Diffused notes of Neroli create an aromatic air of nature in Tufenkian’s showroom at London Design Week. Made from the blossom of the bitter orange tree the scent is an olfactory reminder of a gentle but persistent design and materials shift amongst rug and textile makers at the 2023 edition of London Design Week towards what can be called a ‘new naturalism’ that goes conceptually beyond simply borrowing motifs from nature. “This is my favourite”, says Tufenkian’s showroom manager Graeme Beckwith as he gestures towards a geometric-figurative rug in the display window. Handknotted from wool and silk, Talking Heads Grey is not a reference to the New Wave band, but is inspired by Easter Island’s ancient monolithic Moai figures sculpted from volcanic rock. The idea that the animate and inanimate world around us communicates in languages unrecognisable to humans is one that flows through the best of ‘new naturalism’ design.
New naturalism shows its respect for our fragile natural world not only through design, but through the use of natural fibres and plant dyes, both of which are gradually moving out of the niche category into the mainstream. Top Floor by Esti features a sublime Abaca fibre rug where blue natural plant dye meets undyed abaca fibres in the middle of the rug. In the fabric showrooms, Sanderson’s new Arboretum collection celebrates ‘the wonder of England’s countryside’ while it highlights the decline of natural habitats and wildlife. Amy Kent Rugs has a strong showing of wool dhurries handwoven in Nepal and India in collaboration with English makers Rapture & Wright – known for their handprinted fabrics and wallpapers.
Somewhat hidden down a corridor like an Easter egg surprise is Wendy Morrison Rugs. A storyteller in fibre, her hand-knotted Talisman rug featuring Chinese Art Deco-inspired playful dragons amidst cloud and wave patterns in scintillating colours, was the winner of the Best Transitional Design award at the 2023 Carpet Design Awards. As she pulls rug samples from a cupboard – some tufted and backed with eco-friendly natural latex – the Scottish designer has a disarmingly charming way of animating her rugs: “She won her category at the Carpet Design Awards” she says as she gestures over her shoulder towards a full-size Talisman rug hanging on the showroom wall.
Elsewhere Jennifer Manners showed small-scale geometric patterned dhurries, while Misia Paris features a bold geometric red, jade and black patterned fabric with echoes of the avian world in its geometric pattern that resembles abstract bird beaks and plumage. Pierre Frey‘s Tamanrasset wall-covering references the oasis Algerian city and features the type of lush trees one hopes to see in a desert oasis.