This week we’re heading to the living room of rug designer Jennifer Manners, who recently collaborated with us to create the beautiful Elton Snuggler in luxury shearling for her stand at Decorex (check it out here). Her home is filled with treasures from travels around the world and precious gifts from dear friends – here she tells us a little more about the story behind her beautiful coffee table and the memories it holds…
My uncle was a relatively well-known architect in the US, and I grew up going to his house and seeing the classic mid-century Barcelona coffee table my entire childhood. I then spent my ‘grown up’ years waiting to settle down in one place so that I could get one of my own. When I finally settled in London nearly fourteen years ago, my Barcelona coffee table dream became a reality, and I treasure it.
When I look at the things that I really love, I notice that almost all of them are gifts. It is an honour to be known by someone well enough that they can give a present that is so perfectly poignant to who we are. So these items here embody memories and people who have meant a great deal to me in my life so far.
My favourite book is not necessarily a work of literature but rather a story about a woman who blazed her own trail growing up in Africa. I have been given this book “West With The Night” about aviator and adventurer Beryl Markham three different times by three very different people, all with the inscription “this story reminded me of you”. The first was a stranger I met on a plane when I was 24 years old. We exchanged cards on a flight bound for Argentina, and three weeks later it appeared at my parents’ house. The most recent was a university roommate who gave it to me only three months ago, some twenty years later.
My love of Africa and the adventures and stories it holds is reflected by some of the other items on my table too. The white beaded bracelet was bought during my first trip to West Africa; the cheetah bowl and lipstick holder was a parting gift from a friend when I moved away from Johannesburg; the African photography book captures the soul and spirit of the continent with which I have fallen madly in love.
The hand-carved antique hawk was ‘traded’ on a trip to the Congo when I travelled to see the gorillas with my father who was recovering from cancer at the time. It was a dream for us both and to have realised the adventure on the back of him beating his illness was immeasurably satisfying. We spotted the hand-carved hawk in a market in Goma, and we both loved it. We jokingly bid against each other for the bird, throwing in hats and t-shirts and bracelets we carried with us to ‘sweeten’ the deal. In the end, my dad won, much to the stall holder’s amusement. Of course, he immediately turned around and handed it to me as a funny reminder of our attempts at bartering and a once in a lifetime trip.
My passports (now both American and British!) are always out, ready for grabbing and going. I find incredible inspiration from being in completely different environments. I think travel can stretch us and I love the creative, intellectual and spiritual expansions that can happen while exploring new places.
I have collected colourful textiles on every journey I have ever made, starting with colourful kikois from Mombasa in Kenya when I was 20 to the indigo Ikat scarf shown here, traditionally from Uzbekistan, given to me by a Turkish friend in Istanbul. The blend of the imperfect ethnic pattern and the sumptuous silk makes an interesting combination — I don’t like things to be too perfect.
The silk Hermes scarf was a gift from my late grandmother - a woman who personified individuality and glamour with a twist. Up until her 98th birthday, she had her hair ‘done’ on Wednesdays, and you never caught her without her red Chanel lipstick neatly stretched across her lips. She had a zest for life and living and celebrated until her last breath. Her home had an enormous hydrangea bush in the front garden. I remember how it could weather the extreme heat of the midwest summers and still look elegant. Strong, resilient and beautiful even under extreme conditions - just like my grandmother.