A Rug Above the Rest – Luke Irwin Rugs
An accent becomes the focus when a room is adorned with a Luke Irwin rug. The bespoke products speak to the true art form of traditional hand-knotted rugs — not to mention admirable ethical practices.
Q. Where did your interest in rugs come from and when did you decide to make them your career?
A. A chance meeting with the son of a master Tibetan weaver at a family lunch party inspired me to enter the rug trade. I was, before then, “the world’s worst employee” — I couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to do. I worked for an antiques dealer, worked in PR, but something about rugs really struck me — so I flew to Nepal to meet with them and started my own business.
Q. Where does the creative spark that inspires your rug designs come from?
A. My fascination with the past and how it impacts contemporary design is where my creativity comes from. My inspirations tend to be rooted in history and imagination sparked by everything from dreams to literature, crop circles and, quite often, challenging ways of thinking.
My travel is another source. I am always open to new adventures and experiences, which translates into the variety and vibrancy of my collections.
Q. Can you briefly explain the painstaking detail that goes into the artistry of making of your rugs? I believe it’s much more involved than most people think.
A. All of our rugs are hand-knotted using traditional methods in the foothills of the Himalayas overlooking the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, and in Jaipur, India. Each stage is carried out completely by hand by highly skilled craftsmen — from the drafting to the carding, weaving, washing and hand-finishing. To give you some sense of the scale of what is involved, a single 8’ x 10’ rug from our Mosaic Collection will contain 120,000 knots, which will all have been individually hand-knotted — that may give you a sense as to why our lead time is what it is.
Q. Rugs are very personal to purchasers — do you find that for most purchasers, every rug tells a story?
A. Definitely, each made-to-order rug is very special and personal to each client. The driving principle is to offer each customer complete control over their own rug — with choices to be made for the size, colour, weave, textile and design, ensuring that every client receives a truly bespoke and personal service. As all of our rugs are inspired by stories throughout history, they tell a story of their own. When someone purchases it for their own home, they add to that history.
Q. Is making the investment in a Luke Irwin rug also a reflection of the purchaser that can be passed down through generations?
A. Absolutely — rugs are one of the things you remember as a child because you often play on the floor when you’re small, so inheriting a rug from previous generations often brings with it memories of the home it used to be in. One of the things I stress to people is that rugs are often the most expensive thing in the room aside from the artwork, and the reason they’re a great investment is that they will last just as long — rugs are designed to last hundreds of years. What else in your life can you say that about?
Q. How have you developed such a reputation among well-known and famous clientele?
A. I have been very lucky to work with amazing clients all over the world. I think that my unique eye for pattern and colour makes our rugs stand apart, which has caught the attention of designers and architects who have become invaluable partners. What we do is slightly different to what’s out there, and I think the feeling of a truly unique piece in their home is a reason we attract a certain level of clientele.
Q. In someone’s home, is there anything so silent and subtle, yet that speaks so loudly about a quality lifestyle, as a handmade rug?
A. Rugs in a room are always subliminal; you notice them out of the corner of your eye, but they immediately send a message. We believe the importance of a rug in any given space is often greatly underestimated; a good rug can be the cornerstone or foundation on which all the disparate elements and personalities within a room are bound together. In such cases the rug should almost be the last thing you notice on entering a room, silently providing a basis for the harmony of a scheme.
photos Courtesy of Luke Irwin