The Cosy Detail Your Home Might Be Missing
Thinking of luxury interior design might prompt you to look up at cascading chandeliers or stunning art on the walls, but you would be remiss not to consider what’s underfoot. A beautiful carpet can add comfort, a sense of warmth and well-being as well as improved acoustics to a room.
Some firms, such as Hong Kong textiles company House of Tai Ping, have elevated textiles to such an art form that its products have found their way into the homes of Hollywood actors (Tom Hanks, Gwyneth Paltrow) and palaces (Buckingham Palace, the King of Thailand’s palace).
With a brand presence in Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East, House of Tai Ping creates products for some of the top luxury hospitality, residential and retail brands across the globe, along with carpeting for yachts and private jets; in Singapore, the company’s collections are distributed by luxury carpet and rug firm Etesse.
When the firm was founded in 1956, it was due to practical business sense rather than a vision to transform luxury textiles design. Brothers Lawrence and Horace Kadoorie of the industrialist, philanthropic and hospitality Kadoorie family in Hong Kong established the brand along with seven other businessmen.
The idea was to provide employment opportunities to Hong Kong’s rapidly increasing population as well as to appeal to Western consumers with an eye for Asian design. Originally dubbed the Hong Kong Carpet Manufacturers, the company began as a workshop in Tuen Mun where around 30 workers created Tianjin-style knotted carpets.
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The company’s first product wasn’t meant to be as hand-knotting was a rare skill among the region and not well-suited for production. In spite of this, in 1958 the firm opened its first flagship in The Peninsula and landed a commission from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles for a carpet so large it was created in a tent outside of the factory. When engineer Anthony Yeh came on board to manage the workshop, the firm’s status as a revolutionary carpet purveyor was cemented.
“In 1960, Yeh invented the pneumatic tufting gun,” explains Mark Worgan, CEO of Tai Ping, who has been with the company for over 10 years. “That gun is still an industry standard today and opened all sorts of avenues that hitherto had not been possible.”
In 1960, Yeh invented the pneumatic tufting gun. That gun is still an industry standard today and opened all sorts of avenues that hitherto had not been possible
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Over 60 years later, Tai Ping remains dedicated to hand-crafting techniques but you’d be mistaken if you expected old-fashioned designs rooted in convention. “We err towards the avant-garde,” says Worgan. “We stand out because we use traditional hand-made techniques, but we’re more contemporary.”
Indeed, if you step into the firm’s Hong Kong flagship you’ll discover geometric, abstract and playful designs more akin to art pieces than your typical Turkish or Persian rugs. A pioneer in the use of texture, Tai Ping was one of the first to mix cut and loop pile in the same product.
The brand has also taken texture to new and creative heights, sculpting three-dimensional dynamics through the use of relief. Its product Zen, for instance, is a solid colour carpet with a minimal design, but its genius lies in how its texture ripples akin to sand brushed by ocean waves on the beach.
Many of the brand’s creations are determined by their clients. “Over 90 per cent of everything we make is custom,” says Worgan. “We are presented with a brief and design aesthetic, which is not our own.” Because of its unique style and affinity for custom work, the firm mostly draws discerning luxury customers seeking pieces that are both hand-made and that expresses their individuality.
The brand has won hotel clients who have even requested to cover the entirety of their property in hand-made carpeting, resulting in rugs covering areas as large as 7,000sqft.
Tai Ping continues to work with brands such as The Peninsula and Tiffany & Co; it worked on carpeting for The Peninsula hotels in London, Istanbul and Tokyo, and the new Tiffany & Co flagship store in New York. It is currently working on a project for a Boeing 747 private jet as well.
“We like doing unusual products that we can use to demonstrate that carpeting can be used almost anywhere,” says Worgan. In fact, pushing the envelope is largely what has cemented the firm’s status as a top-class textiles brand alongside its dedication to hand-made technique.
We like doing unusual products that we can use to demonstrate that carpeting can be used almost anywhere
“I do think there was an era where everybody thought these crafts were going to die out in favour of mass production,” says Worgan. “But there will always be people who celebrate artisanship and who want something special. So long as those people are out there, there’s a place for Tai Ping.”
Designed in collaboration with Hong Kong interior design firm AB Concept for Tai Ping, Nephele is a capsule collection of four couture rugs inspired by various views from a plane of the earth below. The Polis I rug (featured here) evokes an illuminated city with its thread of gold woven through white or dark blue.
Taking inspiration from the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi (the appreciation of the beauty in imperfection and transience), traditional textiles and elements of the natural world, Kiso is a triptych design of water, wind and earth. The abstract, thought-provoking designs were created in collaboration with Toronto designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg of Yabu Pushelberg; the Kawa III carpet won the Design Picks Award at this year’s Design Shanghai fair.
Launched in November, House of Tai Ping’s newest collection is under American brand Edward Fields, which it purchased in 2004. As its name suggests, the On The Fringe collection is all about fringes in asymmetrical, mixed-and-matched layers on the same piece. These rugs even work as quirky statement wall hangings.
Tai Ping Carpets and Edward Fields are available at Etesse, 18 Sin Ming Lane, #05-16 Midview City (by appointment only), Tel: 6908 0889
This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes Dec 2018-Jan 2019