There’s a moment, usually in your late twenties or early thirties, when you realise you’ve become a fully fledged adult. Maybe it was that time you set up your first dentist appointment on your own dime and without the help of mum, or when you realised that you actually know the difference between an IRP5 and an ITR12. Perhaps it was when, after a casual Facebook stalk, you noticed that half the members of your matric class have children, and at least one is divorced.
For me it was the first time I went rug shopping. I’m not talking the area rug for your digs that cleverly conceals a particularly gory red-wine carpet stain. These are serious floor coverings: prints of Persia, hand-knotted Kashmirs, the dhurries of your dreams. They’re the rugs you grew up with, and the ones your mum protected fiercely when your spotty adolescent little brother traipsed mud in after soccer.
And now that you’re an adult, you like them too. They're a good way of introducing some colour and warmth, and as anyone who has seen The Big Lebowski will know, a rug can 'really tie the room together'. But there's more to it than that. There’s a sense of history attached to them, a wealth of technique and piles and piles of culture and luxury. A great rug is timeless and can become a coveted heirloom, something that goes from a decorative feature passing unnoticed beneath your feet to a sentimental treasure passed down through generations.
And the great news is that your rug shopping is no longer limited to hitting the Oriental market for a Persian. Now that the humble rug has become a decor must-have, these days it is finding its form in an array of colours, patterns and motifs. There’s a wealth of options out there, from contemporary designs and painterly patterns, to digitally printed masterpieces and old-school, traditional gems - some to suit a budget and others to break the bank…
These traditionally Iranian rugs are a cultural icon, with the art of carpet-weaving dating back 2 500 years ago to ancient Persian times. It was considered to be a craft of great skill, with traditional knots and methods carried down through generations of men. Persians are typically made of wool dyed with deep, rich colours, but over time they have come to be made with silk and cotton blends too.
Although initially they were made for practical purposes, these rugs soon became the prized possession of kings and noblemen, making them the key feature of elegant dining rooms and lounges all over the world. Now they are making a comeback in contemporary kitchens and bedrooms as an eclectically ethnic piece as an accent against neutral tones and woods.
Tabriz graffitti rug from Paco Rugs - Price on request
Silky Rajwada rug from Mr Price Home - R1 200
Genie Dove rug from Hertex - Price on request
Kilim (or 'kelim') rugs also have a long history behind them, and can be traced back to Eastern countries as far back as the fourth or fifth century A.D. While persians fall into the category of pile carpets, kilims are more like tapestries in that they are constructed through a vertical 'flatweave', giving them a much courser texture and muted colour. Most notably produced by Turkey, they are distinctive for their geometric shapes and motifs which are highly symbolic according to the Turkish region in which the rug was made.
The bright colours and playful patterns of kilims make them perfect for decorating a kids room or den, or really just any area of the house in need of some livening up. Like persians they work nicely against neutral palettes and warm woods, making for a vibrant stand-out feature.
Geometric kilim in charcoal by Hertex at Fabric Super Store - R6 743
Vintage Anatolian kilim from Weylandts - R5 995
Square root kilim from Hertex - Price on request
A dhurrie is typically flat-woven too and reversible just like a kilim, but is thicker and a lot more durable. Originating in India, they are traditionally made on looms and used as floor coverings. Their patterns and colours are usually not as intricate as those of kilims or persians but they are no less striking or skilfully made.
Dhurries are quite versatile and can be a complimentary feature in living rooms and bedrooms. However, their typically minimal patterns mean that they lend themselves quite nicely to smaller, lighter areas like bathrooms and kitchens where they don't draw too much attention and minimise the space even further.
Asan Jade dhurrie-style rug from The Rug Company - Price on request
Cotton Top Deck dhurrie-style rug from Mr Price Home - R459.99
These days rugs are being made in an endless array of sizes, shapes, materials and styles. Production is now mostly mechanisised, and digital printing has allowed for unprecedented innovation and creativity in rug design. Rugs are no longer necessarily patterned or symbolic, instead featuring bold colours, modern geometrics and eclectic motifs that really make them statement pieces.
Here are some of our local favourites...
Vintage Overdyed kilim from Weylandts - R10 995
Alexander McQueen Skull rug from The Rug Company - Price on request
Geometric Tufted Wool rug from Mr Price Home - R3 300
Splash 10 rug from Mae Rugs - Price on request
Kelly Wearstler Tracery rug from The Rug Company - Price on request
Caprese rug by Hertex at The Superbalist - R5 299
Fiona Curran Palette rug from The Rug Company - Price on request