An Understanding of Moroccan Rugs and Kilims

The History of Style Leading to Rug & Kilim’s Moroccan Collection

From the antique and vintage riches of the Berber weavers to the wider capabilities of newer loom productions, our Moroccan rug and flat weave collection enjoys a diversity of wool and fabric pieces equal to our variations of colors and pile heights—both in classic tribal pieces capturing the foundations of the style and the contemporary adaptations of Moroccan sensibility in more spacious sizes.

In a long career with ample time to experience the versatility of Moroccan style, it’s been rewarding to see that the vibrant, ever-distinguished and intricate colorway options of the classic tribal pieces remain popular and well-received among a variety of projects and spaces. Though the misconception remains that the original Moroccan rug and flat weave style is relegated to a niche in home design due to their size and colorway preferences, more often we’ve seen the range of our collection lending the most surprising complement to our colleagues; from chic, near-minimalist stripe and open-field designs to the more eclectic, culturally fascinating options with rich symbolism and history.

But those seeking a range in contemporary and modern appeal, the larger-loom Moroccan area rugs that have emerged in and beyond our own custom-capable Moroccan line enjoy thoughtful variations of mixed pile height options complementing the very lush, inviting wool pile and the elegant contrast of cream white and black. The classically inspired field designs play beautifully off the reserved, sensible chic of these pieces and we’re excited to see the life they bring to projects.

Foundations of the Style: Antique & Vintage Moroccan Rugs

Moroccan rug making has somewhat of an enigma among historians regarding the exact origin of the tradition, with most believing the practice extended back centuries to thousands of years before the style began receiving attention in the Mid-19th Century.

            The common denominator of distinctive geometry and color—a great deal of which borrowing notable Anatolian Turkish influences via cultural diffusion—has persisted well into the centuries to follow to the point where it arguably remains the most recognizable signifier of Moroccan style. Still, even as the traditional geometric influences of Turkish motifs persisted in impacting the Moroccan tribal rug styles, the ancestral styles of the nomadic and primarily matriarchal tribal weavers in Morocco maintained their own cultural distinction in the colloquial meanings behind primitivist, outstanding motifs—a lexicon of which can be seen today.

Before its current tenure as a known resource for designers and collectors alike, Moroccan rug making knew a long history of utility and cultural aspiration over Western decorative appeal, a departure from the gradually emerging tendencies of the Turkish, Persian, and Chinese rug industries in the degree to which they catered to the european market. While we’re no stranger to a deep affection for European sensibilities in classic rugs—Josh has made his love of 18th-Century Aubusson and Savonnerie rug styles known among our peers over time—this remains among the unsung distinctions of Moroccan rug making that its nigh-unmistakable identity had persisted for so long through varied cultural influences. Eventually, though, the desire for the ‘exotic’ rug family in Western culture played no small part in the entrance of Moroccan style to the world stage and the gradual western influence on the style we see today.

            Among the wide-spanning nomadic techniques of roughly 45 known Moroccan tribes spread geographically throughout Northwestern Africa, perhaps the most exemplative common denominator of the culturally distinct antique and vintage Moroccan rug pattern would be the diamond pattern—sometimes historically referenced as a “lozenge” in and beyond a shared context with traditional Turkish rugs. Even accounting for the distinctive approaches of familial linages and the gradual cultural blend of styles, the diamond lozenge could be argued to be the most regarded symbol of Moroccan rug patterns in the field today, but fewer connoisseurs understand that the motif is widely regarded to connote a representation of femininity, often a fertility motif keeping with the primitivism of ancestral Moroccan rugs and the basis of their symbology in survivalist cultural language.

