Walk into any well designed room and if the last thing you notice is the rug beneath your feet, one designer will be very happy. Seemingly an odd statement, but according to award winning rug designer, Luke Irwin, this is just what a rug should do; ‘It should be the element that you notice last in any great detail, but when you do, it should give coherence to the whole room.’
Famed for his handcrafted silk designs, the Dublin born designer’s passion for his craft is evident – yet Luke’s career in design was by his own admission ‘entirely accidental’. After working in the theatre and antiques industry for several years, it was a chance meeting that inspired him to make a drastic career move. ‘One day I happened to sit beside a young boy who was half Tibetan, from Kathmandu, whose father was a master weaver. That was 10 years ago and although there have been hairy moments I have never regretted it for a second and have enjoyed it hugely.’
Luke’s fateful meeting led to a flagship store on Chelsea’s Pimlico Road and a prestigious client list, with the most notable address to adorn to a Luke Irwin rug being The White House.
The famed rug in question (the Doves & Stripes) was gifted to President Obama in 2009 by the then Irish Foreign Secretary. However, the prospect of becoming part of one of the world’s most famed buildings hasn’t fazed Luke. ’To be honest, I don’t ever give it much thought. I was a huge supporter of Obama so I was thrilled that the rug was in his White House. I have no idea where it is in the building and in darker moments I imagine that it is in some vast warehouse in Idaho which is full of all Presidential gifts.’
Back to present day and Luke is set to reveal his new collections later this month at international design fair, Decorex. These four fresh collections are all driven by the same ethos, says Luke; ‘what we strive to do is design rugs that are not necessarily instant gratification, but that have a design relevance for many, many years. This is countered by colour and scale, so you can make a design much more of the moment by using in vogue colours or making the scale bigger.’ The bright bohemian style of the Babylon collection reflects this idea, with vintage patterns and faded jewel-like colours giving the design a timeless appeal. Each rug is made using different varieties of silk which absorb the dye differently giving the design its depth and texture.
Most designers, especially those working in textiles, have a signature style making their work instantly recognisable, yet Irwin’s collections are an eclectic mix, ranging from vintage floral to geometric patterns. This variety, however, is entirely deliberate to avoid becoming a ‘one trick pony who can only do one thing,’ says Luke.
‘The whole point is NOT to have a signature. What we are all about is aesthetic sophistication. Our signature is all too apparent for those who have this sophistication; there is nothing else out there like us. We are not the McDonalds of interiors where you get instant gratification and then loathe yourself – and it – ten minutes later.’
If the latest collections are anything to go by it would appear Luke Irwin is far from being dragged down the fast food route, yet Luke is clearly a man of chance and like all businesses he says, the company’s fate is simply ‘in the lap of the gods.’