Area rugs are seizing the day when it comes to dialing up personality in a room. And that goes for indoors and outdoors.
From flat weaves to bas relief, which adds sculptural dimension, its modern design that especially stands out, in an impressive range of prismatic colors, stylish patterns and tantalizing textures. And while some motifs like circles or squares or chevrons may be familiar, even vintage references are re-framed in an unexpected bold palette, scale or placement so that they look fresh.
The area rug long has played a pivotal role in interior design. It can be a focal point, much like a piece of art on the wall. It serves to ground a space, organize furnishings, add warmth and baffle sound.
For some designers, a rug sets the tone for a room, launching its color scheme even one thats monochromatic, which is best expressed by nuances with shades and textures.
But placing a rug in a room requires visualization. This is why retailer websites often show how color and pattern look underfoot and totally change the dynamic in a space. New York artist Madeline Weinrib told San Francisco writer Diane Dorrans Saeks that she had to rethink technique when she began to design rugs 12 years ago.
I trained myself to see from the floor as opposed to the wall and realized that (a rug) had to exist in dialogue with the decor in the room, that it would have furniture placed on it, Weinrib said. In painting, its a world of its own. Thats not true for rugs, which are part of the decor and must be functional.
Its the distinctive appearance of Tibetan rugs that really jelled in the 1990s and sparked renewed interest in an ancient tradition, especially among those who favor clean design like mid-century modern. The luster of rich wools and dense pile sparked attention, as well as a simplification of patterns that often emphasize geometric elements, such as squares, sometimes punctuated in silk for glossy sheen.
But in recent years, rug design really has exploded. Fashion, interior and lifestyle designers have added cachet with collections that have an instant fan base with those who embrace their particular aesthetic. Technology has boosted methodology, allowing the equivalent of performance fabrics as well as digital printing.
Still, its the materials and weave that enable so much variation. Sheep or goat wool from Iran, Turkey or New Zealand or cotton from India will vary in thickness and pile depending on how the weft threads are woven across the warp or foundation, whether the pile is sheered, tufted or looped. Some wools are more coarse, so the result is more rustic. Wool or cotton flat weaves without pile have a very different vibe.
Besides weaves, its application of color that lends character. The most coveted antiques are appreciated for their natural dyes, from plants like madder (red), indigo (blue), walnut (brown and gray) and rhubarb (yellow). Todays fashion-forward hues include deep pinks and raspberries, magenta, tangerine and greens from kiwi to emerald.
Intentional shading also has added another level of sophistication, with striations that look like worn or wrinkled areas becoming part of the pattern, for example.
Another appealing genre is one that features vintage pieces of traditional Oriental rugs stitched together in a patchwork design, then overdyed, usually in rich jewel tones.
Santa Fe, N.M.-based manufacturer Foreign Accents recycles denim from blue jeans, silk saris and mens ties, bits of sweaters and even bicycle inner tubes for its Deja New collection.
The very idea of repurposing is compelling, said Brian Rojanasumaphong, sales manager and buyer at Chicagos Oscar Isberian Rugs.
Large-scale florals and leafy designs echo the popularity of motifs from nature. Animal prints are especially fetching. There are plenty of global and ethnic influences, too: supersized scrolls and paisleys, fretwork and Greek keys, lattice and Moroccan tile motifs.
But theres also a practical plus for rugs.
Rugs add so much to a rooms design, said ChrisChapin, co-founder of the New Hampshire-based Company C. One of my favorite (things to do) is to stretch out on our rug after a run. Bare floors would not be as comfortable!