What Better way to get your home ready for fall than with a cozy and luxurious rug? Here are some of our fall favorites, that will also work all year round. Choose from brilliant, highly pigmented hues, to rich, calming neutrals.
The city of Chefchaouen is tucked away in the Riff mountains of northern Morocco.It is located about four hours from the city of Fez, and is remote and well hidden.It was founded in 1471, when Jewish and Moorish refugees fled the Spanish Reconquista, and was used as a sort of base while hiding from the invading Portuguese. Chefchaouen once again became a safe haven in the 1930’s when Jews were fleeing Europe. It was during this time that the city was painted entirely in Blue.
The color blue, in addition to being beautiful, represents the sky and the Heavens in Judaism. Painting homes blue for spiritual inspiration had been a practice of the first refugees in the 1400’s, but became widespread in the 1930’s. The families of Muslims,Berbers, and Jews lived here in peace for hundreds of years. However in 1948, most of the Jewish families left for Israel. The people Chefchaouen today still keep the Jewish tradition alive, and continue to paint their building blue, applying fresh paint seasonally. The local government supplies paint and brushes to the people as well.
Another fun fact about the blue paint is that it is rumored to keep away mosquitos. Mosquitos dislike flowing water, and from a distance that is what the city appears to be. Many visitors say that while walking through the narrow, cavelike streets, it can start to feel like you are swimming
Like many other parts of Morocco, This city is colorful! Not only are there countless variations of blue to gaze at, other colors are celebrated too. Bags of pigment fill the markets, and vibrant, handwoven rugs are a big part of cultural tradition here.
While most of us won’t be visiting this heavenly city any time soon, we can dream about it, and better yet we can shop about it. Here are some of the most Chefchaouen and inspired pieces at Mohr and McPherson.
California Boho is a fairly new phrase, applied to some very classic aesthetics.You might ask, what does this word pairing really mean? How does one california-ize their boho? Of course the concept of bohemia has never been far in people’s minds from California. The ideologies of both words conjure other words- surf, sand, salt-soft. Waves in the ocean, waves in your hair. Waves in the patterns of your textiles. Still, this is not your standard Haight/Ashbury fan fare. We’re talking sleek lines. Were talking sophisticated neutrals dusted with specific, sparkling odes to boho; ethic patterns, layered textures, organic materials, nature inspired pieces. Regular old hippie dippie style can exist anywhere. The key to California Boho is modernization. Heres how to get to the land of chic: Steer with great restraint away from over doing it with the boho part, take a slight left at minimalism, and straight on till morning through mid century modern.
1.A Vibrant, Tribal inspired Rug
A rug is a great first step. You can choose one to compliment the furniture you already have, or if you’re starting from scratch, you can choose whatever you want and design the rest of the room around the rug. Flat weaves are great for this look, and the Kilim is at the top of the list.
2.Mid Century Modern
Look for low profile neutrals to offset the bright colors and busy patterns of your boho pieces.
3.Poufs, Pillows, and Boho Accents
Here’s the place to go crazy! Since you have kept it neutral with the larger items, the interchangeable accents can be some what of a free-for-all without compromising sophistication. You are encouraged to layer patterns and textures, which will give dimension and warmth.
Live edge furniture is a great way to introduce nature inspired themes into your decor, without turning your living room into a summer camp log cabin. you can keep it simple with a small stump used as a stool or side table, or make a statement with a larger piece.
5.Unique, Antique or One of a Kind Pieces
This step is important for adding character and authenticity to your space.
The natural and variable change in color that occurs in an Oriental rug.
Abrash typically occurs for two main reasons
*Variations in different batches of Dye.
*Different batches of wool.
When a rug requires an additional lot of dye to be produced, the dye is not usually a perfect match. Often times the dye is all from the same batch, but the rug requires more wool, which means more sheep. Fascinatingly, Dye takes differently to wool, depending on the particular sheep. Also, when the wool is hand-spun, certain areas are spun more tightly than others, making that section less able to absorb dye. The result is a less intense color.
