How to Buy, and Style, a Vintage Moroccan Rug

Vogue.com JUNE 22, 2018 5:27 PM

by CARMEN ROSY HALL

    Read the original article on Vogue.com

    The Gardener’s House Bed & Breakfast

    Photo: Courtesy of The Gardener’s House

    Amber El-Amin held an administrative job at a law office until one day, she “escaped,” risking her stability for a life of travel. In 2011, just after jumping ship, she attempted several ventures: selling handmade jewelry on Venice Beach while living in her car in the Hollywood Hills; starting a hippie clothing brand while living in a tiny room in New Delhi's Pahar Gang; a textile affair that began with an eBay purchase on Monday and a ticket to Istanbul by Friday.

    She considered that time a “long, mindless break, wandering, and doing a lot of nothing,” and it soon led to harsher truth. “Reality struck as the money started dwindling.” It wasn’t until she met a rug vendor in Morocco that led her to begin to realize what she wanted her future to look like. El-Amin moved her life to Marrakech, and took yet another risk when she put all of her savings into just 12 rugs. This led to Pink Rug and Co., her Etsy store of masterfully styled, highly curated Moroccan rugs for modern homes.

    El-Amin has since started her own online store, called The Gardener’s House. The site features rugs organized by sizes and weaves, in a range of prices.  Now, she has just finished designing a rug showroom that will double as a bed and breakfast. “These days, my routine mostly revolves around getting furniture reupholstered, lights hung, art framed, all with the help of local artisans,” El-Amin says. (Bookings for her slice of heaven in Marrakech open today.) A few weeks ago, El-Amin’s “little one” tossed her phone into a fountain on a morning spent strolling through the gardens of Le Jardin Secret, a 19th century palace.  Despite the brief setback in her communication with customers, El-Amin continued to sign her emails with “Sunny Greetings”—it’s safe to assume she will never return to a sterile office.

    Here, El-Amin offers some insight on how to buy and style Moroccan rugs:

    How to clean a vintage rug, and why it’s worth it: These rugs can be washed by hand with shampoo or laundry detergent and sun dried in hot summer sun. Boucherouite can be washed in large commercial coin machines on gentle cycle. They can also be vacuumed with the brush down. They are very sturdy weaves. The difference between a handmade rug and a mass produced one is in the final look and feeling of the room. Vintage Moroccan rugs add very apparent substance and class, but also, authenticity.

    How to style a patterned rug: Try to balance the mix of large scale and diminutive patterns, bold and neutral colors for smashing effect. Classic shapes in gorgeous colors can make statement design. The mix of modern abstract patterns and more traditional shapes can also be thrilling. Each person has a particular set of colors and patterns that they naturally gravitate toward. If you adhere closely to the principle of buying whatever takes your fancy, and buy only what you love—and not necessarily what you need at that moment—it is almost a guarantee that things will just fall into place naturally given a little time, even if you don't know the final placement when buying.

    The best way to style a rug in a small space: I like a lot of breathing room in a space, so for me small rugs are the best rugs. I like the rug to be well smaller than the area covered by the furniture, and I don't particularly like furniture touching the rug. This approach flows naturally from a preference for sculptural pieces. To each thing, its own space, as might be given in an art gallery setting. I also love to design with many smaller seating areas in a room, rather than just a single large one.

    On avoiding boho overload: I am Pinterest-obsessed. I have been pinning now for like 7 years straight. My Pinterest board, thegardenershouse, is a collection of stories. At the center of those stories is idyllic nature—organic beauty with a sunny, romantic vibe. I think the most beautiful interiors mingle nature, culture, and art for fresh, taste-making design. Also, one of my favorite sources of inspiration is sfgirlbybay Victoria Smith, whose style you could call, ”serene bohemian.” It is the opposite of bohemian maximalism, where the home is filled with competing pattern, textile, and superfluous foliage. I would find a bohemian maximalist home exhausting to live in for any extended stretch. I like a dreamy, laid back mixture of soft lines that call to mind rolling hills, or rocky cliffs sculpted by wind and water. I find a playful vibe of feminine chic most thrilling. In decorating as well, I try to create a different story for each room using line, texture and organic surfaces. When shopping for artisan goods, I am drawn to strong shapes, and those lines that set up an interesting dialogue. Good interior design, like good photography, should be dynamic. It should give extraordinary life to what is ultimately ordinary.

    How to differentiate between rugs: I learned the differences by going out nearly every day for seven years, sifting through one enormous pile after another in shop after shop, village by village, and sometimes even in parking lots and back alleys.

    Beni Ourain are easily known by their classic patterning and regional palette of simple diamonds. The motif produces elegant and harmonious rhythms that capture and move the eye over the entirety of the rug. Of the Moroccan styles, the Beni Ourain is the most well suited for a modern minimalist chic aesthetic.

    The Azilal exudes a type of mysteriously alluring beauty because although it may seem simple, every line, progression, and shape in the rug appears to be in motion. The most beguiling Azilal recall a palette of modern expressionism.

    Beni Mguild have intricate diamond patterns, always on a variagated single color background of either red, magenta, blue, or purple. Zaiane are very similar to Beni Mguild but pricier among those in the know.

    Rehamna can be recognized by their distinctive blood red plus magenta coloring. They can almost be seen as the country cousin to the Persian rug.

    Boujad often feature a color combination of orange and magenta, but sometimes pink, with odd, floating geometric shapes, squares, rectangles or wobbly looking diamonds. They are very intense in both color and patterning and not for all tastes. They are normally very pricey, and the average buyer would not know how to decorate with such a dominant design element grabbing all the attention.

    Ourika are normally colorful concentric diamonds made from recycled thread on a white wool ground. They remain popular for their friendly, upbeat vibe of uncomplicated fun.

    Boucherouite is a category of rug that encompasses any non-traditional weave whose material is mainly recycled thread and fabrics. But don’t let the weave fool you. These rugs can range from low to high based only on pattern and color combination, very much like any work of abstract expressionism. There are some boucherouite out there that are just stunning masterpieces of modern art.