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Fashion, People

Introducing Scottish Designer Wendy Morrison & Her Maximalist Rugs

Scottish designer Wendy Morrison's maximalist rugs, textiles and wall coverings are gaining ground as the studio opens its first U.K. showroom in London.

Lisa Vincenti
7/11/2023
Designer Wendy Morrison and her dog Eddie in a chinoiserie style setting with her rugs and wallpaper
Scottish designer Wendy Morrison and her dog Eddie show off her exotic contemporary chinoiserie inspired rug
and wallpaper. Shown, Shanghai Blossom hand-knotted rug

NEW YORK -- Scottish designer Wendy Morrison, the creative force behind her eponymous rugs brand, has quietly attained cult status among design enthusiasts. Featuring her signature color-drenched chinoiserie-inspired designs, Wendy Morrison Design proves a timely antidote to the neutral interiors which have become so de rigueur in recent years.

As more homeowners willingly take the plunge into kaleidoscopic looks and as the style pendulum again swings toward classic looks, the atelier, which has seen steady growth since its founding 10 years ago, is poised to capture the imagination of a growing roster of design devotees. In fact, Wendy Morrison Design not only expanded its offering beyond area rugs to include coordinating textiles and wallpaper, but also just opened its first trade showroom.


Wendy Morrison Design opens its first showroom in London's Design Centre, Chelsea Harbor. Shown, ground, Zebra
Leopard Palms; left wall, Arc en Ciel; and right wall, Pink Moon

Founded in 2023 and run with her husband, Gregor in Edinburg, Wendy Morrison Design evolved from Morrison's commission by a Scottish rug manufacturer to create a high-end hand-tufted rug collection for interior designers. With a background in fashion, Morrison's collaboration with that rug maker, a partnership that lasted nearly a decade, allowed her to explore and master the rug making process and proved a turning point in here career as well.

"It made me very happy to play with color and yarn; I had previously been working in clothing and was very much restricted to fabric availability. The opportunities in area rugs felt so exciting. As I saw what was possible with area rugs, which are so tactile, I became fascinated/enamored," Morrison recalled. "I initially created a collection of seven rugs based on color and the feelings each color evokes."

For example, her Vitality design was composed of the many hues of rich reds from deep pinks through to deep ruby reds; yellow was contentment offering a circular pattern composed of many hues of yellow working their way through a circle motif. "Today color and emotion still play a very important role in all my work -- but I may revisit that idea again, it is indeed very commercial," she said of her earlier rugs.

THE RUGS OF WMD


One of Wendy Morrison Design's best-selling pieces is Birdsong in yellow, inspired by Japanese culture.

Wendy Morrison Design offers two collections composed of hand-tufted rugs crafted in India and hand-knotted pieces produced in Nepal. "The hand-knotted collection is perhaps my aspirational line. I can achieve more detail and finesse through this technique, but I am aware this type of rug is not accessible to all," Morrison explained, adding that the company is a proud partner of GoodWeave, a not-for-profit organization that ensures fair working conditions. "Still, I love the hand-tufted technique very much, the density of color achieved with this technique lends itself to color-rich designs. Two of our most popular designs are Birdsong Yellow and Shanghai Blossom and I believe this is because they are both rich in color and both make you smile."

Birdsong, which is hand-tufted of wool and Tencel with a dense, plush 13mm pile, is influenced by Japanese culture, capturing exotic birds in an understated garden of twining branches and blooming magnolias, orchids and chrysanthemums. Offered in three color options (yellow, black and jade) and a runner size, Birdsong's garden scene is contained within a slender linear frame of soft pink. Shanghai Blossom is available in both hand-knotted (wool and silk, 8mm) and hand-tufted (wool and Tencel, 13mm) weaves, with a runner size option in a tufted design. This pattern features a multi-color bold angular herringbone design wool base with highlights in shimmering gold silk overlaid with oversize delicate blossoms of chrysanthemums, lotus flowers and peony roses.

"Our rugs are for anyone, people are becoming less afraid of color -- there was a time when people thought it best to keep things neutral, easy to sell and fits all, but now people are less likely to conform, people are less afraid to be themselves. People are more aware of what makes them happy; this rings true with the recent trend for maximalism."


Shanghai Blossom by Wendy Morrison Design gives a contemporary spin to eastern floral motifs.

GOING AND GROWING BOLD


Wendy Morrison Design recently added coordinating wallpapers and fabrics to her lineup. Shown, One Hundred Birds,
One Hundred Flowers rug

During the pandemic, when Morrison and her husband were at home and unable to travel, the duo decided it was time to expand beyond the area rug category. "We did a lot of development work in lockdown when we were unable to travel," she said of the recently introduced line of fabrics and wallpaper. "It made sense, lots of people asked if we did fabric and wallpaper and many of our designs lend themselves quite nicely to both fabric and wallpaper. It is a lot of fun working with pattern on this scale and it also makes our brand more accessible to more people."