Although this makes the rug imperfect, it is the unavoidable variations due to human error that make the rug beautiful. In fact, Abrash is so well admired that it is not uncommon for a rug maker to purposefully create imperfections. It is also a cultural practice and sign of respect to God, believed to imply that “no one is perfect except for God.
This year in the design world, it’s all about keeping it real. Whats out? Inauthenticity. That includes chalk board paint, faux fur, and Instant Vintage-something new that’s made to look old. Lucky for us(and you), we have the real deal when it comes to old furniture, rustic, textured surfaces, raw materials, and layers upon layers of ethnic prints and influences. Read on to learn more about what is trending in 2015.
Eco Friendly-Inspired by Nature
This look is just what it sounds like. It’s clean, soft, neutral, and inspired by all things organic. The focus is on natural imperfection-if its lopsided, uneven or unfinished it works. Relevent materials include Copper, glass, stone, burlap, rope, linen, bone, horn, fur, and raw wood. More often than not this look incorporates raw wood in the form of Live Edge, which is a huge trend in its own right and is being used within many other decor styles as well.
Live edge, Cowhide, Mixed Materials, Painted wood, Textured surfaces, Nature Inspired Neutrals.
This look is a large scale representation of the mixed materials trend. It’s all about the fusion and of different and often contrasting cultures, styles and textures. Getting away from the minimalism craze, this look emphasizes that more is more. Layered textiles and patterns is key, and finding complimenting qualities in seemingly contrasting items makes it all come together, often through color. An easy way to experiment with this look is by adding bold, ethnic accents to your space, instead of starting out with loud basics.
Incoporated Trends: Textured Surfaces, Painted Wood/Pop of Color, Kilim Rugs, Mixed Materials, Cow Hide, Wire Accents, Marble.
Once again, the merging of different aesthetics comes into play. The difference between Industrial and Industrial Chic is softness. Lighten up an Industrial decor and add soft, plush blankets and rugs in neutral tones. Incorporate raw materials and nods to nature such as live edge, petrified stumps and plants. Or, take a soft, neutral space and add in the industrial accents such as leather, wire furniture, Edison lamps, and Industrial themed wall hangings.
Mixed Materials,especially metal and wood and Mixed Metals, Wire Accents, Rose Gold.
This trend is all about the clashing and merging of different cultures, attitudes and qualities, which is an overall theme in the design world this year. Wood and Metal are a common example of this trend, representing the coming together of nature and science.
(Triple Threat Trend: Mixed Materials, Nature Inspired, Industrial Chic)
This trend started in fashion and has spread to home design. It was once primarily popular in copper light fixtures but is now also commonly found in plumbing fixtures, hardware and flatware.
This trend is biggest in the form of lighting and side tables . It is incorporated heavily into both the Industrial Chic and Geometry looks, but can also be spotted hanging out in ethnic mix and nature inspired decors.
(Triple Threat Trend: Wire Accents, Industrial Chic, Geometry)
Marble-Solid and Print
Although Marble surfaces are common in bathrooms and kitchens, marble is making its way into the rest of the home in the form of solid, marble furniture. It is also a popular print for pillows, blankets, and wall pieces.
Live edge is a style of wood furniture where the natural edge of the wood is used in the design of the piece. Gnarly wood and salvaged wood which could not be used in conventional woodworking are often used in the production of Live edge.Live edge is a mix of “Western” and rustic furniture styles. It was made famous in the middle of the 20th century by George Nakashima, who was the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement.
We can’t really say enough about Live edge. We love it, and so does the design world. It is being incorporated in a variety of decor styles, and is moving quickly from a trend to a basic.
(Triple Threat Trend:Live Edge, Textured Surfaces, Nature Inspired)
Nature inspired for sure, cow hide is a bold and glamorous statement piece while it also remains neutral with its organic colors and feel.
This trend encompasses many other trends, such as live edge. It works with the Ethnic Mix look and is definitely part of the Nature inspired attitude. Textured surfaces are multi-versitile and easy to work into many different looks, from shabby chic to Industrial.
Painted Wood-Pop of Color
Painting a wooden piece of furniture is an easy and understated way to add color to a room. Although this specific piece is dipping into the textured surface trend, the painted wood look can also be sleek and smooth, almost glossy.
