The designer of bespoke backgammon boards writes about the influences that spark her relentless creativity and her inspirations from around the world
My magic cabinet is an ever-evolving design not yet realised. Laced with hidden drawers and seamless magic mechanisms that clunk and click to reveal secret treasures collected throughout my life. My dream is one day to make such a cabinet decorated with marquetry and hand-painting from my favourite sights around the world and memories.
At first this cabinet would be a writing desk full of brightly coloured papers and hand-drawn postcards. I love to send letters to family and loved ones all over the world. There is nothing better than receiving a letter, especially in these busy times. My montegrappa fountain pen and various coloured inks and custom wax stamps would reside here.
At the back of the opened cabinet special stones and trinkets would be housed in custom made compartments. Such as a lump of Lapis Lazuli from my work in Kabul with the charity Turquoise Mountain; a beautiful games playing piece inlaid with mother of pearl by my friend and artist extraordinaire John Harwood; semi-precious stone hand carved bowls from the workshops of Saray Design; small meteorites collected from a memorable New Year walking through the Sahara desert; stone samples of games pieces we have made over the years; The cupboard doors would be lined with photographs of my very special family. I’m still reeling from my sister’s magical wedding just a few weeks ago. A magical British wedding in the country with the sun shining and full of love. I have such lovely portraits of my beautiful parents, and I love the thought of these special photographs being together.
A small peddle underneath the cabinet would eject one of my backgammon sets from its side, ready for chairs to be drawn up and for play to begin. What I love about backgammon and games in general, are the conversations that ensue and the quality of time you spend with friends and family. Though I make bespoke backgammon sets and games for clients all around the world I haven’t yet made one for me, about my life. The design would be an extension of the cabinet, with each element a memory and a story. I would have an English rose to represent my father who is a garden designer, and a beautiful old pair of cutting scissors to represent my mother who makes clothes. The design would be covered in green leaves to represent my childhood in the country. The playing pieces would be made out of my favourite malachite and white jasper. I would also have a couple of my leather travel sets to hand for long journeys. Nothing brings people together like a game.
What I love about backgammon and games in general, are the conversations that ensue and the quality of time you spend with friends and family
Next would be a leather lined drawer opened with a hidden carved brass button, containing my drawing pencils and pens. Some were my grandmother’s who was an artist, and my favourites from Caran d’Ache and Staedtler. Beautiful coloured papers from British paper makers GF Smith -particularly my favourite amethyst and cobalt- and stacks of my favourite moleskin sketch books.
My father always recollects that my grandmother kept a sketch book full of eyes, another full of noses and endless other concentrated studies. I would love to find these one day. They have become a bit of a family legend, and like my grandmother, one day I’d love to sit at my desk and take the time to truly study the world around me through hours of drawing.
As you twist a hand carved lapis lazuli handle, a wide flat drawer would reveal itself with my favourite jewellery, collected over the years as well as pieces I haven’t yet collected, from designers such as Hattie Rickards, Hannah Warner, Solange Azagury and Theo Fennel. Each piece with a small compartment specifically designed to tell the story of each piece – who designed it, where the stones are sourced from and how it came into my life.
Alexandra Llewellyn designs luxury toys, board games and bespoke furniture. She launched her namesake company in 2010 and since then major companies and celebrities including Sony, Richard Branson, Elle Macpherson and American Vogue have commissioned her to design timeless games. Alexandra believes that our biggest luxury is our free time and that games help us enjoy it better while spending it with our loved ones.