To the folks who claim we’re less productive the more time we spend in our bed, Ashley Merrill and Rachel Shillander would like to talk to you. Modern nightwear brand Lunya’s new store and showroom on Melrose Place in Los Angeles exudes elegance and admiration for the organic and the fantastic. As her first collaborative project for the stores, CEO and founder Merrill reached out to designer Shillander to execute on a vision for the LA location, which opened early this month.
“In so many ways [Rachel] was the obvious first choice,” says Merill, who also recently launched the men’s line Lahgo. “I see creating each of the ‘bedrooms’ as an opportunity to inspire, so then the question becomes who inspired me. With Rachel, her different influences come out in a really cool way with a very clear point of view.”
Shillander certainly delivered. “The concept for space is like Barbarella waking up from her sleep,” the designer says, referring to the scene from the 1968 science fiction film where the main character floats around her carpeted spaceship interior.
Shillander recently popped up in art circles for her ‘Disco Chair’, a labor of love made from a hollow, thin monocoque shell placed over an inflatable mold and covered with 30,000 individual mirror tiles for the handset. The handiwork is meticulous, but the resulting chair is a welcome invitation to observe; when placed in direct sunlight, the light bounces off each tile to create a “daylight disco”.
Lunya’s new Los Angeles space itself came with a racetrack oval skylight, sparking an animated conversation between Shillander and Merrill about architect Bruce Goff and his grip on living rooms in the 1970s. From this pivotal era, Shillander borrowed a newfound love for recessed sofas and the use of organic materials and light to intimately warm a room. Lunya’s shop has a Shillander mirror tile sofa and overlooks a large south-facing window; the sun’s movement during the day throws in what Shillander calls an “ever-changing disco party.” To complement her signature furniture, Shillander also designed a stone chaise longue à la “Flintstones furniture,” she describes for an overall design that is as spontaneous as it is thoughtful.
Lunya’s LA look matches the stylish West Hollywood Design District where the store and showroom will open its doors. Nearby is the Schindler House, which Shillander walked through for inspiration before starting to work with Merrill. The founder also loved the location for its proximity to art and appreciates that the area is full of inspiration to reimagine our sleeping spaces.
“You can think of the bedroom as a place to sleep, or you can realize it as your beautiful place of rejuvenation and creativity,” says Merrill. “So much of life is about how you choose to look at something and I love artists who teach you that.”
In her practice, Shillander focuses on creating work by imagining accessible functional models. Breaking down larger concepts into solid sketches, she can explore architectural ethics, place, material, time, scale and the human condition. Beneath its retro quirkiness and futuristic touches, the Lunya space reveals Shillander’s personal openness to design possibilities.
“Every project—every day I live—I get more information,” says Shillander, “and that’s constantly changing and evolving how I relate to space and design.”
Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Shillander was touched by the lush, rolling hills of California’s Calabasas. Just behind her high school was Park Moderne, a bohemian artists’ colony that began in the 1920s on a 140-acre tract of ranch land. It became a haven for critical figures of modern art such as Rudolph Schindler, John Steinbeck, architect Jock Peters, woodcarver Andy Anderson and painter Paul von Kleiben. Shillander is inspired by this pre-suburbia piece of history.
“The environment and the stereotypes surrounding being a ‘Valley Girl’ made me want to get out of that box of what it means to be one,” she explains.
After the opening of the new Lunya boutique, Shillander will take a re-shape of her “Disco Chair” to Design Miami/ with furniture showroom The Future Perfect in December. After that, she wants to continue working on interior projects.
“I hope I can enter into more collaborations,” says the designer. “Only have to do” [during the pandemic] really forced me to develop my own ideas. When I start working together, I have more of my own ideas ready and ready to put on the table.”
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