(Triple Threat: Textured Surface, Painted wood-pop of color, Cobalt blue)
Pantone color of the year- The spring/summer version of this trend is called “the in-harmony trend”. It is a much softer version of Marsala and mixes deep mauve and apricot shades.
Cobalt Blue-Greek Blue
Inspired by natural landscapes like mountains and forests, this palette is all about toned down neutrals like inky blues and beige-grey. These colors Pair well with the raw materials found in the Nature Inspired look.
Rugs that look like paintings are huge right now. Think florals, swoopy designs, and uneven shapes.
Rugs that look like a tile floor or mosaic.
Khotan was a town in what is historically known as East Turkestan now the Chinese province, of Xingjian. This remote region is larger than all of Western Europe, and is located in the center of Asia. It is one of the most Isolated places in the world, but it holds a carpet weaving tradition that is at least 1000 years old.
East Turkestan is difficult to access. The heartland known as the Tarim Basin-is surrounded on three sides by mountains, which serve as walls against Tibet, Central Asia and Pakistan. The fourth side is cut off by vast desert. Maybe this is one reason why East Turkistan became a destination hot spot for settlers, coming from all directions. The Tarim Basin was also a significant stop on the Silk Roads. The routes south to India, north to Central Asia, west to Persia, Anatolia and Europe, all branched out from here. The melting pot of cultures in this place is represented in the “Khotan” rugs that came from here, which is what makes them so beautiful and interesting. In just one rug you can often see signs of Islamic, Chinese and Indian design/culture.
Portrait of a king of Khotan, Dunhuang Mogao Caves, 10th century
It is believed by historians that between 1,500 and 1,000 BC is when the first (Indo European) settlers began coming to this region, which was then inhabited by Turkic nomads. These settlers lived in Khotan and other oasis towns, and were influenced by India, becoming Buddhists. The Turkic nomads continued to stay in the mountains.
It was not until the 9th and 10th centuries the Turkic tribes adopted Islam, and forced the conversion of the Buddhist Oasis, the adoption of their language and changed the culture of the place, creating Eastern Turkestan as it is today. However, Buddhist and other cultural influences never disappeared from the carpets.
Rug Expert Hans Bidder wrote in his book “Carpets from Eastern Turkestan (1964)
“iconoclastic Islam which spread into the oases from middle of the 10th century was indeed able to subdue the religious art of Buddhism, but the new faith proved incapable of gaining any hold upon individual arts and crafts which had their roots in the traditional customs and economic existence of the oases.”
These unique works of art are characterized by stylized geometric patterns, and long, narrow designs. They are meticulously detailed. Arrangements of Persian motifs that also incorporate elements of Chinese designs are common, and the central Composition is usually Chinese in style. Colors range from rich to pale pastels. Typical hues include red, yellow, brown, gold and green. The pomegranate is often celebrated in Khotan rugs, shown as a shrub with symmetric branches, or as a fruit. This was an iconic regional symbol. Local symbols like this one are combined with Buddhist and Islamic symbols, influenced by the varying residents of Khotan.
Khotans are well suited for modern contemporary decor due to their geometric and strongly abstract nature. In the last decade, these rugs have been frequently featured in high-end design publications and are coveted by top designers.
Here are some more of the Khotan rugs we have in our rug gallery. These are examples of some more contemporary versions, with a darker color palette than the traditional
Check back in soon to learn more about the exciting Silk Roads and the adventures had by their explorers.
Kevin McPherson, owner of Mohr and McPherson, recalls his journey to building the store we know today. He also shares insights on design, eastern culture, and his passion for travel and discovery.
When did you first make the decision to start the company? What brought you to that decision?
In the early 80’s, I operated a small furniture retail business selling factory produced contemporary furnishings. In 1990, I was doing small renovations and general contracting with my business partner, John Mohr. I had the idea of returning to something related to home furnishings.
This time around, I wanted to sell things that were hand crafted with some real provenance… something genuine & authentic. I felt that I had a calling in that realm and we decided to open a small shop in Cambridge. After each borrowing $5,000 on personal credit cards, John and I opened Mohr & McPherson’s doors on a shoestring budget in March 1991.
