Cast-off Carpeting on the Curb–Is Spring in the Air?

As I drove to my yoga class on an unusually balmy February evening last week,  I  could see that spring was already on people’s minds. Rolls of carpeting were unceremoniously cast off onto the curb in front of their former abodes… An eyesore for the neighborhood no doubt until these mildew-impregnated bundles will be mercifully removed by the local sanitation department.  “Good riddance!”

And then what? Out of sight, out of mind. “I don’t care!” This is the typical response I get when I first bring up the issue with many clients or anyone who will care to listen.  Actually, carpeting waste accounts for five billion tons of waste a year which represents 1% of U.S.  landfills, according to Sustainable Residential Interiors by Kari Foster, Annette Stelmack,  and Debbie Hindman  (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

While carpet recycling programs are beginning to emerge, the journey to progress is a long and expensive one.  If you are “guilty” of having committed the above-described “sin,”  think and plan ahead before jumping into the next carpeting purchase for your bedroom or stairs for instance. You can effectively help save the planet by buying a handmade floor covering that is intrinsically green and recyclable.  We are talking about rugs that are handknotted—such as oriental and contemporary Tibetan rugs;  flatweaves (including kilims, sumaks, needlepoints,  Aubussons, dhurries; and handcrafted all-wool sisals. They are made with all organic materials, such as wool, cotton, silk, and hemp—no synthetics—that are easily cleaned which means they last at least a lifetime and handed down to the next generation.  We are not talking about handtufted rugs, many of which feature the more difficult to recycle latex backing.

“Oh, but  I need my stairs carpeted NOW!” is the instant reaction when you find out that you will have to wait several months for handknotted stair runners  made to your specifications. As states Irish-born Clodagh, the grande dame of sustainable design (see The Decorative Carpet—Fine Handmade Rugs in Contemporary Interiors published by The Monacelli Press/Random House, 2010), it’s a simply a question of good planning. Don’t wait to the last minute to decide—several months is nothing when put into perspective. Rather than blanket the floor with disposable machinemade carpeting, she asks, why not give the floor a good polish and place a beautiful handmade rug or flatweave over it? Just think of all that carpeting rotting in the landfill. Every bit helps. Yes, it does.

Rugging in Florida

The world is made up of all kinds which you might say makes it go round.  I recently came back from a home design show at a design center near Naples, FL. I guess it was coincidental that my judging experience at the Carpet Design Awards competition in Hanover, Germany in January was still very fresh in my mind.  I have said how struck I was by the avant-garde out-of-the-box approach to new rug design orchestrated by mainly non-US producers.  The restrained traditional rug styles espoused by West Coast Floridians came in complete contrast with the often outrageous color and design combinations emerging from Europe.  Never before had the gulf—no pun intended since I was on the Gulf of Mexico!–in rug tastes seemed so wide.

On the west coast of Florida, people are not looking for any in-your-face excitement—just soothing Peshawars with open Sultanabad or Oushak pattern or Persian city-weave reproductions. On the more contemporary front, they will venture into quiet Tibetans in monochromatic tones or restrained patterns.

I got a feel for how conservative trends tend to be here as an elderly man glanced at my book, The Decorative Carpet, and was shocked to see an image featuring a very elegant Tabriz placed in a contemporary living room with modern art. I tried to explain to him that was the point of eclectic design but he only replied “Very odd!” as he stalked off to his next venue.   I wish I could have shown him images of the more far-out finalists in Germany and gaged his reaction.

Admittedly, we are talking about a region in the U.S. whose major population consists of retirees or “Snowbirds” from the more traditional Midwest who are particularly averse to decorative change.  Yet, however decoratively creative other segments of the US population may be—in large urban areas on the East and West Coasts for instance—I had to recognize that what I saw in Florida represents mainstream America.  Beware then to the trendy avant-garde—the welcome mat is limited here!

The over-dyed rug craze trend—what’s next?

Ever since over-dyed rugs started appearing in the market a couple of years ago, I’ve been wondering: “How long can this last?”  I have to confess that I was a bit aghast when I first beheld  old traditional oriental rugs—mostly  worn down to the bone—often patched up and over-dyed in neon blues, greens, purples,  yellows, and more.  My immediate reaction was “This over-dyed rug craze is sure to die soon!” No pun intended, of course!

While some of us may be indeed tempted to say “Basta!” and move on, cutting-edge rug designers are proving that they are taking this trend to the next level.  Three finalist rugs featured at the recent Carpet Design Awards at the Domotex trade show in Hanover, Germany, were over-dyed. So why were they finalists?  Take a look and see!