Though entire books can, and have, been written on the study of Moroccan rug and tribal symbols in Morocco, cultural designers and home decorators seeking a Moroccan rug for the tribal subtext in equal measure to their fabulous appeal can learn to read these pieces starting from the base concept: it’s been widely agreed among anthropologists and rug experts that symbols representing masculine subtext were often depicted in straight, geometrically simpler motifs in long forms, while symbols for feminine subtext favored lozenge diamond patterns, chevron patterns, and other more dynamic motifs. It’s arguably rare, from our perspective as long-time collectors and curators of the style, to find a rug solely emphasizing masculine tribal symbols—especially considering many antique Moroccan rugs were meant to represent the union of men and women both as lovers and as parents. Moroccan rug symbols were less concerned with decor and more with the spiritual, religious, and magical aspirations of the weavers, often weaving these symbols together to promote a healthy birth or loving union calling back to the survivalist concerns of Moroccan tribal rug weavers and their deep sense of community. Though feminine rug symbols have been found more often on their own—often to promote a healthy birth holding to the spiritual beliefs of mothers in their tribes—Moroccan rugs with rare emphasis on solely masculine symbols, such as the mallet/hammer, have been found in equally stunning beauty to that of their counterparts.

Moroccan Kilim Rugs

Though they reside in the lesser-known families of Kilim, the flat weave carpets from the tribal Moroccan rug weavers that’ve endured to the market today are no-less worthy of celebration than the more widely understood counterparts. It’s worth noting that while the most popular Moroccan Kilim rugs have departed from the North African style’s predisposition to bold geometric symbolism, their approach to lively color and natural yarn variation remains a signifier of the celebrated Moroccan style—learning toward more transitional colorway pallets with less defined but equally intricate patterns.

What’s worth noting is that,—in broaching the lengthy discussion behind how any of the Kilim and flatweave families we’ve mentioned have been reproduced in the modern day—the more reserved adaptations of the Moroccan style favoring minimalist tribal geometry and texture of frenzied color remark the traits arguably most popular in contemporary and modern Moroccan Kilim on the market today. Turkish looms—ancestral cousins to the Moroccan style in both pile and Kilim rugs—have particularly taken to attacking the eternal need for Moroccan style in the unique large-size Kilim emerging from Turkey today (while modern Moroccan looms capable of producing larger sizes continue to favor the equally gorgeous pile rugs of their ancestry with new capabilities).

Our Contemporary, Custom Moroccan Rug Line

While the most approachable or wide-spanning appeal of our own contemporary Moroccan line is the simple area-size dimensions—given the history of Moroccan looms as smaller and unequipped to produce many spacious pieces—the approach to high-low pile refinement married with a lush, quality wool pile cannot go understated in the modern appeal of this subcollection. There’s a chic juxtaposition of the black on cream, an off-white colorway that brings out the varied pile height in a different approach through each piece, with this 9×12 rug employing an intricate braid transitioning from the striped borders and gracefully fading into the prevailing, brighter knotting. The flow between a more arresting sense of movement in the sides and the gentler, soothing movement in the field in this particular Moroccan marries visual and tactile appeal in its own way like that of the varied siblings. The common denominator of the sum subcollection would be the inviting texture they all share, “inviting you to walk over barefoot” as our own teammates have put it (and put their feet to it, but I’m guilty of that indulgence just the same).

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Scandinavian

The Scandinavian Collection presents geometric designs delineated with varying pile heights for tactile emphasis, with numerous fresh, refined patterns woven in a unique variety of yarns and classic colorways. Often referred to by Josh Nazmiyal as “a new language in design” the modernist collection celebrates our unprecedented textural diversity, a formidable Kilim line never seen in these spacious sizes, and an exciting departure from traditional geometry that simultaneously embodies the original design.

Some of the most well-received patterns have drawn inspiration from mid-century pioneers of the aesthetic, reimagined with Josh’s deep reverence of the style and his drive to present the vintage style with the utmost quality and possibility. To that end essential functional concerns were innovated, especially in the flat weaves where the original pieces were fewer, smaller and more vulnerable to folding underfoot and we’ve achieved a durable body resistant to buckling or shifting like traditional flat weaves. A number of our Scandinavian Kilim pieces likewise enjoy a subtle, intriguing colorway variation created through the aforementioned blend of undyed, natural yarns, lending to a unique, tasteful sense of movement complementing the classic geometry.

Our goal was to ensure that the soul of Scandinavian design aesthetic in both functionality and minimalism was observed, while durability, beauty and restraint were addressed in kind.
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