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Furnishings: Cutting a Rug

Modern rugs are not new. Rugs woven by artists are not new, either—Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein have all tried their hand. But Christopher Farr and Matthew Bourne are at the forefront of a modern rug movement that is sweeping aside the traditional Aubusson and Oriental carpets. Taking center stage in best-dressed rooms are bold contemporary rugs that complement contemporary furniture. We are, in fact, living in the Golden Age of Rugs, but it has been a long, uphill struggle.

“When we presented our first show in 1991 at the Royal College of Art, a new rug was a dirty word,” says Farr. By 1993, when he and Bourne unveiled fashion designer Romeo Gigli’s rugs at Milan’s influential furniture fair, the Salone del Mobile, the reception was warmer. “We got tremendous response, and all the doors opened up,” Farr recalls. “But we had very few sales.”

Now the British business partners have showrooms in London and Los Angeles and have just published an essential reference book, Contemporary Rugs: Art and Design (Merrell Publishers, London), coauthored with Fiona Leslie, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They have brought respect to a craft that has generally been dismissed. And they are working with a generation of artists who do not feel that carpet design is beneath them.

Farr trained as a fine artist in London. His fascination with pre-Columbian textiles and tribal weaving techniques led him to start designing rugs in 1984. His own creations pay homage to postwar American artists, in particular Brice Marden (his hero) and Sean Scully (his tutor). Soon he was commissioning work from other young artists—Kate Blee, Allegra Hicks, Georgina von Etzdorf—and having the rugs woven in limited editions in Turkey. Farr has also produced reeditions of carpets by Marian Pepler and Gunta Stölzl, both highly regarded rug designers in the 1920s and ’30s.

The opening of the Los Angeles showroom this year has broadened the company’s vision. Two new collections called Close and Code were developed specifically for the West Coast market and intended for large rooms with changing configurations of furniture. And while sitting in the courtyard of the gallery, surrounded by tropical foliage, Farr found himself sketching a new line of fabrics for Christopher Farr Cloth in shades of yellow and green. “In London I use gray, rust, smoky earth tones,” he says. “I’ve never used these colors before.”

Christopher Farr, 212 Westbourne Grove, London, +44.207.792. 5761, and 748 N. La Cienega Blvd.

Los Angeles, 310.967.0064, www.cfarr.co.uk

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