In late 2014, New York design duo Ashe + Leandro approached Merida about translating a vintage Tuareg rug pattern to a custom rug for a client project. We had been looking to expand our handwoven rug category, and Ashe + Leandro were long-time clients whose esthetic we love. Our design team saw an opportunity to do something truly inventive that combined sisal and suede — and a collection was born.
We visited interior designer Ariel Ashe and architect Reinaldo Leandro in their Soho studio to discuss the inspiration behind the collection and the role rugs play in their client projects.
Q: How long have you been fascinated with Tuareg rugs?
A: We started collecting Tuaregs a few years ago . We love using them in our projects, but they’re awkward sizes and really expensive.
Q: What sparked the idea of creating a modern version of a traditional rug?
A: We were designing Naomi Watts’ apartment and we wanted to use a Tuareg, but it needed to be a specific size. So we contacted Merida and asked what we could do. Roxanne reached out to their weaving partners in Brazil, who were testing a kilim construction using sisal and suede and could weave it to size. We sent them sketches and they came back with all these amazing samples.
Q: This is your first design collaboration. What was it like to partner with Merida on this collection?
The collaboration was natural — we work with them on every project and love their company. They take pride in everything they do and the craftsmanship is wonderful. The design team has amazing ideas and wonderful expertise. Roxanne also has great style and taste and her ideas complemented ours perfectly.
Q: How would you compare your design POV with Merida’s?
We always aim for narratives that reference design and culture. Merida is interested in beautiful textures and also uses nature and history as influences and driving forces behind the design.
Q: What role do rugs play in your design process? In what spaces would you use the rugs in this collection?
Rugs can either make a statement or work as a neutral base to layer everything on. This collection manages to do both. The rugs would be amazing in a dining room or living room. You can add color in the leathers for some extra interest or keep them neutral and more grounding.
Q: What mattered most to you about how the rugs were made?
We were interested in the sustainability of the materials and the weavers themselves. Merida holds a high standard of craftsmanship and respect for the fabricators. The enthusiasm and vision of their Brazilian weavers played a big part in this collection, and they were part of the collaboration.
Q: What was the most exciting part about working on this collection?
Apart from collaborating with a talented team, just seeing the rugs come to fruition is very exciting. Drawing something on paper and then seeing a large sample is such a wonderful feeling. Much like designing a home, from start to finish.