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A rug designer’s world of spontaneous geometry

Bespoke rugs with echoes of abstract art and memories of Brazil

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A rug designer’s world of spontaneous geometry

April 06 2011
Dominic Lutyens

When designing her rugs and wall hangings, Brazilian-born, London-based designer Chichi Cavalcanti takes context very seriously. “Whenever possible, I visit the room each design is destined for first,” she explains. “I take into account what light sources will be cast on it and which direction it will be approached from.” Hence there’s nothing one-size-fits-all about her predominantly bespoke pieces of silk, wool or linen, and, in the case of some wall hangings, felt (all priced from £528 per sq m).

She cites one example of a rug created for the Hampstead home of a client working in the film business: “It was for a large living room where light was scarce. I compensated for this with a design dominated by overlapping shapes in strong, deep colours against a light background.” Cavalcanti, who is based at the London designer-makers’ studio complex Cockpit Arts, also considers how a rug’s colours relate tonally to the floor. For example, the light base colour of the aforementioned rug – found mostly around its edges – allowed it to stand out against the dark wood floor, she says.

Many of her rugs can double as wall hangings. But she qualifies this by saying, “I have to bear in mind that designs on a wall tend to be read from left to right, unlike rugs, which are usually viewed from all directions. My dual-functional pieces have to work on both levels.”

Her style is influenced by 20th-century abstract art, from the simplified, vibrant canvases of Ellsworth Kelly and the works of British sculptor Mary Martin to the more intricate, optically dazzling genre of Bridget Riley. More tellingly, her designs are also inspired by childhood memories of Brazil, and the contrast between Rio de Janeiro (“architecturally chaotic”) and Brasilia (“laid out formally on a grid”). Indeed, her aesthetic seesaws between being spontaneous-looking and geometric and composed – which makes her work versatile and adaptable to different tastes.

First picture: Flow Red rug. Second picture: Colourcast rug. Third picture: Ripple rug. Fourth picture: Pewter rug.