INSPIRED BY NATURE
Flowers and foliage have influenced the design of carpets throughout its history, and sinuous trails, sprig motifs and stylised plant forms continue to feature in our most popular patterned carpets. William Morris is the best-known carpet designer and, although he lived over a century ago, his patterns continue to be revived and reinterpreted today. Modern artists make new demands on carpet makers to produce their ideas as closely as possible to the original and while over 30 colours can be included in carpets woven on Axminster looms, digital printing offers a limitless palette. Printing on carpet is a new technique and until recently only possible with synthetic carpets. Fi Douglas believes that her company, Bluebellgray, is the first to print designs on pure wool pile. ‘With digital printing you can make subtle marks,’ she says. ‘It lets you put a painting onto a rug.’
Using different textures to create or emphasise the design in rugs or carpets is not a new idea but introducing contrasting fibres takes the technique a step further. Wool has a softly lustrous surface and when it’s used together with a yarn that reflects the light, such as natural silk or bamboo silk, the shiny threads add highlights that give a luxurious look and feel. The opposite effect is achieved when matt plant fibres are mixed with wool, the more robust fibres contributing to weaves that have the richly textural look of tweed.
Patterned carpets are a practical choice in areas of high footfall. They show marks and wear less readily and add interest in rooms where there’s a large expanse of floor. Traditional designs inspired by oriental carpet patterns are an all-time favourite, as are regular dot designs, checks and plaids, but the new generation of abstract and geometric carpets set out to appeal to those who prefer a more contemporary look. Repeating geometrics and interlocking patterns make a bold style statement, while new designs based on classic motifs such as scroll, Greek key and herringbone patterns are distressed for a softer effect and drawn in colours that reflect current trends for refreshing cool neutrals and pastel tones.
NATURAL TONES & TEXTURES
If you want flooring that feels warm and soft to the touch, is springy underfoot yet hard-wearing and is produced with low impact on the environment, wool is the natural choice. Arguably, most natural of all is carpet made from undyed wool. ‘The wool for these carpets is prepared by washing in pure Yorkshire water,’ says Shaun Lewis of Brockway, a carpet maker that uses wool from a variety of sources including British rare breed sheep. ‘No dyes are used and all the colour comes from the natural tones of the fleece.’ Carpets dyed in neutral hues often include shades that wouldn’t appear naturally. Neutral shades and textured weaves are a winning combination and carpets with a loop pile, regular motif or overall random texture exude luxury.
In the south of England, plain carpet sales outpace patterns and neutrals beat colours into second place. If you prefer the dynamic contribution coloured carpet makes to a decorating scheme, choose from ranges with a large palette and especially those that offer added value. Westex, for example, has a dyeing service producing special colours for orders of more than 40 square metres of carpet. While Adam Carpets helps with colour scheming, suggesting paint shades from Little Greene to coordinate with carpets in its Castlemead Twist and Fine Worcester Twist ranges.
Unlike most patterned floorcoverings, oriental rugs introduce colour and design without limiting your room’s style. Equally suited to traditional and contemporary settings, they bring a sense of warmth and easy living. Rugs come in a range of styles from flatweave kilims to thick-piled carpets made from luxurious fibres in intricate designs. Deciding on size, palette, texture and budget will narrow your focus. If you’re buying an expensive rug, some suppliers allow you to try a selection at home.
Stripes have always been an interior design favourite as they offer scope to combine colours and produce interesting visual effects. ‘In the context of a rug, graphic wide bands create a focal point and on the stairs, make a dramatic statement,’ says Andy Guard, head designer at Roger Oates Design. ‘Classic fine lines are more relaxing, adding texture and overall softness. Pick out individual colours for decorative accessories and paint shades.’ Stripes can create optical illusions that have practical benefits, correcting the proportions of your living space. A long, narrow runner visually lengthens a room or hallway, while broad stripes running widthways across an area help to make it feel larger. The bolder the colour contrast between the stripes the more pronounced the effect.
This feature first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Homes & Antiques.