‘Start with the rug’: Bringing Indian colour to Ireland

After a career in advertising in the Middle East textile designer Elizabeth Morrison is moving home

Elizabeth Morrison, founder of interiors brand, From Jaipur with Love: ‘I didn’t want to promote the idea of boho India; I wanted to bring a sophisticated India to the market’

Elizabeth Morrison, founder of interiors brand, From Jaipur with Love: ‘I didn’t want to promote the idea of boho India; I wanted to bring a sophisticated India to the market’

 

When the Irish textile designer Elizabeth Morrison establishes her perch in a Georgian house in Dublin, her interiors promise to be like nothing ever seen in the city before. “It will have to fit India inside it,” she says with a smile. “I want it to be an ode to that country’s artisan culture.”

The plan will be to engage one of Jaipur’s finest artists to paint murals in the dining room with images drawn from the country’s famous safari park, Ranthambore, featuring bejewelled maharajas on horseback, tigers and elephants. It will showcase the handmade rugs and fabrics from her homewares brand From Jaipur With Love, woven by independent weavers in the villages of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.

If all this sounds fanciful and extravagant, it reflects the exuberant personal style of an Irish woman, a gifted storyteller, who after many years spent working and living in the Middle East and travelling throughout India, has returned to Ireland to establish a home with her husband and two daughters.

Blue striped cotton rug in the From Jaipur With Love range
Blue striped cotton rug in the From Jaipur With Love range

We meet at a house in Dublin, her temporary residence, where stacks of rug samples are piled high on a sideboard in a dizzying array of subtle colours and weaves. A large jute carpet bound in blue covers the floor of the drawing room, a colourful throw enlivens an armchair while a cotton dhurrie (a thin flat covering) decorates a work table – all bringing a dash of Indian energy to an Irish interior.

“Designers will often say that in terms of interiors, you should start with the rug and the rest will follow. I am totally self-taught, but many years in communications have been a benefit. I didn’t want to promote the idea of boho India; I wanted to bring a sophisticated India to the market and that came naturally to me,” she says.

A lot of research goes into these handmade rugs, many of which are from heritage patterns, some more than a century old. “A lot have been found in palaces, and I constantly delve into archives for imagery and descriptions of the past,” she says, explaining that many of her designs are inspired by the 19th century, when India played a pivotal role in design, while others from the 20th century are modernised versions of the traditional. Their appeal is international.

Jute floor coverings and cotton dhurri table cover
Jute floor coverings and cotton dhurri table cover

Initially Morrison’s rugs were bought by her high-profile Arab and Indian friends, who would order for private dining rooms. “ I was starting to make 60ft long rugs,” she recalls. “You are living in a bright, sunny country and people wanted bright sunny rugs – the floors are marble so rugs are more comfortable and reduce echo,” she explains

The carpets are made in rudimentary wooden pit looms adjacent to the weaver’s home. One sample in a thick, chunky white brushed wool, backcombed and rebrushed, stands out. “Wool and jute are my biggest developing products and more suited to the Irish market. I go to independent weavers, not factories, and I will never change that. I know all my weavers and spend days out in the villages,” she says.

Based in Dubai and after a career as a highflying senior executive and board member of DDB, one of the biggest communications groups in the world, Morrison established From Jaipur With Love in 2013 with an array of handmade dhurries bought on a trip to India for a friend’s pop-up shop. What began as a hobby quickly grew into a fully-fledged business, fuelled by her business experience, influential contacts through work, and wide social networks across the Middle East.

Her background has taken her from Dublin to Dubai and back. From Naas and the eldest of two children of Aidan and Maureen Morrison, professionals now retired, Elizabeth followed her father into a career in advertising and marketing.

After a master’s degree in Dublin, she spent three years working for the CDP ad agency where her aptitude and skills quickly made their mark. Having decided to move to London, she was immediately hired by DDB.

“It was the making of me in terms of vision and style,” she recalls. “It was like I had entered a different universe personally and professionally. In Dublin I was not at the races.”

When she met Elliott Lewis, a Scot with long experience of living all over Asia, the Middle East and India (he proposed to her at the Taj Mahal), it was the beginning of a love affair with India and the start of many years travelling in the region. After their marriage she moved to Dubai to be with him, and DDB arranged for her to set up a team to promote the launch of the BBC’s Arabic and Persian services. But, as she remarks dryly, in time, the world of advertising started to change and eventually with two small children and a punishing, unfulfilling work schedule, she decided to quit and set up on her own, and so From Jaipur with Love was established.

Rug samples
Rug samples

Today she works with leading designers such as Colefax & Fowler and the award-winning Alidad in London; has produced rugs for Dolce & Gabbana, many of the royal families in the Middle East, Saudi princes, the King of Bahrain and the wealthy Ambani family in India.

“You have taken a traditional product and transformed it through colour,” was the Ambani accolade for her work. She has also just launched a collection with the businesswoman, Aerin Lauder, granddaughter of Estée Lauder, in the US.

Morrison’s taste and passion for craftsmanship also extends to her personal style – a fondness for Hermès scarves and fine jewellery is obvious, and she is a fan of the work of Galway knitter Colin Burke and of Stable’s work with Irish crafts. If her scalloped-edged jute carpets and bold blue patterned textiles show Indian craft and design in a new light, not to speak of the proposed theatrical murals, it will highlight how ancient artisan techniques in a country with one of the finest textile traditions in the world can suit modern interiors anywhere.

Prices for rugs start at about €650 and the average rug price for an 8 x 10ft rug starts from about €1,000. fromjaipurwithloverugs.com

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