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The new design must-have: how carpets came in from the cold

Rugs are hot news in the design world, and even fitted carpets – long sidelined by hard flooring – are now bang on-trend. Effect speaks to Brintons, doyens of carpets for nearly 250 years, to find out what’s afoot in the world of weave.

“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams,” wrote W.B. Yeats in his much-loved poem, He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. It’s a line that will resonate with Jodie Hatton, Residential Design Manager at the UK’s Brintons Carpets.

We might not always appreciate the amount of design that’s going on under our feet, yet we walk on a Brintons carpet with surprising frequency – they are found in hotels, restaurants, public buildings, superyachts and palaces. Hillary Clinton chose Brintons to carpet the White House; the Kremlin has a Brintons carpet, and Brintons boasts the world’s largest carpet at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Founded in 1783, they’ve held a Royal Warrant since 1958 – and the Queen signed off personally on a new design for Buckingham Palace just four years ago.

The grand staircase at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, with carpets by Brintons (image courtesy of St. Pancras Renaissance)

Since the pandemic, Hatton has seen a surge in demand for fitted carpets in the home. “People were moving slowly away from minimalism, but during lockdown people really started focusing on their comfort,” she says. “People noticed the niggles around their home and had a bit more money to invest. A good carpet adds an immediate level of luxury and can last years. Also, with people working from home in confined spaces, home acoustics became really important, something designers have to think about more now, and there’s nothing better than a carpet, particularly one with underlay, for cutting out overhead noises and making a house or flat nice and quiet.”

Add to that the surge in energy bills and the dramatic escalation of heating bills this autumn and laying a warm layer of insulating carpet is a practical no-brainer. British wool has a particular advantage over softer, finer New Zealand wool, as British fleece is resilient and springier, providing hardier insulation. 

While a piece of art or furniture normally serves as the focal point of a room, I have found that what sits underneath them makes just as much of a statement, and carpet is my canvas.

Trilbey Gordon, designer

Beyond carpet’s practical advantages, top designers in fashion and interiors find much to admire about Brintons’ design, while its archive stretches back centuries, including designs by Picasso, Matisse and William Morris. It also has the largest collection of Japanese Katagami Stencil designs, currently on loan to a touring exhibition in Japan. “We do a lot of work with the National Trust,” says Hatton. “If a stately home needs a carpet, we have many historical patterns to inspire or copy.” 

Manolo Blahnik and Vivienne Westwood have collaborated on designs, while the hugely popular and ongoing collaboration with Glaswegian-based Timorous Beasties designers, Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, has won Brintons a loyal following, with its ten-year-old Ruskin Butterfly design (below) a consistent favourite. 

Designer Trilbey Gordon is a fan. “A wooden floor everywhere just feels a bit soulless and empty,” she says. “When a room feels luxurious, it creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. Nowadays, carpets have big characters.” Trilbey also favours the geometric patterns of the Brintons Perpetual Textures collection (below): “While a piece of art or furniture normally serves as the focal point of a room, I have found that what sits underneath them makes just as much of a statement, and carpet is my canvas – it serves as a backdrop. The wrong carpet can make or break the whole look.”

Five years ago, seeing the coming trend away from bare floors, Brintons bought Agnella, a Polish rug company. “Agnella had 50 years of experience making rugs, and it does everything from spinning the yarn to weaving, so now we’re building up the ranges,” says Hatton. “Recently, we’re seeing people overlay fitted carpet with colourful rugs, a rich, textured, layered look, and comforting as winter arrives. A rug is a different kind of investment – you can move it around and have fun with it and sell it on.”

Rug by Poland’s Agnella, now part of Brintons Carpets

Known for inventing the blend of 80% wool with 20% nylon to make carpets more stain resistant and keep their bounce, Brintons is now exploring how to become more sustainable and so is developing new ranges in 100% wool. The new Country Life collection (below) has been designed using pure undyed wool, in gentle hues inspired by nature, using the cut-and-loop weaving technique to recreate plant and wildlife shapes in a structural, three-dimensional way.

There is also a new range of plain carpets in numerous colours, in a mix of New Zealand and British wools, allowing for a soft, deep pile, suited to bedrooms where people crave a little more luxury underfoot. It’s this perpetual pursuit of innovation that lies behind much of Brintons’ success. For example, its unique High Definition looms allow 32 colours – far more than the usual 12 – to be woven into a design.

With this embrace of new technology, combined with a consistent focus on the quality of its designs, it’s perhaps no surprise that Brinton carpets cover so many acres of residential and commercial properties globally. Indeed, we’re probably never more than a few feet away from this great unsung hero of the design world. “We’re literally all over the place,” laughs Hatton.

Effect Magazine is brought to you by Effetto