A love of antique textiles has long coursed through the veins of the Weavers, the family behind Guinevere Antiques, the interiors mecca on London’s King’s Road. The late founder, Genevieve, had traded in vintage textiles since opening the shop in the early 1960s, and today the collection includes an extensive collection of dhurries, the traditional Indian carpet and throw. Known for their impressive sizes and bold colours, the handcrafted designs were a mainstay in maharajah palaces. “They adorned banqueting halls and ballrooms,” says Heather Weaver, director at Guinevere. “Or, for special occasions, they were laid on the roads up to the palaces.”
After collecting vintage dhurries from Rajasthan for at least 30 years, Weaver launched a bespoke service offering modern, chic designs that combine the age-old woven craft and her expert contemporary design eye.
Clients usually begin by bringing in pictures of the room they wish to furnish. Colours are discussed first; some 100 shades are on offer. “We originally had 50,” says Weaver, “but added 50 more as I wanted more modern hues. I brought in colours we like in the west, such as celadons and silvery greys – shades you wouldn’t traditionally find in India but work well for interiors here.”
Discussions about style might veer from the more simple (such as classic stripe) to more playful ones (such as Bikaner, first picture, or diamond, second picture), before Weaver then turns into her existing library of dhurries for further inspiration – either the 60 or so carpets that are in the shop, or the “hundreds and hundreds” of photographs of every dhurrie Weaver has collected or created in the past.
For one client, a starting point was an existing vintage design, but Weaver widened the border to fit the room and changed the background colours. For another family she designed a large Bhopal-pattern (third picture) dhurrie for a playroom, and has made an especially long runner for a staircase. In 2013, to commemorate Guinevere’s 50th anniversary, Weaver produced a tiled pattern, among the rarest motifs, in chic monochrome – colours that wouldn’t be found in India. “It was a classic modernisation of a traditional design,” she says. “All pieces sold out.”
The dhurries are woven on traditional handlooms in villages outside Jaipur and coloured using vegetable dyes; they can be stone-washed to add a distressed vintage look. All weaving is done by eye (ie, no pre-drawn patterns are used) and only about 8in to 12in of rug are produced per day. Priced from £20 per sq ft, delivery time is usually 12 to 14 weeks.
Finally, a proportion of each bespoke dhurrie sold will go to help Weaver’s craftsmen in the villages. “Part of the beauty of going out there and meeting the artisans was that I wanted to give something back.”