Photos from our original Cambridge location in 1991.
Did you start traveling in search of exotic furniture before you opened or after?
The original inventory was crafted by American artisans, and we acted as their agents. Most of our sales were custom items based on the samples we had in our shop. After 2 years in that business, I bought out my partner and started traveling to the west coast. There, I purchased furniture from China, Indonesia, Japan and Morocco and had these items trucked to Cambridge. My interest in rugs from the rug producing countries also took shape after meeting two Afghan brothers in San Fransisco, who helped me establish a rug business. In 1995, we were doing enough business for me to make my first trip to Asia to buy a 40 ft sea container of goods to ship directly to the store.
Where were the previous store/s located?
The original store was on Concord Avenue in Cambridge. We also rented another location across the street that acted as our warehouse annex. We’ve lived a nomadic experience in the past 22 years, with locations in Charlestown, Alewife & Moulton St in Cambridge, and Arlington St, Boylston St & Dry Dock Ave in Boston, before consolidating at our current location at 460 Harrison Avenue in Boston.
460 Harrison Ave in Boston’s South End
What do you love about Eastern Design?
I was in love with the aeshetic From the moment I can first remember seeing asian design. It has always called out to me. The simple Japanese zen wabi sabi approach was the most interesting to me, but the over-the-top, highly ornate approach from India and China also caught my eye. I was also intrigued by the idea that these uncommon things came from the other side of the world.
What are your favorite materials used in Eastern Design?
Asian textiles are fascinating to me. I also love the wood carvings from Java, India and China. Ceramics from Japan, China and Vietnam are amazing. Rattan, bamboo and other materials from Thailand, Phillipines, Burma and China are great examples of the efficient use of simple local materials to produce durable lightweight furniture, baskets, etc.
What can a piece of furniture from the east add to a western home décor?
A home decorated with only modern, machine-made goods lacks a human touch and can feel a little like an office environment. A hand-crafted rug, antique cabinet or tribal carving brings humanity back into the environment.
Also, Asian color sense, especially in textiles, is different than the current western movement towards black, white and gray. It adds color where it is sorely needed.
If someone could add one Eastern item or piece of furniture to their home, what would it be? What about attitude/philosophy? Are there any cultural outlooks on homelife you have witnessed in your travels you think westerners should adopt?
Many modern home interiors look a little like a museum or a hospital. There is something calming about the lack of clutter and sense of order in the modernist aesthetic. What it lacks is any reference to the passing of time. It is frozen in the moment and does not allow for the patina that is a part of the natural process. Modern homes and furnishing were not designed to show age well.
The zen term wabi sabi (literally translated means humility and rust) is the zen acknowledgment that nothing is permanent, that all things age and deteriorate and that we must accept or even grow comfortable with this fact. I believe that the eary modernists were inspired by the spare aesthetic of the Japanese zen aesthetic, but left out the important reference to the passing of time.
Mohr & McPherson Timeline:
1991: Opened Mohr & McPherson in Cambridge
1993: Started selling Asian pieces
1994: Opened annex
1995: Rented warehouse in Charlestown, Started traveling to Asia to buy
1997: Opened on Arlington St, Boston, Moved warehouse to Seaport
1999: Opened 20,000 sq ft Moulton St warehouse in Cambridge
2001: Opened Alewife location
2004: Opened Boylson St location
2008: Moved to 460 Harrison Ave
2011: Opened warehouse at 460c Harrison Ave
We don’t mean to brag, but our rug gallery is one of the most unique in New England, and is absolutely stacked with a large and distinctive collection of only the most beautiful, handmade pieces. Bold, vibrant, understated, detailed, simplistic, and a great mix of both modern and traditional – we have got something for everyone’s taste. For me, the most interesting part of a visit to the rug gallery is all the incredible history behind each type of rug, and the huge level of detail and work that goes into the creation of every one. Touring the gallery with Callum McPherson will give you a first hand look into the amazing world of handmade carpets. You can learn about the origin of the rug, the techniques used to weave it, the history of the design style, and so much more. To prepare for our upcoming rug sale, we are creating several guides on how to purchase a rug for your home. Here is a glossary of terminology, important to know when viewing and purchasing. Check back soon for our free rug buying guide later this month!
