Handmade Rugs—The Orphans of the Decorative Trade?

Ever since my return from my Turkish sojourn in 1978-80, I have been immersed in the rug world first working for the British magazine HALI, primarily destined for rug collectors, and later The Oriental Rug Magazine. Early on, I became frustrated that handmade rugs’ decorative application was basically ignored. This is amazing when you think that rugs are designed for the floor—either as the focus or as the backdrop of the room’s décor—but until recently rarely featured in their decorative context. Instead, they were typically displayed as isolated objects hanging on a wall or on the floor.  Yes, there are plentiful and admirable books on rugs’ history, construction, and designs but these are geared to the rug aficionado, not to the decorative buyer or user focused on finding out what rugs would work best in their home or their client’s.  Moreover, shelter magazines feature beautiful handmade rugs, both antique and contemporary, but how often are they mentioned in the article or even in a caption?

And so, you may ask, why should anyone care? Actually, the decorative application of handmade rugs does matter. For one thing, they represent one third of the usable space and are the first element that catches your eye upon entering the room. Secondly, aside from furniture, they outlive any other furnishing in the home—including window treatments, wall paint and coverings, and upholstery.  Their resilience to wear-and-tear and virtually all forms of human abuse, including children and even pets,  is second to none  essentially guaranteeing that they can not only move with you from house to house but also be passed down from one generation to the next.  It would not be a stretch to say that they are among the most-effective furnishing investments in the home. Last but not least, they are the greenest of floor coverings being produced with renewable organic materials such as cotton and wool, and free of from adhesives and petroleum-based products, present in most machinemade carpeting products that produce off-gassing. Still, despite these attributes, handmade rugs have been treated as the orphans of the decorative trade.

When editor of The Oriental Rug Magazine and later consulting editor on AREA Magazine, I sought to redress the image of handmade rugs as important elements in the décor with an ongoing article series featuring  the country’s most prestigious designers’ use of handmade rugs in their work.  I knew I was onto something when they all responded with unquestionable enthusiasm. “Finally! It’s about time to publish articles on how rugs are actually used in interior design!”  they exclaimed.

When helping my clients buy rugs, I always was a bit at a loss when trying to recommend books helping them identify rugs they would like to buy.  Most found rug books too intimidating. Some sent me photocopies of illustrations of rare collector’s items that they wanted in oversizes.  Not surprisingly, they were frustrated when I told them these did not exist in the market and were only in the hands of a few collectors and museums.  Other clients, desperate for a visual guide, created their own “look book” with ads and images of rugs in rooms torn out of magazines.

And so, buoyed by the encouragement of my clients and featured interior designers, I took on the project of The Decorative Carpet—Fine Handmade Rugs in Contemporary Interiors, a monumental but very rewarding task.  I was lucky to find Monacelli Press/Random House who believed in the project. My 32 featured celebrity designers—including Pennie Drue Baird, Samuel Botero, Clodagh, Jamie Drake, David Easton,  Suzanne Lovell,  Juan Montoya, Bunny Williams, and Vicente Wolf—were overwhelmingly as enthusiastic as I about giving decorative handmade rugs at long last their deserved place in the interior design world.  Today, handmade decorative rugs are orphans no more.

The Decorative Carpet–Fine Handmade Rugs in Contemporary Interiors (Random House/Monacelli Press, Fall 2010)

In upcoming installments, I will be offering rug decorating tips gleaned from my rug consulting with the interior designer trade and private clientele as well as from the celebrity designers in my book. I will also give you my thoughts on the latest trends in the decorative carpets.

 

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