Over the years, they have been called many different things – sculpted, tufted, carved, shaped, incised or woven and snipped in to shape – but sculptural rugs have a designer pedigree spanning decades. Today, sculptural, designer rugs are making an impact once again.

They never really went away

In the 1920s, modernist designer Eileen Gray created geometric rugs that were layered and bold. The designs from this Irish national were eccentric, but useable and the world fell in love. There can be few designers who work with both soft furnishings and ‘interior architecture’ from stools to chairs and beyond, that is still emulated and aspired today by so many.

She began this movement for bold designs with rugs, a mantel that was taken up by Syrie Maugham, a highly ‘decorator, well known for completing rooms in shades of white. She designed intricate rugs and designed by Marion Corn, their work adorned the living spaces of the rich, famous and upper classes. Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee who rocked the British Monarchy, was said to have had many rooms designed and decorated in this way.

A new audience

Today, in the 21st century, there is a new audience enjoying topographical rugs and coverings. Adding dramatic impact, as well as a talking point to any room, many modern-day designers are once again enjoying the challenge of creating illusion rugs.

Gary Hume, an English artist living and working in London and New York, has created a dimensional rug that emulated doors. Available in rich colours, from orange through to golden yellows and greens, these rugs gave the impression of swinging doors, with a round port-hole window on each side.

European and American designers are also creating amazing sculptural rugs; Belgian rug make JoV is creating deep pile wool rugs, luscious to the touch and Madeline Weinrib, a New York designer is using silk shag, with a deep, geometric relief pattern, hand woven in to the design.

Why now?

Sculpted rugs have always been around, rather like shaggy rugs. But, at time, they were seen as a cliché or too rambunctious for the ‘ordinary’ household. They were seen as rugs as pieces of art, meant to be revered and savoured, rather than walked on or used.

With interior design, trends come and go. The remix of 1970s fashion and décor is underway and thus, the sculptural rug is back ‘in vogue’. Favoured in the 1960s and 70s by top decorators Henri Samuel and David Hicks, the Provencal based manufacturer Cogolin is now the chosen one in the homes of all kinds of people, from Greek shipping millionaires, to designers, horticulturalists and people who love all things beautiful.

Better still, Cogolin is looking to introduce a new range of beautifully styled, yet organic sculpted rugs. Their patter is simple; the materials are simple, and humble but the designs are out of this world. Creating something complex and beautiful, out of something simple and unpretentious.

Fashion designers are hitting the rug market too!

Everyone loves a challenge, and no more so than fashion designers who, for so long, have been locked in the world of creating beautiful clothes. Many are now seeking new horizons and wanting to dress homes beautifully too and thus, they are looking at creating rugs.

Used not just in the home, but showcased on the runway was a delightful, ivy strewn rug. Unbelievably deep in the pile, this rich green rug was a hand tufted 157 feet of marvellous delight. Created by Buenos Aires based artists Alexandra Kehayoglou, it featured during the spring and summer collection 2015 of designer Dries Van Noten.

A contoured relief, in a flat digital world

Technology and the digital age brings so many benefits but, it is hard to remember a time when our worlds were so flat. Designers are rebelling against what they see, as the flat, featureless landscape of the digital screen.

With such a distant world, they argue, we need to regain our senses, and the sense of touch can be re-discovered with a sculpted rug.

Too distant from our ‘practical’ lives

But, many designer homes may not be carbon copies of the rough, tumble and life our busy homes see; from the scratching cat, the wet dog, to the numbers of pairs of feet in shoes, wellies and bare soles that walk our floors, rugs and carpets, the sculpted rug can be a welcome addition to many a room.