Art Deco was a style of architecture and interior design, popular from about 1925 to
1940, which had geometrical designs and bold colors as the main characteristics.
Art Deco rugs were first introduced to the public in Paris at the 1925 World’s Fair
Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Art. The interior of the exhibition space
was decorated with these rugs, which became an instant craze thereafter. Art deco rugs
reflect modern elements paired with unique traditions, inspired by individual artists.
During this time, these rugs featured bold designs that could become a focal point and
statement piece rather than a pleasant background for furniture. Many anonymous firm-employed designers who were suffering in the economic environment following WWI
became freelance weavers, creating luxurious custom pieces for private clients. Art deco
rugs reached the height of their popularity between 1925 and 1937 with production
falling dramatically due to the events that led up to WWII.
The rugs that US-born designer Marion Dorn and her husband Edward McKnight Kauffer
created in their London studio are among the most sought-after pieces that epitomize
the angular style of art deco designs.
The studio in China operated by Walter Nichols had wove their own magic brand of art
deco carpets while Betty Joel created her unique designs for private clients. As the
legendary Maison Myrbor studio in Northern Africa manufactured carpets for French
designers such as Jean Lurcat and Joan Miro. Ranging in styles from abstract Berbers
decorated with tribal details to pictorials with mythical influences.
In France, the creation of decorative rugs in Aubusson and at the Savonnerie continued
during the early twentieth century. While a smaller number of manufacturers and artists
began experimenting with more flamboyant and ornamental rug designs that
complemented the spirit of modernity and met the demand of the middle class for luxury carpets. It is these designer rugs that are the epitome of the Deco style, though an
overall shift in French Art Deco rug designs from primarily floral, figurative, and
medallion compositions to more minimalist or abstract rug designs began to occur by the late 1920’s as the Functionalism of Modernism began to shape the industry.
Among the most well-known Art Deco rug designers in France were Ivan Da Silva
Bruhns (1881-1980) and Paule Leleu (1906-87). The linear rugs designed by Ivan Da
Silva Bruhns drew their inspiration from Oceanic, African and Pre-Columbian arts, in
contrast to those by Leleu, who generally favored symmetrical arrangements and
repeating geometric motifs. In France the demand for designer rugs in the 1920’s was
so great that Da Silva Bruhns opened his own workshop and French department stores
added rugs designed by artists and designers to their collections. The major Parisian
store of the time, a` La Place Clichy, concentrated on Oriental rugs starting in the late
19th century. They also began commissioning rugs in the 1920’s by many well-known
Modernist rug designers such as Rene’ Crevel, Edouard Be’ne’dictus, and Emile
In contrast to the Art Deco rugs of France, those from Sweden tended to be more
restrained in their compositions and smaller in size. By the late 19th century, several
schools were opened to teach women the textile arts, which later helped contribute to
Sweden’s standing as one the most important centers of Modernist rug production in
Europe. Due to the fact that textiles, known as ryas, were produced traditionally in
Sweden for domestic use as coverings for beds and did not serve primarily as floor
coverings, they were often smaller in size. Larger rugs to be used as floor coverings
were made mainly for the aristocratic and royal residences. Given the traditional
absence of large rugs in their culture, Modernist and Deco rugs from Sweden also tend
to be smaller when compared to rugs produced elsewhere in Europe at the time. Often,
when larger rugs were created, they were often comprised of several small rugs seamed
During the Great Depression in 1929, there was a temporary lapse in producing Art
Deco rugs which made the genuine pieces very rare and expensive to find, making them
sought after by collectors. Now there are a wide variety of options for the average
consumer, due to the reproduction of these rugs.
Art Deco rugs are in a field of their own. They’re still very usable as actual rugs, and are
frequently used as decorative floor covering, just as they were meant to be. Also, some
collectors proudly frame or otherwise display their finds on the wall, like tapestries, to
preserve their beauty and elegance.