‘How many people can say that a significant piece of their home decor is authentically handmade with love by traditional artisans in a rural village in India?’ It’s a concept that absolutely delights Elizabeth Morrison and one that she turned into a successful business when she set up From Jaipur with Love, specialising in customising and exporting dhurries – thick, patterned rugs handmade in India.
The Irish ex-pat, who married her Scottish husband Elliot after the couple met in London and then moved to Dubai in 2007, has a great appreciation of handmade interiors, with a special affection for Indian artistry.
‘It was my husband who first introduced me to India. He had lived there in his 20s and his grandparents had also lived there, so he had a strong connection with the country and the culture. In hindsight, it was important to him that I loved it the way he did. So he planned an incredible trip and we travelled the length and breadth of the country and it was just the most enriching, incredible, spiritual, all-encompassing experience of my life,’ she gushes. ‘And that has continued to this day.’
When the couple came to the UAE, Elizabeth stepped away from a career in advertising. ‘I did some charity work and fund-raising events, but I wanted to do something different,’ she says. ‘I had spent so much time in India and I had seen artisans at work in the villages and it was something that always inspired me. I couldn’t believe that all the detail – the patterns, the dyeing, the spooling and weaving of the rugs was done by hand. I was hugely impressed by it and the more I looked into it, the more I saw that it was becoming a dying art form.’
For Elizabeth, the seed of an idea took hold and From Jaipur With Love was born. Today, Elizabeth employs a team of artisans based in several Rajasthani villages, 30km from Jaipur, who still do it all by hand and every single dhurrie is utterly unique.
‘Rajasthan is synonymous with art and craft, as the Maharajas and the Moghul period really invested and appreciated art and craftsmanship. Every inch of the palaces and mansions are embellished. They are absolutely sensational. From textile, art, inlay, jewellery – the artisans’ families would carry on their craft for generations,’ says Elizabeth, who is very happy to support the future of these artisans today.
Of course, it’s not just Indian craftsmanship that is showcased in their home. Standing in the living room, there are unique, hand-crafted cultural pieces everywhere you look.
‘My husband went to school in Scotland, but has lived and worked all over the world – India, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, London and Dubai,’ she says by way of explaining their eclectic art and interiors collection.
‘I like beautiful fabrics and handmade things. I really appreciate that aspect of artistry in interiors,’ she says. ‘I don’t have a background in interior design but I’ve always worked in creative enterprises and being Irish, it is part of our culture, you are surrounded by artisans, whether they are writers, playwrights, sculptors, painters, weavers – it’s part of our natural gravitation.
‘Both Elliot and I love art, buying it together and individually. He likes Scottish art and I like Irish art – for obvious reasons. So, dotted around the house we have art from Scotland and Ireland, including my favourite Irish painters – Louis Le Brocquy, James Brohan and Liam O’Neill, but also, Vietnamese painters – Bui Huu Hung, Le Quan – which Elliot has been collecting since his time in Asia. All very different,’ she laughs. ‘Nobody would guess that the same person bought those paintings, but I like having them side by side – it fits with our eclectic history and style.’
A lot of the mahogany furniture, including the dining room set, is from Elliot’s Hungarian grandmother, Elizabeth explains. ‘It originated in Hungary, then she moved to Bombay and met his grandfather, so it lived there in the 30s and 40s, then moved to Paris, then to England, and then it came to Dubai with us,’ she smiles.
The gold chests in the television room are Vietnamese, over 100 years old, but lovingly restored. The hand-painted urn on the living room table was purchased from Exotica, a shop in Dubai that imports antiques and artefacts from the Far East.
The Buddha painting in the dining room is from Vietnam, but Elliot bought it from Red Lane Gallery in Singapore in his 20s. He loved it so much that the gallery owner gave him a lay-away plan, with monthly instalments of £50. It took a long time to pay it off but it was a passion investment. One of Elizabeth’s favourites is a James Brohan painting of Irish writer Samuel Beckett, a piece that has a great personal story of how it came into her possession in a two-decade long tale of destiny.
Elizabeth describes her style as classic but eclectic with a bit of a twist. ‘I love mixing antiques with contemporary pieces,’ she says, pointing at a modern, hand-cut, marble-top side table in the living room that sits between two Louis chairs donning an Indian elephant safari pattern, surrounded by several pieces of furniture that are over 100 years old. ‘And the dhurrie in the living room, a heavily patterned rug, manages to blend with all of it, the indigo, pink, grey, green and navy in the room. It all marries well for me,’ she says with contagious enthusiasm.
‘I don’t need the most fashionable, most modern items. I just want a home to feel like a home, to represent history, and our family history and see how it all comes together,’ she says. ‘Everything comes from somewhere different and we celebrate that.’
Indeed, all of this brings great warmth to the home, with every piece telling a story, sharing a memory, expressing soul through its artistry. Nothing is swept under the rug…it all sits proudly on top.
Photography by Stefan Lindeque/Styling by Robin Collingwood
The owner Irish entrepreneur Elizabeth Morrison lives with her husband Elliot and their two daughters India, 8, and Alexandra, 4.
The home The four-bedroom villa in Dubai’s Al Safa neighbourhood features an eclectic collection of interiors in two sitting rooms, a study and a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the garden where a tent, handmade in India, is used for entertaining.
Get the look
Clockwise from top left: Dhurrie rug, From Jaipur With Love, from Dh650; Chinese 19th Century sideboard, Orhid Furniture, Dh6,676; Blue ceramic vase, Zara Home, Dh145; Gale 2-seater sofa, Home Centre, Dh1,835; Orangerie lamp, Maisons du Monde, Dh100; Libra cushions, Wysada, Dh118 each.