Ikats Bring Joie de Vivre Back to the Floor

Yes, the rug trade and aficionados will tell you that ikats (pronounced “ee-kats”) have been around for three years or so. True, but they have only come into their own in the last year hitting the US market with an abundance of bold patterns and colors the market. While they are all inspired from the age-old Central Asian textiles, they are far from being all the same with variations in their execution–flatweave or hanknotted pile–quality, and breadth of colors and patterns.

A vegetable-dyed ikat from Afghanistan

What ikats’ success tells me is that color is very much back and so are tribal-inspired designs. People are emerging from the washed out muted look of tone-on-tone neutrals that has dwarfed any other rug trend for so long. At long last! As the economy is slowly picking up steam, people want to re-energize their décor with a blast of color and –joy! The vibrant colors and patterns scream joie de vivre.  As the eminent interior designer Samuel Botero featured in my book The Decorative Carpet (Random House/Monacelli Press, 2010) has so aptly stated, “Nature is in color. Have you ever seen a beige garden?” However, those of you still wanting more discrete neutral tones, fear not. There are plenty of ikats featuring the subtler hues of the rainbow.

A handknotted pile ikat from Samad

If you haven’t already checked them out, explore the new world of rug ikats. They are produced in countries including Afghanistan, China, and India.  My first contact with ikats was with a very exclusive collection of Afghan vegetable-dyed pieces which are particularly artisanal in flavor. When judging at the Carpet Design Awards in Hanover, Germany in January, I was blown away by the variety of configurations of ikat designs in Samad’s Jazz Collection which won the Best  Collection–Modern award. Also tantalizing are French Accents’ ikats which are primarily flatwoven. Both of these are found at retail rug shops all over the country. Depending on the design, they range from being refined to casual and thus adaptable to a range of interiors from the sophisticated city apartment to the casual beach house.

An Aubusson-weave ikat from French Accents