For some time we’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to rugs, with The Rug Company long leading the way in enterprising collaborations with designers. Paul Smith’s latest creation for the brand is Oriental Birds (£1,175, 275cm x 185cm, pictured above left), which is handmade in Nepal in wool/silk and features a riot of colour and the finest knot count the company has ever used. But elsewhere an increasing number of ethnic-inspired patterns is emerging, as some of the most avant-garde designers turn their attention to our floors.
Launched at Milan’s Salone del Mobile in April were designs for Spanish rug-maker Nanimarquina by the Israeli duo at Doshi Levien. The Rabari collection is inspired by the embroidery of nomadic tribes in India’s Gujarat. The rugs are made from New Zealand wool but are hand-knotted and woven in India using traditional techniques. Both Rabari 1 and 2 (pictured above right) have a white background, while the third is largely black, but all feature colourful details and metallic grid lines. They come in three sizes (170cm x 240cm, 200cm x 300cm and 300cm x 400cm) and cost from €3,550.
Then there’s Ctrlzak, the Milanese art and design studio known for its fusion of eastern and western aesthetics. The Cross(me) Knot collection (€950 per sq m, pictured top right) combines ravishing reworkings of traditional Tibetan designs with European motifs typical of Savonnerie carpets – so that you might find, say, a Tibetan tiger on one half and a beautiful but demure floral pattern on the other.
Hella Jongerius, who has long been associated with Dutch design collective Droog, has come up with her first range for Dutch rug-maker Danskina, where she was recently appointed design director. Jongerius has applied her idiosyncratic approach to four different rugs, each with an artisanal air and an aesthetic that celebrates the beauty in imperfection. Although they may look as if they were knitted by someone’s grandmother, examine them closely and it is clear that they are infinitely more sophisticated than they seem. The pure New Zealand wool yarns used for three rugs come in glorious colours – the hand-woven Bold design (£387 per sq m), for example, is available in seven colourways, from the outstandingly bright to a subtle pink and green. For the fourth, Cork & Felt (£555 per sq m), Jongerius has used multicoloured strips of cork and felted wool.
Also at Danskina are two gorgeous rugs by another Dutch designer, Karin An Rijlaarsdam. Made of big, hand-knitted knots, these are much chunkier and come in lovely colours. East (£371 per sq m) is woven from a single rope of mixed cotton and wool and is based on a traditional Chinese knot design, while Lucky (£551 per sq m) is made by hanging wool yarns from a loop and then knotting them together, leaving cut-pile fringes at the edge.