on April 18 of an aneurysm is a ''huge loss'', admits Stuart Macdonald, yet her vivacious vision has wildly enriched the often staid and serious world of design. Beth Orton's rendition of Wonderful World at Evlynn Smith's funeral, therefore, seems wholly appropriate.

Evlynn Smith, designer; born September 8, 1962, died April 18, 2003.