We are devastated to announce the passing of our founder Ray Reesby, on Monday, 29th of August at age 91.
The New Zealand design community has lost a pioneer, an advocate and a force of nature.
Ray not only built the UFL business and reputation, he created a legacy that will continue to shape UFL for years to come.
Since its inception in 1968, UFL has been family owned and run. Today, Ray’s wife Madeleine and daughter Juliana are very much a part of steering and running UFL alongside our close-knit team, and will continue to honour Ray’s passion for design and originality.
As we mourn the loss of a much loved and respected husband, father, grandfather and brother, we reflect with admiration on Ray’s long and prolific career in interiors and furniture.
For more about Ray and his incredible legacy, read the article below from the first edition of the UFL magazine.
A service will be held at St Mary’s Holy Trinity on Wednesday 7th September at 230pm.
Ray’s love for original design and drive for integrity have never changed, but they have continued to mould and evolve our business.
What Ray Reesby doesn’t know about furniture and interior design could be written on a business card.
Obsessed with design, a young Raymond quit his legal training in 1960 and joined the Steelcase office furniture company in Wellington. It wasn’t long before entrepreneurial Ray founded Nova Interiors, building relationships with iconic mid‑century design houses like Jens Risom and Knoll, and led the way with manufacturing international design locally.
A collaboration with designer Michael Payne to create the moulded ply and leather Expo 70 chair for the Osaka 1970 Expo became an instant design classic. Ray still has these chairs in his office today.
The 70s was a hive of activity, with a new factory in Lower Hutt, new commercial and residential divisions, and a Nova Interiors showroom in Parnell. The decade saw Ray bring the open plan workspace down under, importing Knoll’s Stephens System and making German Fupoflex executive chairs under license. With a strong team behind him, Ray built New Zealand’s first premium interior design firm – becoming, to many, the godfather of modern interiors here, at a time when local architects and designers were crying out for global design thinking.
Grounded in original design and local manufacturing, the young company supplied New Zealand governmental and diplomatic fit outs worldwide, including the 1973 opening of the New Zealand embassy in Beijing. Frequenting international airports in the 1990s led him to wonder how to enhance the passenger experience. A new company focused on airports was also governed by Rays principles of design and innovation. Beginning with locally designed and made beam seating, UFL has improved passenger journeys in more than 27 countries from New Zealand to Kazakhstan, including completing the massive Shanghai Pudong International Airport in 2019.
The 1990s also brought landmark projects like Christchurch Town Hall’s James Hay Theatre, designing the furniture for Parnell’s Holy Trinity Cathedral and a bow-to-stern Cruise Liner fit out – thanks to relationship building, and combining European imports with local manufacturing to deliver bespoke solutions. Ray and wife Madeleine steadily built an enviable stable of exclusive European agencies that’s continued to grow in the 21st century.
A problem solver with the energy of someone 70 years his junior, Ray’s still very much hands on in this multi-generational family business, his knowledge and contacts proving invaluable to UFL’s success. His originality, integrity and focus on quality continue to guide all we do. Recently celebrating another milestone – his 90th birthday – our inaugural issue raises a full glass to our founder, Ray Reesby.
Here’s to UFL’s next 50 years and beyond.