Design and Technique Terms:
Difference in color throughout the rug. This comes from the variations of the wool used to weave the rug. When the wool is dyed before the rug is woven, the dye reflects differently based on the specific pile of wool it is used on. These variations in color give the rug a natural feel.
A type of rug, which is woven, rather than knotted. They are much flatter and thinner than knotted rugs because they do not have pile. This makes the rugs easier to transport, and they are therefore still utilized all over the world as wall tapestries, for prayer rugs, and as saddle pads. Many middle eastern countries still weave these by hand, while other rug manufacturers have switched to machinery and tools to produce rugs faster, which also makes the rugs less expensive than the hand woven ones. (note: Mohr & McPherson does not specialize in machine made rugs.)
A recent technique developed to give rugs, an overall color and a more modern esthetic. Often this is done to salvage an old rug, which will have had undesirable colors or have become faded. The original color is stripped down to more of the natural base colors and the rug is saturated with one, vibrant color. By Dying over the original colors and designs, the rug becomes more fluid and flexible in style. It is easier to add a rug to a room when it is one color, rather than multi colored and heavily patterned, such as the traditional Eastern rugs that were popular in the west in the early to mid 20th century. Now people are looking for less design, which can make a bolder statement, while still remaining simple. The original markings of the rug can still be detected beneath the dye, giving it a rustic quality, and creating nuances and variations within the solid color.
A type of rug which is knotted rather than woven on a loom. It consists of three layers- the base threads, normally made of cotton which, are the foundation, a woven layer that acts as a cushion, and the final layer, which is the ends of each individual knot after being cut and is called the pile of a rug. You can run your hand over the top layer of this rug, and the pile will brush back and forth. This is where sheen may come into play.
When buying a rug, you may be looking for one with a certain level of sheen. When walking around the perimeter of the rug, you will observe that the light picks up certain colors more brightly from different angles, and the shadow of each thread makes it appear darker. This is based on the direction the knots were tied in, in relation to the angle you are looking from. If the brightness and depth of the colors does not change with your position, the rug does not have a high level of sheen. This is a result of both the quality of wool or silk used in the rug and the washing process done before use.. Silk rugs will also always have a much higher level of sheen than wool. This element is relevant when purchasing a pile rug, but will not be a concern with a flat weave rug.
Styles of Rugs:
Beni Ourain (Thick Pile)
This style of rug is named after the Beni Ourain tribe in Morocco, which is made up of 17 different Berber tribes within the Atlas Mountains. This tribe is known for their plush, soft, cream-colored rugs, with black or brown stripes, usually in diagonal, intersecting patterns. The rugs are made from sheep wool. The vintage Beni Ourain rugs are neautral in color and abstract in design, which is perfect for the modern décor styles of today. They are versatile, and low in price. During the birth of modern design in the 20th century, these rugs were used by many famous designers, and are therefore linked with classic modern style. The vintage ones were not massed produced originally, and no two are alike. Now they are extremely popular and made in several different countries.
Indian Dhurrie (Flatweave)
This style of flatweave is almost always made from tightly woven cotton, which gives it a light feel and makes for the perfect rug in a light room. The colors used in an Indian Dhurrie are often brighter pastel colors and look very current when coupled with their traditional geometric patterns.
These are similar to the Mamluks, but less geometrical. The designs, while also based often around a center diamond shape, are more flowery and delicate than the framework of the Mamluk.
Kilim (Flatweave) (Persia, Turkey, Balkans and Eastern Europe)
This style dates back to the 5th century. and is a flat weave with no pile. The patterns are based in a geometric style, often featuring medallions, diamonds, and the famous Mahi (Herati) design which is a diamond medallion with a small fish through in. Unlike the Mamluk, the rug is not always focused on one, large and central diamond. The pattern may be free form and repeating. The more modern versions of the Kilim sometimes in cooperate turquoise, and purple with the traditional reds, green, blue and white. The boldness and geometric quality of the patterns have also become more strong and distinct with modern times. Rug collectors often start with Kilims, because they are cheaper than Pile rugs. It is sometimes thought that because Kilims tend to be less expensive that they are also less substantial in quality or status. This is not true, and Kilims have become increasingly popular in recent years. The lower price was originally based on the Kilims being produced for indigenous use, instead of on a commercial level. Kilims gained popularity when collectors started to value authentic village weavings.