Jürgen Dalmann’s Rug Star’s ’ “Cross Over” Collection

Jürgen Dalmann’s Rug Star’s ’ “Cross Over” Collection

This rug from “rug addict” Berlin-based Jürgen Dalmann’s  Rug Star’s “Cross Over” Collection—a finalist for the “Best Innovation” category–dramatically combines a very striated abrash with variegated greens and electric blues as the backdrop for a traditional pattern whose outlines are bleached out.  The rug is finished off with a silk pea-green long fringe.

Saraswati Global Ltd.’s Khotan

Saraswati Global Ltd.’s Khotan

Consider India’s Saraswati Global Ltd.’s Khotan—a finalist in the “Best Traditional Nomadic design under 150 euros/square meter” where the rug pattern seems to evaporate into some painterly mist. Here the concept of dissolving any traditional barriers is indeed compelling but I can’t pretend to like this particular colorway. While I applaud this daring feat, I would like to see this concept executed in more pleasing—dare I say livable—colors.

“Bidjar Trilogy”

“Bidjar Trilogy”

What about the German Jan Kath designer’s “Bidjar Trilogy”—a finalist for the “Best Modern Design over 200 euros/square meter” category? Here you have a set of three over-dyed rugs where the pattern progressively disappears from one rug to the next. Again—very intriguing concept but I would like to see a more inspirational rug design as the base. This particular Bidjar design conjures thoughts of moth-eaten rugs rolled up in a musty old attic…I have seen photos of the “Trilogy” in more appealing colorways than this yellow and green. Does the disappearing pattern signify the decay of our society engineered by the passage of time?  Yes, European angst was present at Domotex.  Also, I wonder:  how viable is it to sell three rugs as a set in this challenging economy?

Are these rugs simply over the top? Will they sustain the test of time or end up rolled up in your basement in 10 years? I’m all ears for your thoughts!

Are US Rug Buyers Stuck Inside the Box?

Having just returned from DOMOTEX, the world’s largest rug trade show which takes place every  January in Hanover, Germany,  I can only say how blown away I was by the avant-garde colors and designs emanating mainly from European carpet designers.  As one of the five judges for the Carpet Design Awards competition, I was fortunate to see the most exciting and innovative rugs to hit the market this year. With 10 categories featuring three finalists each, there was a lot of rug deliberating! The undisputed winner for 2012 emerged from the Best Innovation category– “Tagged” by Jan Kath Design, the German-based contemporary rug designer.  The rug combines a traditional hand-knotted Mamluk-inspired design with fluorescent pink modern hand-tufted graffiti—with repeated slogans such as “Make Rug not War” and “Sex, Rugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll”–a feat that would have been considered heresy by rug purists only a few years ago.

Tagged by Jan Kath

"Tagged" Jan Kath Design

“Prisons” by the Paris-based Chevalier edition, featuring multi-colored panels, was another eye-catching contender among the 30 finalists.

Prisons by Chevalier edition

"Prisons" by Chevalier Edition

How likely will American interior designers and homeowners spring for these bold and graphic floor coverings? Yes, some will argue that these rugs are hard to live with –being more attuned to Halloween than everyday life.  Some are dark, deeply depressing and evocative of the angst currently engulfing Europe. You could say that about the UK-based Tania Johnson’s  “Glow” and  “Phoenix,” the unorthodox black-and-white interpretation of a normally brightly colored tribal Caucasian piece from Reuber Henning’s “Casablanca” collection in Berlin.

Glow by Tania Johnson

"Glow" by Tania Johnson

Phoenix by Reuber Henning

"Phoenix" by Reuber Henning's Casablanca Collection


Still, like these or not, they provoke with their in-your-face energy that’s not the mainstream in the US which used to be touted as the engine of creativity.

While a minority, there were finalists from North America which take rug design to a new level. I could easily say that about the innovative “Sand Dollar,” an exquisitely designed and executed hooked rug hailing from Nova Scotia’s Red Spruce workshop and yes, it’s actually produced there.

"Sand Dollar" by Red Spruce

"Sand Dollar" by Red Spruce

I found the painterly “Ruby Room” from Jaipur Rugs and “Reflection Sky” from Wool & Silk to be both innovative and livable.

“Ruby Room” by Jaipur Rugs

“Ruby Room” by Jaipur Rugs

“Reflection Sky” by Wool and Silk Rugs

“Reflection Sky” by Wool and Silk Rugs


Less perhaps “innovative” was the ikat-inspired “Jazz Collection” from Nexus Rugs but wow what beautiful colors!

“Jazz Collection” by Nexus Rugs

“Jazz Collection” by Nexus Rugs

Rugs can only progress with innovative forward-thinking designers. Whether you are steeped in tradition or not, explore what’s new out there and should I say dare to be different?…