Jul 16

Q&A with Mark Cunningham: Finding Life in the Unexpected

Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

As long time friends and fans of Mark Cunningham Inc. we were thrilled to see their stunning Greenwich, Connecticut project in August’s Architectural Digest. Mark Cunningham is known for his discerning eye, his singular interior compositions, and his ability to leave a unique imprint with each project.

We caught up with Mark to gain insights into his design philosophy, sources of inspiration, and a little background on this recently published project. In addition to the Greenwich project, Mark Cunningham Inc. was also featured in Architectural Digest last September.

What energizes you?

Unexpected places definitely energize me. What is uncovered through exploration is always a mystery worth seeking. Finding a special object or piece at the end of a long search is always extremely rewarding. The discovery process can also result in looking for new meaning in a piece. Inspiration can always be found in the most obscure things by transforming a particular detail into something new.

What excites you the most while working on a project?

The transformation of space, by taking something from its current state and discovering its new identity, fuels me. I allow myself to carefully craft a well thought out narrative for each project I tackle. I truly am the author of my own exciting story with each project I work on.

Featuring Madagascar Locust. Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Who or what has been your greatest influence as a designer?

Being from the west, I’ve always found inspirations in rarely explored places. I would describe myself as an “off the beaten path” seeker. My projects have given me the incredible opportunity to travel all over the world. My years working at Ralph Lauren were also very influential and memorable.

Featuring Mandacaru City. Photo: William Waldron / Architectural Digest

What aspect of design do you find the most challenging and rewarding?

Every piece I curate for a project is important, however it’s the unexpected items that really bring life to the spaces I design. Finding and integrating these elements is often the most challenging and rewarding part of the process.

Featuring Bora Bora Volcano. Photo: William Waldron / Architectural Digest

How well do you have to know a client before you understand exactly what they are looking for and how you will go about achieving it?

The relationships I have with my clients make each project unique. Through collaboration, my designs compliment their lifestyles and fulfill new aspirations for the life they would like to live in their new space.

How does restraint play into your design process?

Everything I use to fill a space has a purpose. Instinctively, I exercise restraint when decorating by never filling a space just because I can. My philosophy is that the absence of something is just as important as the pieces I find.

Featuring Rift Natural. Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Last fall, you toured Merida’s mill with your team.  Tell us something that surprised you during your visit.

I was moved by the attention to detail that each artisan brings to the table. My visit to the Merida Mill was special for me, because I have always appreciated the art of craftsmanship, and to see the process first hand was very enlightening.

While working on the Greenwich project how did the architectural style of the house affect your plan?

The Tudor style of the house on the exterior is somewhat formal and imposing. I wanted to make the interiors comfortable and less formal and to bring in the light.

Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Featuring Cordova Nutmeg. Photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

What role did our rugs play in your design process?

Merida rugs played a large part throughout the house because of their versatility, selection and price. The living room and study are both natural woven rugs, abaca and sisal. The master bedroom is a cream colored wool and the guest bedrooms are carpeted in tight textured wools.

Featuing a custom version of Troy. photo: Richard Powers / Architectural Digest

Shop our wool rugs >

Shop our abaca rugs >

Shop our sisal and jute rugs >

View Mark Cunningham Inc.’s feature on >

Jun 16

Point of View: Artisan and Machine

“While we don’t exclusively focus on trends we are always observing how the world is changing and as a result what’s next in art, design and fashion.  Attending international shows, scouring flea markets, exploring the latest art exhibitions and observing the latest runway shows are all part of our design process so we stay fresh and relevant.” – Roxanne Hanna, Merida’s Creative Director.

One of the broad cultural trends we are seeing is the merging of technology with traditional forms of making to create design houses and brands that are exceptionally flexible but still put quality and integrity first.

The fact that a rug is woven using a machine shouldn’t necessarily decrease its value versus a handwoven rug. We believe in utilizing the best parts of hand and machine; we maintain the quality of handmade products with the efficiency and capabilities of specialized looms. When used as artisanal tools, machines only expand upon what skilled craftsmen can do.

The joining of man and machine is occurring throughout art and fashion communities as an alternative to mass production and outsourcing. Li Edelkoort of trend forecasting group Trend Union was quoted in a recent Dwell article: “Outsourced production has jeopardized economies and humanitarian standards. Through technology, we might be able to create newer, smaller, more mobile, and more flexible brands. I’m excited that we’re now beginning to see young designers reinventing machines, or recreating old ones to get to the making that they desire. They see the machine as an alter ego, friend, and companion. …Now, we’ll begin to see more customized, made-to-measure tools.”

