Personal Luxuries | The Bespokesperson

Backgammon boards that tell a life story

Giving a modern, customised twist to an ancient tradition

Backgammon boards that tell a life story

April 14 2011
Charlotte Metcalf

Alexandra Llewellyn’s hand-painted backgammon boards and tables never fail to draw gasps of delighted surprise – and no wonder. They are beautiful works of art. Five years ago she made her first board for Alexandra and Rick Hayward’s Bahamas home, decorating it with Bahamian orchids. Since then she has been perfecting her technique and is now making them on commission.

“I started playing backgammon with my glamorous playboy of a step-grandfather in Cairo when I was about seven,” says Llewellyn. “I have always thought of backgammon as a game that transcends language and culture, a pastime that brings people together. I enjoy making that experience unique – giving a modern twist to an ancient popular tradition.” Her bespoke boards and tables are made in Britain, and Llewellyn works with a small team, using the same leather craftsmen who make the peerage boxes for the House of Lords and a young joiner, trained by Barnsley, the great British furniture maker.

As an example of how collaborative the process of commissioning from Llewellyn can be, she has just made a table for a man’s 50th birthday. It is hand-painted with symbols and names of important places and events in his life and inlaid with silhouettes of his children’s heads. The playing pieces are made from rock crystal and malachite and the boxes are leather-lined and engraved with messages from his wife.

Bespoke orders are priced from £4,000 for boards and £9,000 for tables. For a more modestly priced gift, the charming ready-to-go limited editions start at £1,800 and feature nudes, peacock and pheasant feathers or palm trees.