Every time I look at the pages of Architectural Digest, I always see a vintage Moroccan rug in a great home. Often it can boast streaks of Hot pink, sea blue or fiery orange. Other times it is more respectable in tones of wood and rich blacks. A work of craftsmanship, these rugs are statement pieces that command attention while still letting the rest of the room shine. This chameleon-like quality is one of the reasons why a vintage Moroccan rug is so sought after design piece.
Other reasons are based on culture and heritage – all of which are amazing in their breadth and history. The craft of Moroccan weaving dates back to 600 BC. Each authentic rug varies in technique and aesthetics based on the tribe, region or village where it was made. These are the facts that Mallory Solomon, founder and CEO of Bye Bye, a collection of unique handwoven textiles and rugs, is at the fore. Generations of tradition, artistry and symbolism are steeped in these works, says Solomon.
“The variation is visible through every weaving choice – from the animals the wool is harvested from, to the dye ingredients used to make the colors and the local symbols and traditions woven into the surface of the rug.”
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Knowing the rich traditions behind a Moroccan rug adds to its integrity and appeal. But all too often, knockoffs permeate the design space, and so does little respect for the artisans behind the craft. Solomon, whose company works directly with more than 70 women artisan weavers, aims to change this. Every rug for sale on Hello Salam is authentic and credited to its maker, who receives fair wages in exchange for their work.
“We believe that the stories behind each of these pieces, including the artisan behind it and the techniques, symbolism and tradition used to make them, should be preserved and shared,” adds Solomon.
So how do you know if a vintage Moroccan rug is authentic? And what’s the best way to style one of these historically revered design pieces? I asked Solomon to share his insight.
How do you know a vintage Moroccan rug is authentic?
Buying a Moroccan rug can be difficult, Solomon admits. Lots of sellers claim to sell authentic handmade pieces when that is not the truth. “If you’re lucky enough to buy a personalized one, flip the rug over or ask for a picture of the back of the rug,” she suggests. “The back of the carpet holds the technical key to the quality of a carpet. You want to see uniformity in each knot, as well as the space between each knot.”
Next, Solomon suggests asking the seller the following: What materials did they use? Do they know the tribe or the craftsman who made the work? Do they know the meaning of the design?
Solomon says that every rug sold at Salam Hello is made from 100 percent live wool, meaning the wool comes from live sheep, lambs or camels without harming the animal. “Our artisans tend to card, spin and dye the wool themselves using different spice blends, resulting in a higher quality piece.”
She adds that “Moroccan rugs represent generations upon generations of tradition, artistry and symbolism. While these rugs are as beloved as ever, much of their history and symbolism has been lost in translation and transactions over time.”
What is the best room for a Moroccan rug?
There is no room for a Moroccan rug, says Solomon. Finding the perfect size and look depends on the room. To make this easier, Solomon and her team created one size guide to find the right fit. A few key points include:
To the bedroom
Find a rug that extends beyond your bed frame. You can have it extended at the front or find a piece that grounds all your furniture from the bed frame to the side tables. You can also mix and match by flanking both sides of your bed with an accent piece and/or runners.
To the living room
Small to medium sized rooms look best with a rug in the center of the room under the coffee table. For a larger living room, Solomon suggests using a larger rug that fits under all the furniture.
To the hallway
A runner is the best added value, Solomon believes. “It can be used as a transitional piece for a hallway or to add color and warmth to the kitchen floor.”
To the dining room
Complement the table by choosing a size that is a base for chairs, even when the chairs are pushed back.
To the bathroom
This space can be tricky for carpeting, “as you have to make sure the material can withstand humid environments,” says Solomon. The best bet is a runner placed near the vanity.
How else can you decorate with a Moroccan rug?
Salomon says to think of the floor “as your fifth wall.” A handmade Moroccan is a work of art in itself, and the floor is another place to display a stunning piece. Also, don’t be afraid to treat it like a painting. “Hanging carpets on the wall can be a funky way to highlight the amazing handmade designs that many of these artisans bring to life,” she adds.
How do you care for a Moroccan rug?
An authentic Moroccan rug is made to last a lifetime. So when it comes to taking care of it, don’t overthink it, says Solomon. That said, she suggests doing a few things to extend its life:
Take it outside and shake it vigorously once every two weeks. If the carpet is too large, or you lack space, you can vacuum it once a week. Do not use a vacuum cleaner with a brush, rotating motor head or anything that can pull the natural fibers. Vacuuming at low power and with a flat nozzle attachment. For carpets with high pile, vacuum in the direction of the pile and lift the nozzle after each movement. Don’t forget to flip the rug and vacuum the back to get something deep in the piles as well.
Finally, Solomon suggests rotating the rug every three to six months. This will help prevent bacteria from forming in areas where the furniture sits or where there is limited foot traffic or sunlight. (But be aware that direct sunlight will fade the colors over time, she warns.)