Ella Jones is the owner of homeware store In Residence, a small and cosy store located on Chatsworth Road in Hackney East London. I was really fascinated by the rugs she carries and wanted to know more about how they’re made. As well as rugs she stocks conversational pieces that would instantly add colour and worldly accents to your home.
How and when did the idea of In Residence come about?
A few years ago I started designing and having rugs made alongside my job in fashion. I gradually built up the rug side of things and set up a pop-up shop on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch last year October. It ran for about two and a half weeks and went really well. I noticed that people really touched and interacted with the textures of the rugs. It’s hard to imagine the size of an actual rug from a picture even with measurements. I’d always wanted a shop but wasn’t sure if it was possible but then the space on Chatsworth Road came up and I went for it. I didn’t want In Residence to just be a rug shop even though they are the main focal point; I wanted to have other objects to decorate the home too.
How are the rugs made?
I design them and work with someone in Morocco who works with Berber weavers using traditional hand-knotted techniques. Each rug takes around 30 days to be made so it’s quite a labour of love. It’s taken a bit of trial and error to get right, but now the weavers have learnt how I like the rugs to look and I’ve learnt the limitations of the weavers and what is and isn’t possible.
What’s the worst that’s gone wrong?
The first time I went to Morocco I tried to explain to the weavers that the rug patterns needed to be symmetrical like my designs. On some occasions the rugs were turning out completely off centre, which doesn’t look so good and so is really hard to sell. I found out that the weavers don’t use measurements and make them purely by eye which made me realise how it’s amazing that they turn out as well as they do.
What’s the process in designing rugs?
The key is coming up with a design which is in keeping with the Moroccan style, but offers something modern. I quite often do 20+ designs to land on the right one. It’s hard to come up with something geometric which doesn’t look like a vintage Moroccan rug or that doesn’t look Navajo. I like to draw my designs by hand which can take a while with all the intricate geometric areas, then scan them into the computer to add colour. Colour can be tricky because the weavers can only get certain colours, especially in the wool.
What other types of fabric do they use?
The rugs that I design are mainly made from wool. The vintage rugs that I also stock are amazing as they’re made from recycled fabric and so you can often see bits of prints from clothing; or sometimes I find sequins and poppers woven into the rugs, which I love as it adds to the story and character of them.
Have you thought about using the rug technique in clothing?
It would look amazing, but I think it would be too thick to be honest and I don’t think it could be made any thinner. I have considered using it for bags though.
How did you find the person in Morocco?
It was really random. I bought a rug from him online and simply asked if he knew of anyone that could help me make rugs, he was really sweet and said “Ella I’ll be at your disposal” and I’ve worked with him ever since! I source all my vintage rugs through him and he helps me source cushions and ceramic bowls for the store. He’s really helped me make things happen.
What other countries have you visited to source your rugs?
At the moment for the rugs it’s much more manageable to only work with Morocco. One day it could be great to spread out and source more in different countries such as Peru. At the minute the shop isn’t that big so I want to keep my product assortment focused and clear. I source homeware from other countries. I also stock blankets from LA and wall-hangings from France. I love Japan and stock some small Japanese products. I also like to work with local designers and stock products from a couple of designers based in Hackney.
Would you ever expand?
Mmmm I’d maybe have a bigger shop one day but I like the size of it now, it’s cosy. My aim isn’t to have a whole chain of shops, I like that the business is fairly small and personal.
What other types of textiles do you carry in store?
Mud cloth blankets and cushions from Mali which I source through Morocco, there’re made from slim pieces of fabric which are then hand-linked together by nomadic weavers that use small hand looms to weave the pieces as they travel across the deserts on camels. I stock these amazing blankets from Los Angeles by BFGF. Their blankets are digitally woven and have amazing imagery. They also do cushions and printed silk scarves. I have some wall hangings made by a weaver in Lyon France.
You mentioned before that you studied and work in fashion; was this always your main aim or did you know you wanted to venture out into textiles?
Originally it was my intention to always work in fashion, but I have always loved interiors, pattern and print. I also love to travel and shop in different countries finding products that you can’t get so much over here in London. I guess the shop is all of the things that I love coming together, and so the textiles and interiors side of things has gradually out-weighed the fashion.
Which pieces do you think have interesting back stories?
I love the vintage rugs that were made in the 70s and 80s, they’re one of a kind and no two are the same. It makes them really special, even the backs of the rugs look nice. Generally though I find all the products that I stock have interesting back stories, be it the history, or the designer, or the technique that goes into making the product. I only stock products that I love and are made in ethical ways.
Shop In Residence here.