A new spirit of creativity is kick-starting an exciting revival in carpet, says Amelia Thorpe
Step into comfort and luxury as we explore the carpet’s comeback and the finest flooring
The Connaught hotel might be associated with some pivotal moments in history, most famously when gen de gaulle stayed there when he made a broadcast imploring his countrymen to fight the germans after France’s surrender. however, it also plays a similarly important role in the renaissance of the fitted carpet; it was here that designer India Mahdavi took the decision not to lay—hold on to your hat—patterned carpets, a choice associated more with Wetherspoons pubs than West end hotels.
as is so often the way with hotel design, the scheme proved hugely influential, inspiring confidence in something that had long gone the way of avocado baths and macramé plant hangers.
If the entries for next week’s International Wool Carpet & Rug awards are anything to go by, the renewal of interest has precipitated a frenzy of creativity and innovation on the looms at Kidderminster, Wilton and axminster. ‘We’re seeing the most extraordinary collection of innovative new carpet designs, in colours, textures and patterns,’ says Bridgette Kelly, Interior textiles Director of the Campaign for Wool.
take one look at the inspirational patterned effects of the latest designs and it’s clear that carpet can add instant vitality to a space, banishing those pub patterns to the past (as well as usefully hiding marks). the vibrant Liberty Fabrics designs encapsulated in alternative Flooring’s Quirky B woven carpet or the sophisticated geometric, trellis and ornate plasterwork patterns of the Royal Borough Wilton Collection from axminster Carpets are evidence of that, as are the joyously colourful stripes of Roger oates’s flatweave runners. the marled, as well as solid, colours of anta’s Benbecula carpet would add a certain softness to many a modern rustic interior.
If you prefer something natural, several manufacturers now offer undyed carpet, celebrating the variety of colours of wool from different sheep breeds. Light grey herdwick from the graphite range by Wools of Cumbria Carpets deserves special mention: it’s made from allnatural fibres from sheep grazing on the fells, undyed and untreated and manufactured from raw material to end product within 100 miles of the centre of Cumbria.
texture is adding plenty of interest to the mix, too. Consider the eyecatching chevrons in Crucial trading’s Fabulous collection, with its graduated pile depth and rippled effect underfoot, or the wire-weaving employed in Sculpture from Wilton Weavers, which uses a singlecoloured yarn to create a high-low textural effect.
the other reason, of course, that carpet may be enjoying a renaissance is its comfort, warmth and softness underfoot. Compare it to a cold stone floor or bare floorboards and carpet scores high, but is it less forgiving in a busy home? arguably,
yes, but as a natural, sustainable fibre, wool bounces back after pressure from feet and furniture, retaining its good looks. Carpet also offers good insulation that’s perfect for the draughtier abode and absorbs sound, making it a particularly good choice for stairs, landings and hallways or a house with several floors (and thundering children and dogs).
In the bedroom, carpet is hard to beat for sumptuous luxury and it’s good to see even the 1970s favourite shag pile getting an update from Bronte Carpets with its 100% wool version, offering pile depths up to an impressive 40mm (11 ⁄2in) for an ultra-luxurious feel.
Wool also ticks the sustainability box: as long as there is grass to graze on, every year, a sheep will produce a new fleece. At the end of its life, natural wool fibre takes a very short time to break down, releasing valuable nutrients into the ground, unlike synthetics, which are typically very slow to degrade.
According to the Carpet Foundation, some 75% of all wool produced in the UK goes into carpet. Ten years ago, there were 21 million breeding ewes, but, today, there are only 14 million, so it follows that buying wool or wool-rich flooring should help slow the decline of sheep numbers.
Carpet has a history dating back 2,000 years (the world’s most ancient pile carpet is the Pazyryk rug, dating back to the 4th or 5th century bc). Good news indeed that it now looks set to enjoy a fresh lease of life.
Above: The Quirky Dotty carpet in Damson from Alternative Flooring (£104.80 per metre; www. alternative flooring.com). Above right: The Coburg bar in The Connaught
Flaxman Ruby, £127 per metre, Roger Oates (020– 7351 2288; www.rogeroates.com)
Fabulous Ruby, £154 per metre, Crucial Trading (020–7376 7100; www.crucial-trading.com)
Houndstooth in heather, £69.99 per metre, Brintons (01562 635665; www.brintons.net)