From the acclaimed designer who abandoned an international engineering career to pursue his creative passion comes yet another exquisite collection for Zenith: Lois. We talk to Keith Melbourne about revisiting early work to create something new – and the contemporary appeal of understated luxury.
14 April, 2021
Keith Melbourne’s new collection for Zenith is an embodiment of contemporary sophistication in commercial furnishings. The softness of rounded, continuous lines accentuated by meticulous detail offers refined comfort and functionality, while the slim legs with anodised gold feet add a layer of unostentatious luxury. There’s something pleasantly familiar about the fluidity of form and comfortable generosity of the designs. Keith explains why: ‘In essence, Lois is an evolution of Ellis,’ he starts, clarifying that Ellis was the first collection he launched with Zenith back in 2010. ‘It was a very successful collection for both of us, and it really helped establish my practice in Australia,’ he continues. ‘With Lois, I saw an opportunity to revisit and refresh the range because my abilities and sensibilities have evolved since. I wanted to bring that to the collection to elevate it and give it a sense of luxuriousness and elegance.’
I ask Keith where his work on the new collection started. Just like Ellis, Lois also began with the chair. ‘The chair has always been the centre of the collection, so I returned to that place, and after 10 years I started making myself familiar with it again. I wanted to understand how I viewed it and whether I was still pleased with the design – and what I wanted to change to make it contemporary today,’ he explains.
Through the craft of upholstery, Keith incorporated traditional piping, which emphasises the continuous lines and elevates the familiar element of the previous profile to the more contemporary, more tactile – and more sophisticated design of today.
‘Looking back now, it feels like the product should have always been that way. But it’s just another way of looking at the form,’ he reflects, considering the design through the prism of his evolved sensibilities. ‘I like to think that I’ve become more nuanced as a designer – and that I have more self-awareness in the design process,’ Keith ponders how his practice has changed over the years and informed his latest projects.
However, the differences between Lois and Ellis don’t end there. When asked about the manufacturing techniques behind Lois, Keith says that some of them certainly wouldn’t have been available a decade ago. ‘When creating Ellis, we used foam cutting technologies to produce a fairly complex form. The difference with the Lois collection is that we’ve had the ability to invest in moulding the foam,’ he clarifies. ‘That allowed us to add more detail to the collection and create a very clean looking product. We then used a process called deep drawing to manufacture the elegant aluminium feet,’ Keith adds. ‘That was also a new technology for us – and one that wouldn’t have been feasible for my business a few years back.’
The advancement in manufacturing techniques also allowed Keith to further elevate the exquisite feel of the designs through the selection of a more refined material palette for the tables. ‘We’re using some of the new surface technologies that are available nowadays, like the nanotechnology and ultra-flat anti-fingerprint finishes, that give the product a really sensual, luxurious palette.’
In revisiting the original collection whilst employing his matured sensibilities and the latest in manufacturing techniques, Keith created a range of beautifully crafted and sophisticated furnishings that are comfortable, functional and compact. These qualities make Lois the perfect fit out for any commercial interior. Whether it’s a workplace or an educational space, the versatile Lois is bound to add a touch of inviting softness to any commercial interior. Matt Vescovo, Zenith’s Brand Director who has been with the company since the launch of Ellis, expands on that point: ‘The selection of materials, the detailing and the soft upholstery set Lois apart from the more rigid commercial aesthetic of yesteryear and decisively lean into the inviting softness many contemporary spaces need.’
But this captivating elegance certainly isn’t the only appeal of the new range. ‘Because it’s a commercial product, it’s very specifically designed for that particular sector, which determines a certain level of durability and a certain type of comfort and support,’ adds Keith. ‘Designing for the commercial market,’ the designer continues, ‘I also think about a sense of quietness because if a form shouts too loudly, it might not be a particularly appealing product. We want the product to give people the opportunity to blend it into the space – through the selection of material finishes, and especially through the selection of fabrics.’
The humble footprint of the collection certainly helps with that too. Keith has designed Lois to offer a sense of comfortable generosity but in a compact form that ensures the seating will work in any commercial space. The pragmatic sizing of the furnishings has also encouraged international opportunities for Zenith and Keith. ‘The compact size of the range is very versatile and really lends itself to the Asian market, which often doesn’t benefit from huge spaces for breakout areas. When we launched Ellis, we didn’t have a presence across the Asia Pacific. With Lois, we’ve worked on how to make the products available in those regions. Now, we have local supply agreements for New Zealand and Asia, and being able to introduce Lois in those markets is really exciting,’ Matt explains enthusiastically.
This compact, versatile and sophisticated contemporary collection is now available in all 13 Zenith showrooms across the Asia Pacific – including three in Asia and four in New Zealand.
View the Lois Collection here.
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