Contemporary art
for the floor.

Whether stylish apartment or minimalist villa – intricately crafted rugs with diverse motifs are in vogue again. The computer takes care of the design, venturing into the world of the traditional weavers in Asia in calculating which knots go where.

First the walls got their color back, now the floors have their turn. Times have changed since blank floorboards or even cold tiles made living rooms uncomfortable. Rugs have made a comeback.

Modern interior designers and their customers have long since associated the term "rug" primarily with the unfashionable Persians of their grandparents' era or with more practical types of carpeting. That image of the rug is now finally taking a beating. Customers are coming on board and recognizing the true qualities of good rugs: great atmosphere, sound absorption, accentuation even of larger rooms, a great feel, precious materials.

The new carpets seize on the graphical aesthetics of colored Kilim rugs and Berber rugs and go one step further. The appeal of the new rugs lies in the connection between traditional manufacturing and a seemingly endless abundance of styles and designs, which can be created digitally and translated from pixels into knots.

Designers and producers such as Jan Kath, Alexandra Kehayoglou and Luke Irwin have revolutionized the classic world of rug design. The designs are inspired by the Sixties, as with Patricia Urquiola's optical art patterns for Ruckstuhl, or influenced by Africa, as with Studio Job's designs for Moooi; they are inspired by Ottoman culture (Hussein Chalayan) or act like giant sketches (Carsten Fock for e15). The wealth of creativity exhibited by companies such as Walter Knoll, The Rug Company, Golran, Edelgrund, Nanimarquina, Hay and Danskina also shows that nobody can say anymore that rugs are boring.

Jan Kath's designs play with traditional patterns…

Suzanne and Christopher Sharp from The Rug Company were collectors before they founded their carpet company. Four years spent in Riyadh wandering endlessly around the souks of the city helped them become experts. "Choosing carpets starts out from a sense of pleasure and eventually becomes an exploration of their history and tradition, the different knots, the variety of materials. Once you begin to take an interest in them, carpets become addictive", says Christopher Sharp.

Having returned to London, they dealt in old rugs and found a niche in the market. "People did not want the same as their grandparents; they were looking for something different, more modern, but just didn't know what", says Suzanne Sharp. She began to develop her own designs with geometric patterns in bold colors. The pair found a carpet weaver in Nepal whose work met their discerning standards. "It's like with olive oil: it's the process, the method of processing that characterizes the quality of the product", says Suzanne Sharp knowingly. "Quality and sustainability are the new luxury", says her husband Christopher.

… while The Rug Company looked to contemporary artists and designers like Consuelo Castiglioni for designs.

The Rug Company now operates some 25 shops worldwide and works with designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Tom Dixon, Jonathan Adler or Paul Smith.

Jan Kath from Bochum remixes the original rug by playing with the familiar, altering the patterns digitally, fading colors, and artificially fraying materials. He recently exhibited the "Spacecrafted" collection – woven explosions of color, like looking at distant galaxies through the Hubble telescope.

Nanimarquina also thinks in new dimensions.

The son of a rug dealer from the Ruhr district, he found his way back to his parents' profession via a circuitous route. Having run out of money while backpacking in Kathmandu, he took a job as a quality tester in a carpet factory. When the owner offered to sell him the factory, he agreed and started creating his own designs. The 42-year old is now regarded as a pioneer of the new carpet trend, supplying such high-profile customers as Bill Clinton. And even some sheiks from the Emirates prefer to decorate their yachts with the designs of Jan Kath than with traditional oriental rugs.

Many designer carpet companies manufacture in Nepal. The families of the weavers and carpet makers in the villages in the Kathmandu valley were hit hard by the earthquakes in April and May. Jan Kath, Luke Irwin and the Sharps provided relief for them in the form of aid packages, special sales and money.

"Military Brocade Room Set" by Alexander McQueen for The Rug Company.

Thousands of kilometers away in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Alexandra Kehayoglou works out of a studio adjoining El Espartano, her parents' factory, designing artistic carpet landscapes. One of these, a wide runner made up of several small green wool islands, which is more reminiscent of a mossy landscape than a carpet, was used by Belgian fashion designer Dries van Noten in his prêt-à-porter show in Paris in September 2014 as a platform for his summer collection. At the end of the show, the models were seen lounging on the fleecy undulating artwork like a band of elves. The 33-year old has been virtually overwhelmed with orders ever since. "It's difficult for many people to envisage how a carpet can be art", says Kehayoglou in an Interview with the New York Times. "But perhaps this is changing."

Text: Marie-Sophie Müller

The carpet meadow is a unique piece by Alexandra Kehayoglou.

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