HOW TO STYLE A MOROCCAN BENI OURAIN 

 
beautiful room with beni ourain: the gardener's house in marrakesh features a vintage moroccan beni ourain and jewel tone golden rod yellow velvet sofa.
the gardener's house in marrakesh features a vintage moroccan beni ourain and jewel tone golden rod yellow velvet sofa.

 

The Stylistic Paradox

Many 20th century designers have been captured by the unique personality of Moroccan Berber rugs, whose abstract and geometrical motifs are the vanguard of modernist and post-modernist style. Le Corbusier famously said, "Do as the Berber do: marry imagination to the most recognisable geometry, but define the imagination.” And with that in mind, he showcased Moroccan Berber rugs in his Maison La Roche-Jeanneret and Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau.

The Beni Ourain is a stylistic paradox, with striking designs that are both ancient yet ageless. The eccentric crisscrossing of detail lines play out against an ivory field and infuse the Beni Ourain rug with energy and character. Selective design and sparse composition highlight the natural beauty of the luscious fleecy ground, and make the Beni Ourain a perfect design complement to Mid Century Modern and minimalist style.

 

"It was love at first site when I spotted by first Moroccan rug in the souk of Marrakesh during a work escape trip that began traveling through Morocco and ended living in Morocco."

 

Born in Winter

The Beni Ourain rug was born in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco as a method of cover during snowy winter months. What we know as the Beni Ourain rug is actually a thick, densely woven, furry blanket used by nomadic shepherds for warmth and protection against the elements. The thick, long strands of wool and dense weave call to mind a white bearskin.

It was love at first site when I spotted by first Moroccan rug in the souk of Marrakesh during a work escape trip that began traveling through Morocco and ended living in Morocco. I am continually amazed by how a canvas with such subtle pattern can say so much. Each one has such a surprising personality. They are so versatile. They add that touch graphic glamour to any room you put them in. They bring can bring traditional granny decor into the 21st century. And restrain a maximalist aesthetic that has gotten out of hand. 

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a mid century modern dining room decorated in neutral earth and honey tones, jeanneret dining chairs and an abstract custom beni ourain
a mid century modern dining room decorated in neutral earth and honey tones, jeanneret dining chairs and an abstract custom beni ourain 

 

Design Icon

Le Corbusier believed Moroccan Berber rugs to be such an element of luxury that he was prompted to exclaim, they practically “flicker on the floor.” Le Corbusier is known to have compared Moroccan Berber rugs to the cozy sensation of a bonfire or a bearskin rug in winter.

 

"The immediacy and sincerity of design are what make the Beni Ourain such a beauty to behold. Each quietly elegant rug speaks to that place inside of all of us that yearns to live peacefully and free."

 

In Morocco, by way of migration and trade, the tradition of rug making has been influenced in ways that are apparent. Arabs from Andalusia, Black Africans from sub-Saharan and West Africa have introduced symbols and motifs, which the Beni Ourain women have used to visually describe the snowy, rocky fields and mountain streams that characterize their mountain landscape. On a field of cream, with decoration in delicate lines of henna brown and dark sable, the weaver will express her worldview. 

The most iconic Beni Ourain are characterized by a highly irregular and discontinuous design, a reflection of the weaver's nomadic lifestyle and current emotional state. The immediacy and sincerity of design are what make the Beni Ourain such a beauty to behold. Each quietly elegant rug speaks to that place inside of all of us that yearns to live peacefully and free.

 

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain rugs: a California Scandinavian inspired home with lots of texture, raw woods, blood leather, and a hand knotted vintage beni ourain

 

 

 

"A question for thought: why do so many major home retailers not think twice about appropriating the tradition of an entire culture? And why do so many major home retailers make no attempt to have their reproductions in Morocco?"

 

Popularity and Culture Appropriation 

A Beni Ourain rug is a forever investment in your home. They are plush and cozy and soft. If you have one, your feet love you. The first time I ever saw a Beni Ourain, my thoughts were, I need this rug. I started seeing Beni Ourain rugs everywhere.  They are a style classic, and here to stay. The Beni Ourain makes a statement, and helps to ground a space. The neutral color palette works equally well in minimalism or maximalism, bold or soft room designs. There's no question why this rug has become so popular.

 

A question for thought: why do so many major home retailers not think twice about appropriating the tradition of an entire culture? Nothing in American or European history says the Beni Ourain’s motif and color scheme originated in any place other than Morocco. And why do so many home fashion retailers make no attempt to produce their rugs in Morocco? All Moroccan rug fakes are made in India or China. Very rarely, they are made in Turkey. But because Turkish labor costs are much higher than in India and China, most fake beni ourain rugs originate in place where child and prison labor are common.

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a Paris apartment with timeless elegant architectural finishes and beni ourain rugs

 

 

"The Beni Ourain region is a wilderness of snow and stone with the occasion meandering stream. It is not surprising then to find that the rugs produced in this region are defined by a canvas abstracted diamond shapes, wayward zig-zagging lines, and primitive tribal symbolism. "

 

The Lay of The Land

A bit of history on the Beni Ourain reveals that traditional Beni Ourain rugs were woven to mimic the warmth of sheep pelts, but were created specifically as beds for nomadic sheep herders. As beds and bedcovers, their width has been always determined directly by the length of a human body. Two people would lie on the rug widthwise + cover themselves with the second part of the rug. The proportion of the folded rug resembles that of a double bed.

