Backgammon, whose 5,000-year history has its origin in the Middle-East region, was something Alexandra Llewellyn’s family has always indulged in. She does not remember how she learned to play. However, one such game of Backgammon that she played as a child on the streets of Cairo, Egypt while on a trip, left a lasting memory. Her opponent was ten times her age, and although they had nothing in common, neither language nor religion and yet they laughed and played and were able to communicate through their shared love of the game. That moment inspired Alexandra’s love for the game.
Alexandra has been a maker since childhood. Amongst many things, she made a backgammon board and fell in love with creating games. Thus, began a journey that has led Alexandra to create some of the most exceptionally designed and highly decorative backgammon boards ever seen.
“They are beautiful objects and conversation pieces but they are also games and they bring people together. That adds a really important dimension to my work.”
Alexandra Llewellyn, founder of Alexandra Llewellyn London
The eponymous atelier she founded also specializes in the manufacture of bespoke board games of other varieties, humidors, watch boxes, jewellery boxes, unique presents and custom furniture pieces.
A business that began from designing backgammon boards quickly transformed into an enterprise offering completely bespoke one-off commissions. Many of the bespoke pieces are like visual biographies that tell the story of the client commissioning the piece. Alexandra works closely with each client to refine the content and design what they want to see on the board, which is then realized into a finished piece using different materials and manufacturing techniques. Impressed with Alexandra’s exceptionally unique designs, high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, clients began requesting for her designs and knowledge of materials to be applied to other forms of decorative objects.
Alexandra’s bespoke creations have found homes in far-flung places around the world, among royalty and celebrities such as Richard Branson, Mark Ronson, and Elle Macpherson. She has also been commissioned to produce themed collections by global brands such as American Vogue, the Oetker Collection, and Sony Music, among others. Alexandra has also collaborated with the iconic photographer, Terry O’Neill to create a limited edition of 20 pieces of the backgammon board in which photographs of celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Goldie Hawn and others from Terry’s archives have been used to create an inlay of the photographs on to the board with playing pieces made of red glass and mother of pearl encased in brass.
To achieve a high level of excellence, Alexandra has built a network over the years comprising of some of London’s finest craftsmen in various disciplines, such that each board is painstakingly created by hand. Most of her work is made in the UK and she finds herself extremely privileged for having access to such master craftsmen who inspire her along the way.
The signature savoir faire found on Alexandra’s boards and other creations are marquetry; the ancient and highly skilled technique that involves cutting and assembling pieces of wood-veneer to form a unified design. Alexandra chooses each piece of wood based on its color and grain to best fit the individual design elements. Each piece of wood is then cut out by hand or using a laser cutter, and then put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, pressed, and then hand lacquered until glass smooth. The meticulous craftsmanship is an impressive sight to behold and is given an added dimension by the grain and movement of the base woods such as London Oak, European Olive, Macassar Ebony, and Ziricote.
Alexandra’s signature backgammon board designs are available with select and online retailers and are complemented by weighted wrapped leather or weighted Aluminium pieces, calf leather shakers, calf leather doubling dice and precision laser cut casino quality dice. Customization offers pieces featuring polished metals that are topped with precious stones such as Lapis Blue, Turquoise, Carnelian Red, White Jasper, Mother of Pearl, Malachite, Black Marble, Black Veined Marble or Tiger Eye.
She is also an innovator. With the Palm Games Table, she has re-imagined a backgammon board in a radial design which is presented on a round table made of high gloss ebony Macassar and decorated with hand-drawn inlaid sycamore palm marquetry and inlaid brass triangles. The playing board flips to become a chess board. A removable circular box contains semi-precious tiger eye and mother of pearl playing pieces encased in brass, ebony dice shakers, precision cut quality dice, and KEM poker cards.
“Time is now our greatest luxury,” says Alexandra, “and games create a space in which we can enjoy time with our loved ones.” No doubt that she has taken the joy and luxury of playing a board game to the next level by adding an aesthetic dimension to the experience.