Rugs have power. They can tie together a room or work as a divider, calm down or be an element of surprise. A rug can protect floors, absorb sound, and at the same time be a work of art. When Luis first saw the whimsical hand-painted flowers by British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, he saw a rug. A rug that could bring fashion to the room. Maybe even a first step if you are ready to introduce expressive colours and patterns into your home.
“In one of the first workshops with Zandra and her team, they brought big colourful handmade paper drawings of flowers from the London studio to Älmhult. We got extremely inspired and wanted to see how these different flowers could become parts of a modular rug,” says Luis Gomez Barquin, Product Design Developer at IKEA.
Luis knows rugs and has always seen a rug as one of the central pieces of a room and describes it as a “functional tray” that organises the room and interconnects the different pieces of furniture. His role at IKEA is leading design and content development of new products. For him, it is important to both understand people’s needs in the home and develop solutions together with the suppliers so that the products are production-friendly at best possible price.
For the KARISMATISK collection, he wanted to create a versatile modular rug the customers could arrange as they wish. Together with Zandra and the rest of the team, they started by analysing different existing IKEA rug constructions, qualities, and concepts to find the best possible method to translate this whimsical and painterly design into a fashionable and functional modular rug.
“The different flower rugs create a playful game with pieces that can be arranged together as the customer wishes, creating a bigger surface, or used separately in different areas of their home,” says Luis.
What did you have to consider when it came to material and technique?
“Due to the complexity of the flower designs, we decided to use hand-tufted wool. The technique allows us to make a detailed organic design with shapes and edges, and at the same time, combine different types of yarns and pile heights. This way, we could bring the different parts of the flower into life by working with different colours, yarns and reliefs. I think the result is a very tactile product.”
Luis describes the hand-tufted technique as doing a painting. You start with a white canvas, but instead of paint, you use dyed wool yarns. The wool yarn is hand-tufted into the canvas using a special gun that also allows you to control the height of the pile and if the pile will be cut or make a loop. With this technique, the outline of the rug can be any shape, avoiding unnecessary excess of material and waste.
“And of course — as with all of our handmade rugs — they are produced in an ethically and socially positive way,” says Luis.
Anything you are especially happy with now when you have the prototype?
“I am impressed by how close the final rugs are to the original handmade drawings from the first workshop. The intensity of the colours and the tactility given by the different kinds of wool yarns, thicknesses and pile heights is another important aspect that adds beauty and character to this product.”
How do you think future IKEA rugs will be made?
“We are in the journey of working with new, more sustainable, renewable and recyclable materials to ensure fully circular products. For example, we are in a movement where we will mix less to make it easier to separate the materials when it is time to recycle. We have a strong focus on healthy, adaptable, playful, and smart solutions with simplicity as the key in our complex new reality,” says Luis.