Things come and go in phases. As part of the carpet revival that has brought innovative producers like Jan Kath and Rug Star to the fore, people are turning to traditional Oriental and Maghreb carpets again. First, everyone wanted colorful kilims, but now simple, light-coloured carpets with a delicate black rhombic pattern are everywhere: Beni Ouarains.
So what is… a Beni Ouarain?
Delicate black rhombic patterns on a white, woolly background: The new carpet craze is bringing the traditional Berber rug back into fashion
These carpets are probably so popular because they match any interior, from fresh Scandinavian style, to refined classic design or even a cozy rustic look. In an eclectic interior, they can tie everything together. You don’t tire of them so quickly, and you don’t need to replace all of your textile accessories when you buy one. In short: Beni Ouarains are the jeans of modern interior design. Of course, modernist and mid-century designers were already fans of the rugs.
Beni Ouarains (sometimes also spelled Beni Ourains) are Berber carpets, originally from the region of the same name in the north east of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. The cream-colored background with a black graphical pattern is typical for the rug.
The patterns are not always rhombic, sometimes they are horizontal lines or combinations of boxes and zig-zag lines, that almost look a little like telephone doodles. Some are bordered, but most are not.
Until the early 20th century, the roughly 17 nomadic tribes in the region lived very secluded lives, which is why the ornamentation differs from typical Oriental rugs. It is more reminiscent of the simple ceramic ornamentation in the Neolithic period. And that in turn is in line with the current ornamentation trends, which are growing in confidence, but still somewhat restrained. It is a pattern for beginners.
Genuine Beni Ouarains are hand-woven from the thick wool of highland sheep. And each is unique, the shapes and patterns vary. Some have deep pile, some less so, depending on the intended use (they were traditionally used as blankets).
As the look is so popular, there are now many industrially-produced imitations, often using synthetic materials, some with rubber backings, and the distinctive pattern is printed on. However, they cannot compare with the incredibly soft and warm originals. They are far less durable – and anything but heirloom-quality. Having said that, the almost universal Beni Ouarain will probably never go out of fashion entirely, making them a worthwhile investment.