Rugs and runners: an easy way to enhance your home

Rugs and runners: an easy way to enhance your home

For many of us, it's the rug that maketh the room... a beautiful rug adds colour, texture and softness underfoot. Here are some designs that will put a spring in your step

By Abby Trow
New rug from Margo Selby

Quex rug (above) by Margo Selby is a hand-carved wilton, made in India from wool/rayon. 170 x 240cms, £695. Rugs made from sustainable fibres (wool, linen, jute, recycled yarn etc)  are not hard to find; but if you want to step beyond the high street, check out Christine Van Der Hurd and Tania Johnson at the high end; Beldi Rugs for fabulous vintage Moroccan wool rugs, Rug Couture for online custom design rugs; and The Northern House for vintage Swedish rag rugs.

As with pictures, a room without a rug feels rather..bare, unfinished, lacking in colour and personality. Rugs are a key piece when it comes to decorating and the good news is, of course, that there are lovely rugs made from sustainable fibres (it's not just wool, think about jute, linen, silk, banana fibre, hemp, recycled yarn from clothing..) at every price point.

At the high end, Tania Johnson is a London-based designer who offers refined, contemporary hand-knotted rugs in soft, subtle colourways. Her exquisite, often ethereal designs start with an image from the world around her and collections are grouped into themes such as Nature, Places, Glass and Water. Rugs are Goodweave certified and are made predominantly from wool and silk. Pieces are hand-knotted and made to order in Nepal.

And if you don't know her, take a look at rugs by Christine Van Der Hurd (, the doyenne of bespoke carpet design. Her colour sense is extraordinary and her rugs (wool and silk are the main fibres) are hand-knotted in Nepal and India. Van Der Hurd is a frequent visitor to her artisans' workshops and workers' enjoy good pay and high welfare standards. 

Vintage rugs

Vintage and antique Persian and Chinese rugs are widely available at auctions, but if you like vintage rugs that have a more contemporary, less patterned look, then you may like the Moroccan Beni Ouarain wool rugs from the early 20th century.

Beldi Rugs - run by Emma Wilson in Morocco and Tamsin Flower in London - specialises in the increasingly sought-after vintage Beni Ouarain carpets, which are made from the thick wool of sheep that graze in the Atlas Mountains. They have also started producing new Beni Ouarain carpets, available in custom sizes and designs and made by Moroccan craftspeople using traditional techniques. 

Vintage Moroccan wool Ben Ouarain rug from Beldi Rugs, which has started offering new Ben Ouarain rugs. Vintage rugs from around £1,600.
Roses rug by Jordi Labanda for Barcelona-based Dac rugs. 170x240cms, around £1,600. NZ wool. Order online,
Zurich rug by Tania Johnson, hand-knotted in Nepal in Tibetan wool/silk. Goodweave cert. 170x240cm rug £4,386
Elba rug in wool from the wonderful online rug design store Rug Couture. Choose your size, colour, shape fibre.. Rug 170x240 £825.18
Super eco, vintage Swedish rag rugs from The Northern House add affordable colour and warmth underfoot. From £50.
Wool/silk bespoke runner by Christine Van Der Hurd, POA.
New from Natuzzi Italia, Acquarello hemp rug, 170x240cm rug £1,610.

For colourful, affordable rugs and runners, The Northern House specialises in vintage rag rugs from Sweden, while The Braided Rug Company in Gwynedd has rugs made from braids that are made from 100 per cent recycled man-made carpet fibres, as well as from wool and jute. 

Jane Diamond at The Northern House explains that 'the rugs we sell are all woven from the leftover fabric from a typical Swedish household. As well as being incredibly eco-friendly they provide a fascinating insight into socio-cultural history.' She says she can date the rugs from the fabrics used - and many are predominately blue as that was the colour of Swedish workwear. 'And I recently found a post-war rug which had a pair of nylon stockings woven into it.'

Rug Couture - the fun of design-your-own

If you ever come across a rug and think if only it came in red and blue not green and yellow and could be oval not square, then Rug Couture is for you. It's a wonderful online emporium that allows you to design your own rug, so you can choose the colour, shape, size and fibre of your rug. Choose form Rug Couture's extensive range of designs or you can design your own rug and they will have it made for you. Rug Couture products carry the Kaleen label, an Indian government scheme to show no child labour was involved in manufacture.

Fuchsia pink shyrdak rug from Felt, Rugs made from wool by nomadic peoples in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. From £300
Muted greys in this Calvin Klein Beryl wash NZ wool rug by Kelaty, £549
Enduringly popular, Cuadros wool rug by Spain's Nani Marquina. 150x200 rug £1,079 at Wovenground
Wool/silk rug by Danish studio Linie. Misty Powder rug, 170x240cms, around £2,200.
Wool woven Williamsburg rug, various sizes available, from The Braided Rug Company. 5x8' rug £520
05 colour block wool rug by Danish company Hay, £825, available at Wovenground
Small Mota hand-tufted NZ wool rug by Spanish brand Gandia Blasco, around £895 at Heal's.
Check rug from Grosvenor Wilton new Diversity Collection, £79 per linear metre.
Colours rug in wool/silk/banana fibre/hemp by Spain's Now Carpets, POA.
NZ wool Lattice rug hand-knotted in India, 170x260cms, £1,750

Modern design from Britain, Spain and Scandinavia

Some of our top textile designers have expanded into wool rugs, such as Margo Selby and Glasgow-based Niki Jones; the former is known for her bright colours, textures and patterns, the latter for her masterful geometric designs.

Roger Oates is known for his wool runners, but he also has a good selection of wool rugs. Architect Thomas Griem has designed a new collection of hand-knotted wool or wool/silk rugs for carpet company Jacaranda. And for ikat designs and wonderful subtle gradations of colour, Ptolemy Mann has a lovely range of wool flatweave and hand-woven rugs. For vibrant felt wool shyrdak rugs from Kyrgyzstan, visit Felt Rugs

If you want carpet that is made in Britain, Kidderminster-based Grosvenor Wilton has launched the Diversity Collection, a retail range based on its archive designs from the '50s and '60s, updated with more contemporary colourways. You can choose rugs, runners and wall to wall carpet, prices from £79 per linear metre.

Hand-knotted Deco rug by Thomas Griem for Jacaranda. POA
Blue stripe flat weave wool rug from British company Roger Oates.
Fern hand-knotted wool or wool/silk rug from Goodweave certified Bazaar Velvet. POA
Hand-woven in India, wool flatweave Albers rug by Ptolemy Mann, from £550

Spain has a lot of very good contemporary rug designers, many of whose products are on sale in the UK. Nani Marquina is perhaps the doyenne of Spanish rug design while Gandía Blasco is a very creative brand offering unusual designs by leading designers include Patricia Urquiola, and Francesc Rifé. Barcelona-based DAC Rugs likewise has fresh, innovative designs and pieces are well priced. For high-end Spanish designs check out Now Carpets.

Scandinavian design is much loved and rug brands to look at include Linie DesignKasthall, and Hay. You will find a host of quality rug brands on sale online at Wovenground - including Hay and Nani Marqina.

Many rug companies have their carpets woven or hand-knotted in India and Nepal. Far fewer children work in the carpet industry now, thanks for organisations such as Goodweave, but you should always check that the brand you buy does everything possible to ensure children do not work on its products.