This is a type of rug based in traditional style, always featuring a large, central diamond. These are similar to the traditional Eastern rugs you might see in your grandmother’s house, especially in the framework. However, the Mamluk’s style is much more geometrically based. These rugs are currently very desirable, as they provide both traditional and modern style.
Traditionally from Turkey-the Oushak is a style of rug which has found recent popularity due to it’s subdued light or earthy tones. Another distinction comes in their unique style of weave where the sides of the knots are visible, so each rug has a unique feel. Their designs often include either central medallions, representative of designs used on Ottoman Manuscripts, or the “Star Ushak”. The patterns are often a combination of geometric and floral motifs, mixed together. The colors are distinctive and tend to include a variety of orange shades, reds, maroons and blues in the background. The motif colors are usually greens, blues, ivory, black and yellow. The colors often look faded, giving this style of rug has an incredibly rustic, and aged feel.
Patchwork rugs have very recently become a popular reuse of rugs which may have been damaged or tattered. These rugs are given a new life by being repurposed as a very rustic looking collection of different patterns (often overdyed) and stitched together. Patchworked rugs will give any room a great splash of color while preserving the legacy and authentic feel of an antique hand made rug. Although these rugs are made from what were originally pile rugs, they often have very little of the pile left which is what gives them an antique look and feel.
The same silk that goes into a traditional Indian sari has recently been used to effectively take beautiful traditional patterns and bring them to life. Not only do they have the extremely high level of sheen that is found in a silk rug but they also have a vibrant color scheme that will make you forget everything you just learned about rugs!
Traditional Oriental/Persian Rug
These rugs always have a border, and typically are centered on a large, central design, such as a medallion or diamond. They are heavily designed and pattered, and tend to have a somewhat muted color palette compared to the vibrant colors used in modern overdye. These rugs are based in structure and form.
Click here to view our extensive online inventory, or stop in our Boston Showroom or Rug Gallery to view our rugs in person!
Faig Ahmed is an artist based in Baku, Azerbaijan. Using a mixed media approach and knowledge of traditional carpet weaving, he reworks the conventional structure of the rug by disassembling the threads and rearranging them. Ahmed superimposes digital imagery into the rug design which often creates optical illusion. He also uses geometric forms to transform the carpets into chic sculptures. Ahmed is not only creating new boundaries with his modern transformation of traditional art, he is creating a visual marriage of past, present and future, where contrasting aesthetics are crashed together and harmonize boldly, making something new. Many people view Ahmed’s work as a representation of the social and political change occurring throughout the East.
“Tradition is the main factor creating the society as a self-regulated system. Changes in the non-written rule happen under influence of global modern culture.” Faig Ahmed.
– He has been included in exhibitions at Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury in London, the 52nd Venice Biennale Pavilion representing Azerbaijan and The Islamic Art Festival in Sharjah, UAE.
“His works take what has traditionally been a two-dimensional craft and gives it new life in the third-dimension – stretching elements of his fiber based work into space, and transforming it into far more than a floor covering. Even though they are real, and made with traditional techniques, other examples of his work stretch traditional patterns horizontally, giving his flat pieces the look of digital reworking.” From Faig Ahmed’s Website
“The eastern culture is so very rich and saccharine. Putting the pieces of the carpet into the smooth as if a part of a car or of a glamorous and functional shape, I’m fashioning the carpet into a different meaning, a secondary one. It as if starts being an inner part of this minimalist form, gaining volume at the same time. As if all of the ornaments of the carpet acquire a prolongation inside the carpet.” Faig Ahmed
“The carpet is a symbol of invincible tradition of the East, it’s a visualization of an undestroyable icon. In my art I see the culture differently. This is more of expectation of a reaction because it’s exactly the change of the points of view that changes the world.” Faig Ahmed
• I – the early stage of the carpet development. The carpet ware is very simple, without any motifs and patterns. The first palas and djedjims appear.
