ART AND COM­MERCE – at home with Laing de­signer Anna Mur­ray

Anna Mur­ray’s im­pec­ca­ble range of lux­ury sleep and loungewear is dreamed up right here, in her tran­quil Auck­land home filled with ex­quis­ite art­work.

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In late 2015, after Anna Mur­ray had com­pleted an 18-month con­tract that saw her re­brand­ing fash­ion chain store Glas­sons and launch­ing it across the ditch, she found her­self re-eval­u­at­ing her life. “My 50th birth­day was loom­ing and I felt it was time to take my brand­ing knowl­edge, my re­tail knowl­edge and my fab­ric-sourc­ing knowl­edge and bring it all to­gether to back my own ven­ture,” says the for­mer mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive with more than 20 years un­der her stylish belt at agen­cies in­clud­ing Mojo Publi­cis and Shine. “It re­ally felt like it was now or never.”

Luck­ily, Anna had an ex­cel­lent en­tre­pre­neur­ial role model in her mother Jill Tuck, the founder of one of New Zealand’s first in­te­rior de­sign whole­sale busi­nesses. “I grew up see­ing Mum trav­el­ling the world, look­ing at trends and fab­ric swatches and mak­ing prod­ucts to bring back to New Zealand.”

How­ever, the ques­tion re­mained as to what Anna should do with her own ex­cep­tional set of skills. “I didn’t want to go into fash­ion be­cause it’s so hard and so fickle and just tricky,” she re­calls. But while ly­ing in bed one morn­ing, she had her aha mo­ment: stylish sleep­wear for the dis­cern­ing 35-plus woman who loves sleep fol­lowed by loung­ing around in py­ja­mas as much as she does.

“For me, go­ing to bed, sleep­ing and my time first thing in the morn­ing is a real rit­ual. I don’t get up and rush into my day – I cruise into my day,” says Anna. “And when I come home, I strip it all off and put it aside by chang­ing into some­thing more com­fort­able.”

Of course, what track­suit pants of­fer in com­fort, they lack in style, so Anna had al­ways kept an eye out for chic sleep­wear when trav­el­ling or on Net-a-porter. “But it was al­ways so hor­ren­dously ex­pen­sive,” she says.

A for­tu­itous con­ver­sa­tion with her mother con­nected Anna to then 83-year-old Bar­bara Laing, who had been mak­ing and im­port­ing sleep­wear for 25 years and was ready to wind down her busi­ness. Anna bought the busi­ness and Bar­bara taught her the nec­es­sary tricks and tech­niques to cre­ate sleep­wear that’s ‘fit for pur­pose’ – mean­ing it doesn’t only look great when you’re stand­ing in the kitchen, but ac­tu­ally fa­cil­i­tates a bet­ter night’s sleep by stay­ing put on your body and al­low­ing your skin to breathe.

Work­ing from the peace­ful, light-filled home that she shares with her hus­band Ron and their teenage son James in Auck­land’s Re­muera (their daugh­ter Madeleine is liv­ing away from home while study­ing at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity in Welling­ton), Anna re­branded and launched her la­bel Laing this past Novem­ber. The mod­ern, vaguely mas­cu­line key pieces in beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als – cot­ton, silk and fine wool – are im­pec­ca­bly tai­lored with French seams and pip­ing. “My in­spi­ra­tion of­ten comes from movies and film stars, and ev­ery­thing I do has a bor­rowed-fromthe-boys feel,” says Anna.

In the months since Laing’s launch, she’s kept adding to the range: silk-cash­mere pieces for lay­er­ing once you get out of bed; a silk night­gown that’s more fem­i­nine but with­out a frill in sight; and a glo­ri­ously over­sized dove-grey cash­mere cardi­gan that would be a chal­lenge to re­serve for wear­ing only in the pri­vacy of your home.

“I look for trends both in fash­ion and in the home,” says Anna. “My pieces are flat­ter­ing clas­sics de­signed to be loved for years, not just for a sea­son. They’re an in­vest­ment in a stylish night’s sleep, whether you’re at home or trav­el­ling.”

In keep­ing with her love of loung­ing, Anna has made sure that her home has plenty of zones that in­vite read­ing, work­ing and en­joy­ing the sun. They’re equally well po­si­tioned for con­tem­plat­ing the many art­works, be­hind each of which is a story of how it came to be there. Take the Louise Fong paint­ing in the din­ing room, for in­stance. Anna’s aunt is mar­ried to the auc­tion­eer Dun­bar Sloane, the paint­ing’s for­mer owner. When Anna heard that Dun­bar was sell­ing the Louise Fong, she stated her case so pas­sion­ately that he al­lowed her to hang it in her home for more than a year while she paid it off.

“It’s very rest­ful and dreamy,” says Anna. “And at night when it’s lit up, all the reds come out in it.”

She was equally te­na­cious when it came to ac­quir­ing the fam­ily’s rose­wood din­ing room ta­ble and be­spoke chairs – a set orig­i­nally de­signed by the late, famed ar­chi­tect Claude Meg­son for his own Re­muera home. When Anna saw it come up for auc­tion at Webb’s, she just knew they had to have it. “The chairs rock when you sit in them,” she says. “It’s funny hav­ing a din­ner party where ev­ery­one slowly starts to bounce up and down in their seats as the evening pro­gresses!”

One thing you won’t find Anna do­ing, how­ever, is cook­ing said din­ner in the ad­ja­cent open-plan kitchen. “I can cook,” she says, “but I try not to. Ron tends to cook 80 per cent of the food in our house. That’s his way of re­lax­ing when he comes home from work.”

As invit­ing as the din­ing suite are the 1950s leather arm­chairs in the lounge that are so worn, they’re start­ing to tear. “I love tex­ture and how these are age­ing,” says Anna. An­other of her pas­sions is books and mag­a­zines. “They’re the only things I’ll horde. Ev­ery­thing else – if its not nailed down, it gets chucked out.”

Up the stairs, past an early Karl Maughan paint­ing that fre­quently gets moved around the house for a change of scenery, is James’s bed­room, Anna’s home of­fice and the mas­ter bed­room – com­plete with that most cov­eted of in­dul­gences: a spa­cious dress­ing room. “I feel priv­i­leged to have a good dress­ing room,” she says. “It’s great to be able to get to things eas­ily and it’s filled with my favourite shoes from my cor­po­rate days. I haven’t worn high heels daily for two years, but they still get a reg­u­lar out­ing.”

Above left: The din­ing chairs fea­ture cus­tom-de­signed up­hol­stery.

Above right: Anna’s love of colour and tex­ture is ex­pressed here in a mus­tard arm­chair, kilim cush­ion and framed cloth bought in Pa­pua New Guinea. Op­po­site: The rose­wood din­ing suite was de­signed in the 1970s by lauded ar­chi­tect Claude Meg­son. The pho­to­graph is by Fiona Pard­ing­ton and the paint­ing is by Louise Fong.

The kitchen, which has not been re­fur­bished since the house was bought, fea­tures Wenge and glass tiles.

Anna and pooch Benji in her stu­dio, which is bright­ened by a rug from Mad­der & Rouge. She bought the black and white print be­hind her from A rail of Laing sleep­wear puts her cot­ton, silk and silk-cash­mere pieces on dis­play.

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