We discover this rug designer’s inspiration behind his iconic designs, reminisce on the early days of his business and learn about his newest collection
Born in Ireland and educated at Eton College, Luke Irwin specialises in bespoke handmade rugs and counts Jemima Khan and the Prince of Wales among clients – one of his rugs was famously presented to Barack Obama. Luke commutes to his studio at the end of his garden every day to make sure he’s home in time for dinner and also travels to Kathmandu three times a year to see his designs come to life. He lives with his wife, Alice, and their two children, Otis, 10 and Violet, seven, on the Wiltshire and Dorset border.
Why did you first decide to work in the world of rugs?
It took me a while to decide what career I wanted to pursue, but I have always been a very visual and creative person. I worked in the theatre, antiques and even PR. One day when I was on my lunch break, taking time away from the miserable antiques shop where nobody ever came in, I sat next to a little boy who was telling me about his father who was a master weaver in Kathmandu. After that conversation I spent most of my time coming up with designs for my very own rug collection. I ended up going to Nepal around seven months later and that’s really how and where it all began.
What was your first collection like?
The first collection I created was designed around crop circles. To this day I still don’t know why I ever chose that as I have no interest in them whatsoever – apart from that the graphic is quite cool.
What’s been your favourite rug design over the years?
One I created a few years ago sticks out to me because it was based on a dream I had about the American flag. I dreamed that all of the stars on the flag changed into doves and flew away, it was all very strange. I love that just a simple concept can be transformed into a product in the space of four months, it’s remarkable really. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best rug in the world but it was all a result of that bizarre dream.
Can you tell us about your new Mosaic collection.
About a year ago we had builders over doing some work to the house and while they were digging up the garden they found an enormous Roman mosaic. It turns out the house is on top of one of the largest – or maybe even the largest – Roman settlement in Britain. So the new collection is all based around these mosaics, but we’ve added contemporary design twists. This isn’t just a new collection – it’s a lot more thoughtprovoking than that. These designs will transport you back 2,000 years.
What makes your designs unique?
Everything I create has a meaning behind it; what I can’t bear is when people create rugs just for design’s sake and there’s no context or thought behind them. We aren’t just making products for money. With us, there’s a life and story behind every rug we make.
Above right Vespasian Blue rug. Prices start from £1,044.
What’s your own home like?
My house is like so many apart from it sitting on top of a Roman palace. The oldest part of the house was originally two cottages which still have the extant Roman flooring and the cottages are joined together with a lovely Georgian build. Sometimes I dream of living in a modern house where I can have it exactly as I want it to be, but the joy of living in an old house is that you have to adapt to how it once was so it keeps its character. I believe that a house is never fully finished. Interiors aren’t like fashion to me – who wants to change their home as much as they change their wardrobe?
Article by: EKBB