Home Decorating From Rags to . . . Rugs? Berber-Style Area Rugs

From Rags to . . . Rugs? Berber-Style Area Rugs

When Annie first showed us a swatch of this wool area rug, which she named Gustav (as in Klimt), we were, well, a little confused. We were taken with the original mix of colors and the bold treatment of geometrics, but the tiny sample just wasn’t translating into a bigger concept for us. How would this diminutive bit of textile look at full size?

 

15Gustav

 

Flash forward to a few months later, and the real deal—and an art show at the Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York City—have put it all into perspective. Gustav is actually a modern interpretation of age-old Berber carpets, in all their freewheeling, color-drenched, bohemian glory.

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Photo via Cavin-Morris Gallery

 

 

As this article in the New York Times so perfectly describes, Berber rugs, and in particular this style, known as boucherouite, have a unique appeal to go with their off-the-beaten-path history. The rugs were originally cobbled together by seminomadic tribes in Morocco from scraps of wool garments and other household textiles, in the style of traditional rag rugs. But the boucherouite rug takes those traditional styles and turns them on their heads. With their free-form, asymmetrical patterns, bebop colors, and dynamic variations of intensity, these rugs are akin to the improvisational jazz of the rug world. They’re larger-than-life and they’re not trying to impress anybody, and we love them for it.

 

As Berber carpets increased in popularity, it became less and less common to find finer-quality rugs made of wool; these days, many traditional Berber styles—and their modern boutique cousins—are crafted from a mix of recycled and synthetic fabrics. This has opened up the floodgates of what can be achieved with color, but also means a there’s a glut of not-so-high-end décor on the market.

 

For this new rug design, Annie brought back a few key characteristics of old-school Berber rugs. First, she opted for quality materials—a mix of plush wool and cotton, with yarns that are left long rather than sheared, like a tufted wool rug. On close inspection, this gives the individual yarns the look of coral waving along a reef, and a rustic, shaggy-bohemian edge. The rug’s long fibers also give it a very high profile, which is what makes it feel so delicious underfoot. (Vacuum this type of weave in one direction only, preferably without a beater brush, to maintain its irregular beauty for years to come.)

 

Second, she insisted on the centuries-old hand-knotting technique, which requires skilled artisans to spend weeks creating a single rug. Third, Annie ditched the regularity that has crept into many Berber-inspired, machine-made rugs for a crazy-quilt, one-of-a-kind approach that ensures that every Gustav rug is slightly different—and completely incredible.

 

True, Gustav might not be for decorators whose taste runs toward the conservative, but it’s an undeniably original statement. And thanks to the rug’s jumble of colors, you can easily create a mix-and-match palette of décor and accessories that can be switched out with the seasons—highlighting, for example, lavender for spring, turquoise for summer, gold for fall, and crimson for winter. Pair it with clean-lined furniture and smooth textures for a contemporary feel, or go vintage boho with complementary, smaller-scale patterns and shapely furniture. With a style this eclectic, the possibilities are practically limitless.

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