Edelkoort highlights the machine as companion, with emphasis on the machine’s potential as a made-to-measure tool. Rather than being replaced by machines, designers are using them as specialized tools to go beyond what a human hand can practically do, and be more flexible in the process.

A current exhibit at the MET, Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology also explores this idea. As curator Andrew Bolton explains, “Instead of seeing the hand and the machine as dichotomous, the show attempts to show it more as a continuum or spectrum of practice. I think technology should be used especially by good designers, as a way to enhance their design practice.”

One of the inspirations for the exhibition, a Chanel haute couture wedding dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld combines the hand and machine made. A pattern drawn by Lagerfeld was digitally rendered and intentionally pixelated. The resulting pattern was then applied to fabric and enhanced with thousands of hand applied gemstones, pearls, and more. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

From left to right, these dresses contain an increasing number of machine made elements, yet each is as striking as the last. Yves Saint Laurent (’69-’70), followed by two from Iris Van Herpen (’13-’14 and ’10). Photos © Nicholas Alan Cope

Left: Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga, 2003. Right: Iris van Herpen 2012. Photos © Nicholas Alan Cope

Bolton states, “The show isn’t really about fashion and technology per se; it’s more about techniques and processes. People are so preoccupied by the next thing, there’s a lack of appreciation in the making of fashion.” In essence, the quality, design work, and craftsmanship that go into a garment, textile or rug can be independent from the amount of hand or machine work involved.

Designers can take advantage of technology in subtle and sophisticated ways to differentiate their product from mass production without sacrificing flexibility.

At Merida, the harmony between our design team, craftsmen and weavers elevates our design process and helps us refine developments in a more meaningful way.  This synergy provides the benefits of growing our team here in the United States instead of feeling the constraints of having to move our production overseas. This joining of man and machine is more than a trend; it’s a cultural shift that is here to stay.

May 16

Inventive in the Details – Introducing Decorative Cords

Our new decorative cord collection adds a touch of color and texture to fabric bindings

In December when the Wall Street Journal listed its Top 5 Interior Design Trends, our design team already had a development up their sleeve that was over a year in the making: a new take on old world ornamentation of fringe, cording, and tassels.

We custom sized a linen mélange twisted cord specifically for rugs to satisfy our obsessive attention to detail. These cords, in an array of hues, are the perfect touch to add a dash of texture or a pop of color to tie in a color scheme.

Each of our sisal colorways is a blend of different colored fibers. Decorative Cords can pull out subtle hues in the sisal fibers that might not be noticed at first glance.

In sourcing these trims, we worked with trimming designer Jana Platina Phipps.  Her 20+ years of experience designing and selling trims to the fashion, furnishing, and design industries, as well as her close relationship with an Italian workshop, makes her uniquely qualified to collaborate on trims. She understands how the subtle addition of small, complimentary details can transform a room or a rug.

“What makes trims special is that they add a bespoke element to an interior that can dramatically contrast with ready-made details. They add ‘soul’ to decorating because the layering of colors and textures created with trimmings give a room a sense of provenance, and if a room is decorated well, it will reflect the quintessence of its owner.

The cording that Merida is introducing is exclusively made in a Northern Italian mill. The 90-year-old factory has a tradition of making trimmings that combine the art of engineering with luxury materials and handwork. These twisted cords, made of exquisite linen yarns, dyed in subtle, natural colors, are customized to fit the manufacturing process and design aesthetic of Merida. So, in addition to a handmade rug that speaks to your taste for fine things, you will have a small Italian story to add to your interior tale.”

Made in Italy. Hand sewn and finished in Fall River, USA.

See all colors >


May 16

Stop by during Legends

Please join us during Legends at our new showroom at Harbinger by Hand for wine, cheese, conversation, and a chance to learn about what we’ve been up to at Merida.

Check out our new collection with Ashe + Leandro of woven suede and sisal rugs, peruse the rest of our portfolio, and hear about upcoming launches.

Or just take it easy with Harry and Fred.

via @joeyluke on Instagram

We will be pleased to see you at Harbinger by Hand

752 N La Cienega Blvd.

Tuesday May 3rd – Thursday May 5th

10AM – 6PM


For more info,