Interestingly, much of the company's increase in area rug sales directly to consumers was fostered via social media. In fact, the studio has been very reliant on its consumer trade, which Morrison attributes to the success of the company's Instagram page (@wendymorrisondesign).

And while WMD's designer clients have been an important sales channel for the brand, the Morrisons decided to more systematically target that business sector, and this spring opened its first trade showroom in London's Design Centre, Chelsea Harbor. The gem-size atelier displays how all three product categories coordinate with one another to tell an imaginative story.


Wendy Morrison reworks her Arc en Ciel area rug design for her fabrics, wallpapers and hand-embroidered
crewels wall hangings.

"The showroom is the ideal way to show how some of our designs have developed from the original rug, through to fabric, and wallpaper -- and, in the case of Arc en Ciel, Eternal Toile and Phoenix, the hand-embroidered crewel wall-hangings too," she explains. ‘We managed to upholster some pieces of furniture in our Arc en Ciel and Phoenix fabrics as well, which helps to show their full potential.

"Because the showroom space is quite small, I had a good idea of how I wanted it to look before we started decorating," Wendy explains. "I loved the idea of creating the look and feel of an inviting curiosity shop, full of treasure, hopefully enticing people to come in, and see and feel our products, and be fully immersed in their color and texture, from floor to walls to furnishings."

CHINOISERIE GETS A FRESH, MODERN TWIST


Morrison's designs merge multiple genres in gutsy color palettes for contemporary audiences. Shown, Pink Moon

Morrison's love of color, nature and Asian philosophy is very clear in her work. "I have become known as the bird lady in our Indian workshop," said the designer, whose work updates classic chinoiserie motifs for a contemporary audience.

Chinoiserie, a design style that emerged during the 17th century as trade between China and European nations expanded, grew as Europeans became fascinated with the mystery of that faraway land. In fact, according to London's renowned Victoria and Albert Museum, the travels to the East, which brought exotic tales and goods back to western audiences captured the imagination of Europeans, including its craftsmen and designers.

"Although trade between the two countries had increased over the 17th and 18th centuries, access to China was still restricted and there were few first-hand experiences of the country," the V&A Museum stated. "Chinoiserie drew on these exotic, mysterious preconceptions. Objects featured fantastic landscapes with fanciful pavilions, sweeping lines of the roofs of Chinese pagodas, fabulous birds and figures in Chinese clothes. Sometimes these figures were copied directly from Chinese objects, but more frequently they originated in the designer's imagination. Mythical beasts such dragons also became a common Chinoiserie motif, summoning up all that was strange and wonderful about the East."

Today, the design genre, after waxing and waning in popularity over the centuries, remains a heavily emulated design aesthetic -- once again gaining transcendency for its whimsical, fantastical flourishes. In fact, for Morrison, her fabled area rug designs, which capture scenes of cranes flying above pine trees or parakeets frolicking in a garden of magnolias, orchids and chrysanthemums; and mythical dragons, have attracted a growing coterie of devotees.

Wendy Morrison's Talisman area rug was awarded Best Transitional Design at the 2023 Carpet Design Awards.

In fact, so alluring is her new exquisite Talisman rug, which features playful dragons bordered on the ends by a rainbow-colored chevron design, that it was awarded top honors in the Best Transitional Design at the 2023 Domotex Carpet Awards this year. "Talisman can be defined as modern design inspired by traditional techniques: transitional might be a good word to describe it and my style." Crafted of wool and silk this Nepalese rug "connects the past and future, and celebrates human optimism."

Morrison and her husband continue to plan for the future and the growth of the label. In May, Morrison returned to New York's International Contemporary Furniture Fair for the second, showing of her Talisman rug and re-introducing her designs and new fabrics and wallpapers to an American, and international, market. "We had a very good show, we had lots of people come to our stand and a lot of people who came specifically to see us, which was lovely. Again, I think the rich color and textures made everyone smile.

Morrison has also been exploring her fashion roots with a range of licensed goods with her design ethos. She collaborated with French retailer Monoprix to create limited-edition fashion and homeware collections.

"We have customers all around the world thanks to the success of social media and it makes sense for us to find distribution channels throughout the world. We would also like to venture into the world of licensing. We dipped our toes in very successfully with [French retailer] Monoprix in 2022 and it was great fun," she said of Monoprix fashion and homewares collection. "Our plan is to continue to grow the brand and enjoy the journey."


Wendy Morrison created a capsule collection of apparel and housewares for French retailer Monoprix.
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