• II – introduction of the kilim weaving practice by the intricate threading technique.
• III – weaving of shadda, verni, sumakh, zili. The period of simple and complex whipping techniques.
• IV – introduction of the knotted pile weaving. Both from the technical and artistic standpoints this stage can be considered the acme of the carpet making.
Azerbaijani carpets are divided into two general groups: pile and pileless. Within each group there are subdivisions and different styles of rug. The pileless category is associated with the early period of weaving and there are 8 main types: Palas, Dzhejim, lady, kilim, shedde, verni, zili, sumakh. These rugs are classified based on color, richness, composite structure and weaving style. Quba School, Baku or Absheron School, Shirvan School, Ganja School, Gazakh School, Karabakh School. These are the 7 different weaving schools is Azerbaijan. They are separated based on patterns, composition and technique.
These incredibly soft and luxurious rugs are all the rage right now in modern design. In fact, they are in higher demand than ever due to a variety of different cultural factors. Beni Ourains are admired and sought after by designers and the masses alike. So what’s all the fuss about? What is a Beni Ourain rug, and what makes it so special?
The Beni Ourain are a group of Berber people from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco that is actually made up of 17 different tribes. They are traditionally shepherds and goat herders who move their herds from one grazing land to the next, high within the mountains. Although these tribes all produce rugs which are similar and known as Beni Ourains, there are subtle differences in design elements and colors – all natural dyes or no dye at all. A big factor when it comes to the quality of these rugs is the superior wool produced by the sheep in this region.
The Beni Ourain rugs are hand-woven by women and the skill and knowledge is passed from mother to daughter. The design elements used in the rugs are reflective of the weavers real life. Traditionally, the rugs record regular life events and represent major themes such as birth, fertility, nature, femininity, rural life and religious beliefs. Some people who weave the rugs believe the rugs themselves are barriers against evil spirits so they purposefully include lucky charm symbolism and tribal ceremonial symbolism. The detail and design of the rug is also used to tell the story of tribal ancestors or the life of the weaver combined with tribe superstitions which are a strong aspect of culture in these rural regions.
Patterns usually consist of brown and black lines or abstract shapes against a white or cream background. Other designs are the Ancient Berber alphabet, geometric designs similar to Navajo-Native American patterns. Most do not have a border. Some have fringe and others not, some have fringe on one side only. The rugs tend to last a lifetime or more.
Though they are typically used as and known to be rugs, Beni Ourains were traditionally produced to be blankets or bedspreads and not floor coverings. Their loose structure is meant to conform to the body. They have thick, soft pile which is deep or shallow according to the purpose. Knots are tied in a very specific way. The rugs are woven without any pattern or diagram to follow, which is why they are all unique.
The originals were not mass-produced and no two are alike. Many of the new Beni Ourain rugs are not made in Morocco but they are referred to as “Moroccan style” rugs because they were created to mimic the original Beni Ourains. The older carpets however are softer and more detailed and varied in design. The “real” beni ourains were never made larger than 7 feet. A Beni Ourain larger than 7′ is most likely a reproduction, not made in Morocco and not old.
Rise to fame
The Beni Ourain rugs were used by the most renowned mid-century modern designers such as Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ame Jacobsen, Alvar Allto, Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames. Shag carpets were extremely popular during this time, and the Beni Ourains were a step up from the average shag because of their sophisticated nature. History and cultural developments have made Beni Ourains so popular.
“It is a fascinating set of historical and cultural developments that have made Moroccan rugs as popular as they are today. The Beni Ourain – with a penchant for abstract symbolism and geometry as well as a steady supply of fine grade wool – happened to be weaving rugs and carpets that would be perfectly suited to the design aesthetics of the Western World in the decades following the end of the Second World War. Moroccan rugs by the Beni Ourain remain among the most desirable pieces today, and are sought after the world over, both by experts in antique Oriental rugs and everyday people who appreciate the lasting artistic value of such rugs.” Ubrandsbag
A photo of an authentic Beni Ourain in the home of Frank Lloyd Wright