5 tips on choosing the best rug for your home by Esti Barnes
When I arrived in London nearly 20 years ago, I had no idea I was going to end up owning a rug business. The business started by accident after I had sold contemporary designer rugs for some friends. I’m Turkish so people always assume I come from a long line of rug dealers. In fact, I was trained as a graphic artist and before this, had owned businesses in fashion and interiors. Rug-wise, I’m pretty much self-taught!
Until recently all our designs have been created in-house. My new Script collection is different because it was a collaborative effort with another artist.
Script happened for several reasons. First, being Turkish, I had always admired the curvy, classical style of calligraphy favoured by the Ottomans. Second, I had started to see examples of ‘modern calligraphy’, mainly on the internet, which had sparked the idea of using it in some of my rug designs. Finally, I came across a book in a hotel we were staying at and it was by someone called Hassan Massoudy. I was instantly smitten by his flamboyant style of calligraphy and soon came to understand that this Iraqi-born artist now based in Paris was the real ‘father’ of contemporary calligraphy.
Thanks to October Gallery in London (who represent him internationally) we were soon able to arrange a meeting with him in Paris where we discussed the idea of working together on a collection of rugs and wall-hangings. We selected a few designs from his extensive portfolio and set to work developing samples – mostly in silk.
Despite being a collaboration, Script gave me the chance to include some of my ‘signature’ design techniques. For example, both ‘oh friend’ and ‘peace’ employ hand-carved surface detailing which works very well to add depth to the original art work. The sculpted character in ‘peace’ was actually inspired by photographs of Hassan ‘carving’ calligraphy into desert sand. The original ‘oh friend’ is in a square format.
However I felt that its flowing curves would work well in a more fluid shape and the final version looks like a double-ended teardrop. I also got rid of the original’s yellow and white colouring and introduced some subtle colour gradation (we used 70 different shades!) which features in many of our rug designs. One technical challenge we faced was how to capture the minutest detail of Hassan’s effortlessly-produced originals – right down to the fine tracery of ink drops (left at the end of a ‘swoosh’) with the painstakingly-slow process of rug weaving. After many months working together with our best weavers it seems as if we have succeeded.
So far, our business has been aimed squarely at the interior design market. With Script, we will be taking a step into the art world which I am both excited and a little nervous about although I am re-assured each time I read another article about the convergence of interiors and art. Hassan often ‘tags’ his work with a line of poetry or proverb and the ‘tag’ from his ‘Roots’ painting seems quite appropriate for the journey we have started:
‘Although you may not know where you are going, remember where you came from’.
Here are Esti’s tips on selecting the perfect contemporary rug for the home:
One way of buying rugs is to go for ones that match but don’t clash. Single or muted colours, if used with heavy or even light texture, can make the rugs and your room very attractive. Texture is more difficult to get right than patterns but if executed cleverly enough, this makes your rug both a statement piece and easier to live with, than bold patterns at the same time.
There is no rule that says that rugs have to be rectangular. Even if they are made in single colour they can catch the eye with their odd, organic or geometric shapes. This can make the rug fun and a great talking point.
Rugs can be perceived as horizontal artworks. Don’t be scared of colour on the floor. Even if other elements in the room are have colourful patterns, rugs with colour still work if selected carefully. A good example of this can be seen in interior designer Kit Kemp’s hotels.
Size is important. Small rugs make the room appear smaller yet placing a rug under the front legs, or better still under all the legs, of a sofa makes a room look bigger. This also prevents the shoes from rubbing against the edge of the rug and leaving a grey dirt mark along the edge.
Last but not least is quality
It is better to choose rugs with natural fibres where possible. Wool is the best material in terms of wear, maintenance and softness. For sheen, silk is highly recommended but if there is a budget constraints, there are now good alternatives like bamboo, banana and some cellulosic fibres which are also water friendly and can be cleaned, that work well instead.
Esti Barnes trained as a graphic artist in her native Istanbul and is the founder of contemporary rug company Top Floor. Esti’s rugs soon started winning plaudits from the international design world, including British Design of the Year (ELLE Decoration UK) and Best of Year (Interior Design Magazine).
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