Moroccan rugs are a versatile interior design element
Moroccan rugs can add color, texture and design to a home. They have been handwoven for thousands of years, and authentic rugs are still handmade. Today, however, some rugs are manufactured in the Moroccan style with similar designs and colors. They are likely to be less expensive than the authentic rugs that are handmade. Which kind to choose depends on whether a homeowner gets pleasure out of authenticity or simply wants a Moroccaninspired look.
Handmade rugs can be antique, vintage or modern. Antique rugs may be hundreds of years old, while vintage rugs usually are considered to date from the 1960s through the 1980s, said Jennifer Bunsa, an interior designer at Bunsa Studio and WorkRoom in Miami.
True Moroccan rugs are handwoven and knotted, usually by women working in their homes. Lissan Elommal of Berber Designs in Miami buys rugs that are still woven today using traditional methods. “Each region has its own design,” he said. “We get them straight from the ladies who make them. Eighty percent are made in their homes.”
Bunsa recently traveled to Morocco in search of vintage rugs. “They’re pieces of art,” she said. “Each one tells a story. A lot of designers are using them now; it’s kind of a trend.”
Laetitia Laurent, an interior designer in Boca Raton, grew up in a household where Moroccan rugs were a common design element because her father learned to appreciate them when he lived in Morocco as a child. “I grew up surrounded by Moroccan rugs,” she said.
Laurent also learned about their history. “The original artisans were weaving them in the seventh century with spiritual motifs,” she said. “The rugs were often used as tapestries or burial blankets or to ward off evil spirits.”
There are a variety of types, but one that is popular today is Beni Ouarain. The authentic rugs are made of wool by women of the Beni Ouarain tribes in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. “They’re the ones most people think of when they think of Moroccan rugs,” Bunsa said. “They usually have a beige or white background with black markings.”
Another tribal style is Beni M’Gild. “They have deep, rich, saturated colors like burgundy and blue.” Bunsa said. “They tend to have a higher pile so you don’t see the pattern as much, but there’s an intricate pattern on the reverse side. It’s kind of like a secret design. But the vintage rugs have already been used by people, and the pattern reveals itself over time.”
A third style is Azilal, which, as the name suggests, come from the Ailal region. “They can vary,” Bunsa said. “But each has distinct markings that represent the tribe and family of the woman weaving it.”
Authentic vintage rugs were usually woven on looms that were about six feet wide, Bunsa said.
Very wide rugs probably are not authentic vintage pieces. “The true vintage rug will be long and skinny,” she said. “If it’s a standard eight-by-ten, that’s a dead giveaway.”
Another way to identify an authentic rug, whether vintage or modern: turn it over. “You can tell because the whole rug is hand-tied,” Elommal said.
“Buy from a trusted seller,” Bunsa said. “Some people selling online will take a new rug and beat it up. If you’re buying online, ask for a photo of the reverse side.”
Colors in authentic rugs, whether vintage or modern, come from natural dyes made from plants, Elommal said. The weavers create the dyes themselves.
MANUFACTURED MOROCCAN-INSPIRED RUGS
Not everyone prefers an authentic vintage rug. Some people choose manufactured Moroccan-inspired rugs. “Nowadays, people want the look but without the upkeep,” Laurent said.
Versatile design elements
Whether handwoven or manufactured, the rugs can complement a variety of interior design styles. “I see them paired with both antiques and mid-century modern,” Laurent said. “They’re very versatile. In an eclectic design environment, they can act as a neutral element.”
“They’re popping up more and more in interior designs,” Bunsa said.
“You can use them in a traditional space, but also a very modern space.”
Vintage Moroccan rugs can be an asset to a variety of interior designs. This one is a Beni Ouarain at WorkRoom.
This Beni M’Gild rug has deep, rich colors.