Moroc­can rugs are a ver­sa­tile in­te­rior de­sign el­e­ment

Miami Herald - - FUN & GAMES - BY JANA SOELDNER DAN­GER Spe­cial to South Florida Home

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.


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.”

Cour­tesy of Michael Stavaridis

Vin­tage Moroc­can rugs can be an as­set to a va­ri­ety of in­te­rior de­signs. This one is a Beni Ouarain at Work­Room.

Cour­tesy of Work­Room

This Beni M’Gild rug has deep, rich col­ors.

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