Completely Floored

Rug designer Nani Marquina and Phyllis Van Doren with the 
Rabari rug designed by Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien 
Photo by Jennifer Fox Armour

Rug designer Nani Marquina made a rare appearance at My Own Space (MOS) in La Jolla this week. Just-retired Senior Editor Phyllis Van Doren and I caught up with her in the showroom to learn more about the intriguing woman behind the designs. Later that evening, MOS held an event celebrating her work for friends, fans and local design students.

“Phyllis told me she wanted to meet Nani Marquina over two years ago, so we’ve been working on this for a long time,” MOS owner Rik Armour said. Understandably, Nani is busy; she just arrived in San Diego after showcasing her wares at the International Furniture Fair in Singapore last week.

Next is the Milan International Furniture Show in April, which is her biggest trade-show event. Nani releases her annual rug collection every year at the Milan show; so when we asked if we could get a sneak preview, she was kind enough to pull out her cell phone and show us photos of the rugs.

Enthusiasts won’t be disappointed. Spanish fashion designer Sybilla, whose approach to fashion is original and incorporates strong Spanish colors, worked on part of the new collection, designing a line of flat-weave rugs. Nani’s collaboration with local and international designers makes every rug collection diverse, even somewhat experimental.

“We look for people who have a similar design philosophy, who really appreciate the handcrafted techniques and have a sensitivity to color,” Nani said. She showed us a few examples of the designers’ drawings and added, “There is a very big difference from the original artist drawing to the final product.”

The weaving is done in India, Pakistan and a bit in Morocco. Once or twice a year, Nani travels to these places. “It’s interesting to see the weaving in the moment. I need to see the loom, to see how people weave different materials, and then I get new ideas,” she said.

Raised in Barcelona, where she still lives, Nani has natural European elegance, with a low, soft voice, a Spanish accent and a shy yet infectious smile.  Much of her inspiration to become a designer started at home.

“My father was an industrial designer who worked with architects. When I was young he inspired me to go into design. I was very excited when he would arrive home and show me his work. We lived surrounded by design. My father made me see things differently,” she said.

To keep up with her growing celebrity, Nani opened her first showroom in the United States last year on Broadway in New York City.

“It’s a big step to get a showroom here,” says Benoît Anicet, CEO of Nanimarquina USA. “We can welcome designers and show the collections.” In May, the showroom will host events during the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

In California, you will find Nanimarquina at three exclusive dealers: My Own Space (MOS) in La Jolla, Niche in Los Angeles and Propeller in San Francisco. “The product is quite unique, so keeping it in the right place is important for us,” Benoît says. “It’s better for the dealer too.”

MOS has carried the collections exclusively for more than 10 years as its only rug dealer. “From the retailer point of view, we educate ourselves thoroughly; because we want to represent our lines with care,” Rik says. “We are so proud to represent Nanimarquina; we feel like family.”