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Designer rugs conceptualised by fashion icons provide the perfect floor – and wall – art for your home

Fancy walking on cashmere? Silk? Mohair? The materials we have always associated with fine fashion now form the matrix of beautiful pieces of art underfoot. You simply cannot relegate these rugs to ‘floor covering’, although they’re robust enough to be practical. London-based Christopher and Suzanne Sharp are the founders of The Rug Company and, in collaboration with talented designers and icons in fashion (think, among many, Westwood, McQueen, Smith and Von Furstenberg), have found a new outlet in these creative canvases.

‘Serpent’, in Tibetan wool, was the result of the Rug Company’s collaboration with Los Angeles interior designer Kelly Wearstler

The rugs are ‘born’ more than 3 000m above sea level in the Himalayas, beginning their life on the backs of what must be some of the hardiest creatures on earth. These Tibetan sheep grow fleece adapted to biting cold conditions and minimal oxygen at this altitude, resulting in a very dense yarn. Washed and spread in the sun by Tibetan monks, the wool is combed into something not unlike white candyfloss, and then spun and woven onto looms by weavers in Nepal who have passed on their skills through generations. The Rug Company is a member of GoodWeave, ensuring that no child labour is used in the process. And then Indian dye masters, usually from Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, create the hundreds of colours that will ultimately

become the patterns, lines and swirls, curves and geometric shapes – first in the mind’s eye of the designers and then in woven form in the rugs. The designs are nothing short of glorious. From Vivienne Westwood’s hand-knotted Tibetan wool-and-silk rug ‘Magnolia Ice’ to Diane von Furstenberg’s bold ‘Climbing Leopard’ in emerald green, black and white, the rugs are a choreography in colour and yarn.

But what would you love to have, given myriad choices? A peacock feather that begins on a landing of stairs and delicately drifts down each step? A trompe l’oeil of striking geometric patterns in cotton weave? Paul Smith’s ‘Oriental Birds’, the finest hand-knotted rug ever made by The Rug Company? Or might you turn the rug into tapestry and create wall art? Should you fall for a particular design but need it to be in a softer palette of colours, your rug will be woven for you. Bring in a swatch of fabric, a slip of silk from a vintage kimono, a sample of paint. Or if there is a design you love but you are unsure how it will alter or enhance a room, The Rug Company delivers it for a ‘fitting’ and possible approval. It is couture for your home.

On a trip to South Africa recently to officially open The Rug Company’s showroom in downtown Cape Town, Christopher was intrigued by the potential market in the city, in particular the relatively small but significant stretch of real estate from Green Point to Llandudno. We suggested that architects, interior designers and their clients would now have a new dimension to explore in design and that the Atlantic Seaboard views might finally have competition.

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By Lesley Wolf, Private Edition, Issue 28

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