The story of Aubusson rugs can be told in three acts. In the first act, the mid-1600s versions of these hand-woven tapestry rugs have not survived so we can only speculate that they probably looked somewhat like the flat-woven kilims of the near-east because the art of tapestry weaving is thought to have come from members of the invading Saracen army who stayed behind and settled in France after the battle of Poitiers in 732 A.D. Act two opens after 1750, with Aubusson rugs adopting the grand, floral style of the plush, much lauded, exclusively royal and oft-envied Savonnerie carpet. The final act brought forth Aubusson rugs woven in the mid 1800’s during the reign of the last King of France, Louis Philippe. These Aubusson rugs have a romantic blend of floral and architectural elements that we now think of as the typical Aubusson rug look. When you think of Aubusson rugs, you may have a very strict and rigid interpretation of how they should be used. You may have visions of old French country estates filled with rooms decked out with heady and intoxicating baroque elements or spaces filled with softer but still elaborate rococo furnishings. If so, it’s time to broaden your vision: Aubusson rugs can be placed in rooms as varied and diverse as their history.
British celebrity Mark Birley’s self-designed home, Thurlough Lodge, in London has a romantic Aubusson rug in the 19th century style of Louis Philippe.
Aubusson Rugs in the “Club”
Mark Birley never called himself a designer, and he wasn’t one, at least not by trade. Yet he was the mastermind behind the visual feast that was Thurlough Lodge, his exquisite over-the-top London home. Considering that not only was he the founder and proprietor of legendary London clubs like Annabel’s, but that he was also the driving force behind the design of each of these spaces, it’s no wonder that his exuberant yet dignified style was present in every part of the home. Birley, the son of the Royal Family’s favorite portrait painter, Sir Oswald Birley, had design in his blood and possessed a unique sense of style that permeated every single part of his life. From advertising to interior décor to fragrance design, Mark Birley’s essence was present in everything that he created.
The drawing room at Thurlough Lodge was signature Birley: upholstered, over-stuffed Queen Anne chairs, gold gilded framed paintings and, the pièce de résistance, the gold, cream and bronze Aubusson rug drawing it all together. Birley created the type of room that was filled with a gentleman’s favorite things, the sort of place where men smoked pipes and cigars and chortled over fading but still poignant tales of Eton shenanigans.
Jean Michael Frank’s Modern Aubusson Rugs
Nelson Rockefeller’s living room in NYC designed by Jean Michel Frank. Above one fireplace was a mural by Matisse and above the second, a fresco by Leger. Source: Pinterest Celebrity & Historic Rugs via Living With Personality and Style
Jean Michael Frank was an illustrious French designer who became famous for clean, minimalist interiors outfitted with the finest furnishings and fabrics. Devotees of Chilean style Guru Eugenia Errazuriz; his interiors were usually luxurious and peaceful departure from the more elaborate interiors popular at the time. In spite of his love of the sleek and the modern, in 1935 Frank opined that he favored what he called a “mixing of styles” as a way to soften minimalism’s sharp edges.
This room is a perfect example of Frank’s aesthetic. A dark, wood-paneled room adorned with bold modern art by Leger and Matisse was the perfect backdrop for this space filled with furniture as divergent as antique Louis IV chairs and modern Giacometti lamps. The artist Christian Berard was commissioned by Frank to design the boldly patterned Aubusson rug, the gorgeous tapestry that draws the whole room together.
Whether your Aubusson rug is a vividly hued modern creation or an antique, faded and glorious Savonnerie wannabe, work with Aubusson rugs so that you remain true to your design style. Style maven Billy Baldwin said, “Be faithful to your own taste because nothing you really like is ever out of style.”
Here are some different Aubusson rug styles:
The soft golds, ivory and aqua greens and graceful scrolls of the Giselle Aubusson rug are inspired by one of the most graceful Aubusson rugs made during the reign of Louis Philippe. This Aubusson rug is hand made in needlepoint stitch which is ideally suited for Aubusson designs. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
Summer Aubusson Rug is inspired by painted ceiling found in a house in Tuscany and is woven in the Aubusson tapestry weave. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
The Chambéry Aubusson rug is inspired by one of the most elegant Aubusson rugs made in Louis Philippe period. It is woven in the Aubusson tapestry weave. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.