The European-born husband-and-wife duo behind Hegi Design House are driven to imbue contemporary elegance into every piece of furniture they create from their base on the South Coast of NSW.
Starting a design studio in the midst of a global pandemic might not seem like sound business sense. But the decision has paid off more than handsomely for husband-and-wife design team Juri and Nelli Hegi, whose Hegi Design House has flourished since it was established in 2020. “Setting up the business was an inevitability,” says Nelli. “We had been making bespoke furniture for friends for several years and then, with encouragement from these happy clients, we conceived Hegi Design House, and the rest – as they say – is history.”
Working from coastal Gerringong, a two-hour drive south of Sydney, the couple create hand-crafted contemporary furniture with a deft European sensibility. Originally from Kazakhstan, they were living in Germany before Nelli was offered a marketing internship in Australia. Her background was in business, art and marketing; Juri’s in fine furniture making. Their European heritage informs the brand’s aesthetic: modern and inspirational, with meticulous attention to detail. Only 12 of each design is produced, making exclusivity another hallmark of the studio.
The collection comprises 40-plus pieces, encompassing dining and coffee tables, ottomans, daybeds, bedside tables, stools and dining chairs, in materials such as marble, brass, velvet, aluminium and a wide range of timber including walnut, American oak, Victorian ash, black American oak. The pieces are often marked by a playful juxtaposition of materiality: the Bling Bling chair, ottoman and daybed, for example, are a sublime combination of cream bouclé and Victorian ash; the Lavinia desk – a collaboration with Italian designer Pietro Franceschini – has voluptuously curved legs in a Rubelli velvet topped with an elegant plane of timber.
“We draw our inspiration from architecture, from nature, from fashion, and we love every aspect of the creation process,” says Nelli. “That’s how we find ourselves focusing on different material combinations like walnut and upholstery or metal and timber. Our inspirations give us the impetus to create something unique, something iconic, something people haven’t seen before.”
The couple’s European sensibility also informs their desire to craft furniture that stands the test of time. “Furniture is so much more than just pieces in a room. It creates a feeling, it shows who we are, what we are and what will be. And we believe that furniture should create memories too,” she says. “We want to make sure our pieces are heirloom pieces, so our clients know that not only has something been created for them but that they can pass it down to the next generations.”
Recently, Hegi collaborated with Melbourne-based interior designer and stylist Jem Juthamat on a new collection called Baan, which includes a console, side table and desk in materials like marble, hardwood and brass. The collection takes its name from Jem’s Thai cultural roots (‘baan’ means home) and was inspired in part by the lines of classical Renaissance architecture. “We think the collection embodies fluidity, sensuality and a playful blend of femininity and masculinity,” says Nelli, “and infuses Renaissance architecture with a contemporary twist.”