To the folks who insist that we are less productive the more time we spend in our beds, Ashley Merrill and Rachel Shillander would like a word with you. Modern sleepwear brand Lunya’s new retail store and showroom on Melrose Place in Los Angeles flexes its elegance and admiration for the organic and the fantastic. As her first collaborative project on the stores, CEO and founder Merrill reached out to designer Shillander to execute a vision for the L.A. 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 look at creating each of the ‘Bedrooms’ as an opportunity to inspire, so then it becomes a question of who I am inspired by. With Rachel, her different influences show up in a really cool way with a very distinct point of view.”
Shillander surely delivered. “The concept for the space is sort of like Barbarella awakening from her slumber,” says the designer, citing the scene from the 1968 Sci-Fi film when the main character floats around in her carpeted spaceship interior.
Shillander most recently surfaced among art circles for her “Disco Chair,” a labor of love made of a hollow, thin monocoque shell placed over an inflatable mold and covered in 30,000 individually handset mirror tiles. The handiwork is meticulous, but the resulting chair is a welcome invitation to observe; when placed in direct sun, the light bounces off each tile to create a “daylight disco.”
Lunya’s new Los Angeles space itself came with a racetrack-oval skylight, which sparked an animated conversation between Shillander and Merrill about architect Bruce Goff and his hold on living rooms in the 1970s. From this pivotal era, Shillander borrowed a renewed love for sunken couches and the use of organic materials and light to intimately warm a room. Lunya’s store features a bench with Shillander’s mirror tiles and faces a large south-facing window; the movement of the sun throughout the day throws what Shillander calls an “ever-changing disco party” inside. To accompany 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 L.A. look befits the stylish West Hollywood Design District where the store and showroom will open its doors. Nearby is the Schindler House, which Shillander walked through to gather inspiration before she began 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 see the bedroom as a place to go 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 scale functional maquettes. Breaking larger concepts into sturdy sketches allows her to explore architectural ethics, place, material, time, scale and the human condition. Beneath its retro whimsy 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 is constantly changing and evolving how I relate to space and design.”
Born and raised in San Fernando Valley, Shillander was moved by the lush, rambling hills of Calabasas, California. Just behind her high school lay Park Moderne, a bohemian artists’ colony that began in the 1920s on a 140-acre swath of ranch land. It became a place of retreat for critical Modern art figures such as Rudolph Schindler, John Steinbeck, architect Jock Peters, wood carver Andy Anderson and painter Paul von Kleiben. Shillander is inspired by this pre-suburbia stretch of history.
“The environment and the stereotypes around being a ‘Valley Girl’ led to me wanting to get outside of that box of what it means to be one,” she explains.
Following the opening of the new Lunya boutique, Shillander will take a new form of her “Disco Chair” to Design Miami/ in December with furniture showroom The Future Perfect. Afterwards, she wants to continue working on interior design projects.
“I hope I get to do more collaborations,” the designer says. “Having to go at it alone [during the pandemic] really forced me to develop my own ideas. When I go into collaborations, I will have more of my own ideas set and ready to bring to the table."