 

When you look at the landscape of the Beni Ourain mountains, you find a lot of white craggy rock. The Beni Ourain region is a wilderness of snow and stone with the occasion meandering stream. It is not surprising then to find that the rugs produced in this region are defined by a canvas abstracted diamond shapes, wayward zig-zagging lines, and primitive tribal symbolism. Beni Ourain rugs feature abstract linear patterns, defined by a design in dark natural undyed wool on a field of white.

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a luxury kitchen with open plan dining room featured in architectural digest and featuring several moroccan beni ourain

 

 

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a luxury dining room featured in architectural digest

 

The Rebirth of Style

In Morocco, there are authentic vintage Beni Ourain that were created in the 60s, 70s, or 80s. These are pricey and becoming more and more rare. The vintage rugs can be exquisite master works of design, with intricate detail and unmistakable texture and the inimitable patina of age. But there are also newer Beni Ourain that are made by Berber women living today in the North-Eastern Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The newer rugs are not fakes. They are just not vintage. They are hand woven, hand knotted using the same traditional techniques that have been passed down through the decades in these mountains.

 

"A rug with irregularities in the pile length is something magic, a beauty to behold. That soft tribal patterning is most lovely when the pile has room to flow. "

 

New Beni Ourain rugs can be beautiful, valuable, and excellent quality. Whether you choose a vintage Beni Ourain or a new one, both have been made by Berber women who spent months working behind a loom, days on end, tying thousands of knots wrapped around the warp and weft strings.

 

Just because the rug contains more pile per square inch does not make it more valuable. In fact, often a tighter, more dense pile has the effect of giving the rug a mass produced, cookie cutter look. An impenetrable, totally even texture erases much of the personality of a hand loomed rug. A rug with irregularities in the pile length is something magic, a beauty to behold. That soft tribal patterning is most lovely when the pile has room to flow. When it is allowed to move and change like the locks of a woman’s hair. 

 

beautiful room with beni ourain: islamic art deco arches in a riad in Marrakesh, and a classic beni ourain

 

Beni Ourain rugs were first made popular in Europe and America  at the turn of the 20th century by Le Corbusier and the modernist architects. Nearly a century later these have returned in a big way, and show no sign of leaving any time soon. They are the perfect compliment to the sleek modern aesthetic.

 

Here we will look at 35 beautiful rooms that feature Beni Ourain rugs. 

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain: malene birger's home in Denmark features many vintage berber rugs

 

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain: old Hollywood glamor in the home of this interior designer who chose a custom size beni ourain to finish the look

 

beautiful rooms with beni ourain rugs: malene birger's world, the designer's home in Denmark contains many vintage moroccan rugs
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: new york townhome chic with a custom size moroccan beni ourain beni mrirt rug at the center
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: classic tradition luxury in this Montauk Hamptons dining room with a custom size honeycomb pattern beni ourain beni mrirt rug.
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a bedroom refresh project was incomplete until the owner stumbled on a moroccan berber beni ourain to place under the bed.
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: the pink room at Riad El Fenn in Marrakesh
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a custom size beni ourain beni mrirt in the living room of a minimalist Paris apartment
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a vintage beni ourain in the foyer of Brooklyn NY townhome
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a classic California cool living room includes a vintage beni ourain rug
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a high contrast New York city apartment with an extra large abstract honeycomb beni ourain beni mrirt
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a tranquil minimalist apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark is furnished with blond leather and a classic beni ourain
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: the corridor leading up to a stunning library with high ceilings and timeless finishes includes a vintage beni ourain to complete the luxe look
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a luxurious custom size extra large beni ourain beni mrirt in this elegant european bedroom
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: organic modernism is California modern and never complete without a custom size abstract honeycomb beni ourain beni mrirt rug
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: the home of Malene Birger in the book, Move and Work
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: even modern Greek minimalism is not complete without a beni ourain
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a stunning new york potters studio
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a quiet timeless modern riad in Marrakesh
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a checkered beni ourain makes an appearance in this fresh take on modern country decor
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: yellow sofas and a vintage azilal in jenna lyons former home
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: modern new york style meets african decor accents in this brooklyn townhome living room
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a serene new york city townhome bedroom
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: restrained modern glamor California style with gold decor accents and a zig zag beni ourain
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: a berber rug and wedding blanket in a high contrast Danish black white bedroom
beautiful rooms with beni ourain: mario testino's black white high contrast home contains a long hallway and 2 beni ourain runners
beautiful room with beni ourain: jewel toned velvet and a custom size moroccan rug featured in Elle Decor Sweden
 
Gauguin would approve of this marble mario bellini il colonnato coffee table, oversized natural coral specimen, and extra large custom beni ourain rug in a brooklyn townhome style living room

 

"What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity… something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

- Henri Matisse