The interior-designer magic happens in a former factory turned HQ haven.
Stepping into the Christchurch office of Lume Design is like crossing the threshold of a serene warehouse apartment. Filtered light illuminates a room in which a statement pendant immediately catches the eye, a white sofa and marble coffee table convey a luxe elegance, and there’s a selection of sinuous objects that calmly tie in with the aesthetic.
Husband and wife Jeff and Melissa Merrin merged their businesses in 2018 to create this chic one-stop shop. “Building a house is a big thing and clients are often nervous, so we wanted a space in which they’ll feel comfortable,” says Melissa.
Working on projects on both islands from Wellington to Wanaka, whatever their assignment, be it a high-end residential project or a hotel fit-out, they’ve earned complete trust. They’re often asked for the full service — spatial design through to kitchens, joinery, flooring and window treatments, right down to ceramics, cutlery and linens. Although they may be known for their pared-back, purist style, they’re also adaptable. “We pride ourselves on being able to work across different genres,” says Jeff.
“We believe it’s important to be open, so we try not to have a signature look,” adds Melissa.
The Lume Design team of eight operates from an inner-city studio in a former factory — a building with a sawtooth roof and timber floors that’s a rare survivor of the earthquakes. The Merrins didn’t alter the space much: they painted, added a back room for product storage and upgraded the lighting with LED-track task lights and statement pendants. “We wanted it to look more like a showroom/living space than an office,” says Melissa.
They’ve populated the studio with pieces they love, many designed and made in Christchurch. “Clients can envisage the pieces we have here in their own homes, and some are custom-designed, so it’s a good way to show that anything can be done,” says Melissa.
The look is urban and sophisticated. “We love being in the city,” says Melissa. To counteract their deadline-driven workdays, she and Jeff focus on maintaining work-life balance, even if there is a natural overlap; like many creatives, for them, design is a vocation, not just a job. Home is an apartment that’s also in the central city, so Melissa starts her day taking their dogs for a run around Hagley Park while Jeff walks to work.
If location is one of the keys to their studio, relationships are the soul of its success. For Melissa and Jeff, nurturing their team to extend their professional boundaries is central to their role as directors. Melissa, who hails from Australia, remembers her own baptism by fire. “In the 1990s, I worked as a junior at Design International on the Gold Coast. At a really young age, I was doing full interiors for multi-million-dollar homes!”
Jeff, who enjoyed a career in fashion before retraining, says it’s rewarding to watch their graduates flourish. “We like their fresh ideas. They come on board reasonably green and apprehensive about meeting clients face to face, and end up leading meetings.”
Lume also likes to support local makers — “High-end Italian furniture is nice, but it’s good to be able to custom-make,” says Jeff — and consider clients to be friends. At times, years go by, then they’ll receive a phone call — an invitation to add more layers to or refresh a client’s home. It’s a privilege the pair do not take lightly. “It’s so fulfilling to help create a home that a family loves living in,” says Jeff.
The other day, an architect on a hotel job said, “If you can make this like one of your homes, I’ll be stoked.” This designer duo could think of no better compliment.