Wild Beauty - Finding the original and the authentic

We (of course!) love Moroccan carpets and textiles, with their intuitive design, beautiful use of colour, and intriguing motifs and symbols

The availability of genuinely old rugs is naturally limited and because there’s been such a great demand for these carpets, there are less available now than ever. Good pieces are hard to come by and finding them requires spending lots of time out in the remote villages, connecting with Berber families, as we do

So, what should you look for if you’re after something genuinely old, truly authentic and totally gorgeous?

A vintage Beni Ouarain rug in the Frank Lloyd-Wright designed house at Fallingwater, USA

A vintage Beni Ouarain rug in the Frank Lloyd-Wright designed house at Fallingwater, USA

Size Matters

In the Middle Atlas Mountains and the cold northern regions of Morocco, such as where Beni Ouarain rugs were created, carpets were woven as sleeping mats so tend to be long and narrow as well as thick and heavy. In the lower regions and the milder climates, carpets were generally used as seating mats or coverings so they are lighter and the sizes are different, with long blankets as well as smaller rugs

The large western room-size formats are almost always newer carpets. If woven with care and a personal touch, and with great quality wool, these can be beautiful. We often have some of these rugs on our website

However, many people pass these off as old, or they are forgeries that have been worked to look old with antique washes or bleached to look white. Pricing should give you a clue as to the real quality

Carpets were woven both by women for everyday use and also by master weavers for wealthy families. The latter could sometimes be up to 10 meters long. The best carpet will communicate the thoughts, fears, hopes and individual expressions of the weaver, with powerful images combined in a creative harmony, often with surprises and points of interest. Just by looking at different rugs, you can often get a sense of genuine 'one-off' creativity compared to standard formats that have been copied. An old rug might be very simple, such as some cream and brown Beni Ouarain pieces, however that simplicity will be original and inspired

Even the most simple vintage rugs can have a lovely asymmetry 

Even the most simple vintage rugs can have a lovely asymmetry 

Wool, cotton, Lurex …

Up in the cold northern regions, rugs were almost always woven entirely in pure wool – the pile as well as the base. They rarely had cotton bases, and cotton is used in new rugs to save money. However, in the warmer south women would  use cotton in the base, while the knots were wool. However, boucherouite rag rugs, created with scraps of re purposed textiles were woven with anything and everything! It’s not unusual to find plastic and Lurex hiding in these good looking rugs

Thick cream and charcoal rugs may have wide colour variations in the wool tones, from areas of butterscotch and dark cream through to cool ivory. This arises from the weaver using small batches of wool

A past life

There’s no getting away from it. A genuinely old carpet will have some wear, probably some marks, and maybe other signs of its past life (henna marks, candle wax). We should treasure these as a sign it is genuine. We often make restorations, and of course our carpets will have been washed, often more than once.  Some carpets will have been cared for very carefully and will be in better condition, others will be wonderfully worn. Search for these signs – they are one way you’ll be able to tell the genuine from the reproduction

This very old Maroc Tribal Beni Ouarain rug had a henna mark yet it brought this room in a Notting Hill, London, house to life (the henna mark is under the table!)

This very old Maroc Tribal Beni Ouarain rug had a henna mark yet it brought this room in a Notting Hill, London, house to life (the henna mark is under the table!)

Carpets piled high

You might see photos of Moroccan carpet souks in the main tourist cities with shops piled high with carpet upon carpet. One of the reasons this is possible is because there is a thriving commercial weaving industry, with large outlets employing women to produce carpet after carpet, working in factory like conditions. Many of these carpets are passed off as vintage or as individually created family pieces. It’s unlikely that they are. So take care to ask more questions and find out how and where your rug was woven

Authentic Moroccan rugs and textiles are beautiful and increasingly rare. We try to ensure that the families who sell them are rewarded and recognized for their treasures. And we hope that your original rug will give you a life time of pleasure. Don't settle for anything less!

An original 1980s Moroccan Beni Ourain carpet at renowned designer Abigail Ahern's London home

An original 1980s Moroccan Beni Ourain carpet at renowned designer Abigail Ahern's London home