The Rise In Popularity Of Victorian Era Rugs
Victorian rugs hold an important place in the history of interior decor. The Victorian era is names after Queen Victoria, who ruled England from 1837 to 1901 and the characteristics that denote an antique rug from the Victorian era include rich colors and floral patterns.
During the early part of the Victorian era, Wilton of Salisbury purchased the rug factory belonging to Thomas Whitty, after the factory had burned down. It was after this happened that the rug company began to produce hand knotted rugs under the name “Axminster” using the old weaving looms from the Whitty factory. These “new” Axminster carpets became the main brand of rugs purchased for use in the homes of prosperous members of Victorian society.
Characteristics of Interior Design in the Victorian Era
In the Victorian era, opulence, ornate floral patterns and rich colors were must haves for the homes of the richest in society. It was the first time ever that area rugs were used, not only for utilitarian purposes, but also for purely decorative purposes. In fact, the architects of that time often layered rugs over carpeting.
Floor coverings used in the American colonies were more likely to be cheap, made of materials that colonists could easily pick up without spending very much money. By contrast, the antique rugs used in decorating a typical European Victorian era home were ornately decorated and full of rich colors
A Historical Perspective Of Victorian Rugs
After the Black Death swept through Europe, carpets became popular again. This deadly plague was attributed to harmful debris being tracked into peoples’ homes and causing them to become ill, sometimes fatally.
In fact, colonists had one great fear that propelled them to leave England. Along with religious persecution, they were worried that the Black Death would soon find its way to the colonies. Thus, even if colonists couldn’t afford an expensive rug for their homes, they improvised, painting their unvarnished floors. Wealthier colonists bought matting, made from coconut fiber, corn husks or straw. The most expensive floor coverings were made from wool or sheepskin. Expensive rugs were covered with runners called “druggets.”
The Victorian interior decor style can be easily divided into three types:
- Early Georgian, with its simplicity
- Mid-Victorian, with a heavier masculine feel
- Late-Victorian, with a more feminine influence
It’s the late-Victorian that is the most well-known. Its origins came about when British residents came into new wealth. After the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, these newly wealthy residents believed that a bare area in a room was in poor taste. Therefore, they filled every inch of every surface with bric-a-brac. It was important for them to showcase their wealth by displaying their possessions.
People of the time used decoration to gauge the wealth of a family. Therefore, textiles were opulent and furniture was made of exotic woods. Expensive sterling silver, crystal, porcelain and china were a testament to a family’s new wealth. So, too, were Oriental rugs spread over parquet hardwood floors, along with wall coverings and paintings.
New sciences (taxidermy and botany), also influenced Victorian interior decoration. Families used plants, such as palms and ferns (because they were exotic). Blooming orchids were also heavily used, as were stuffed animals placed under glass.
Dictates of Victorian Design
A good, Victorian design, whether in rugs or other decor, had to feature lots of patterns and rich, bold colors. This was especially true of earlier-Victorian era rugs.
People didn’t mind combining shades that, upon first sight, don’t appear to go together. Therefore, they chose rose, lavender, gold, plum and teal. Patterns were liberally used—floral patterns, geometric patterns and bold damasks were also popular with families in this time period.
Influence of Architecture
Three well-known architects of the Victorian time had a definite influence on both textile and rug designs. Owen Jones, A.W.N. Pugin and William Morris made significant contributions to the patterns that were used in Victorian rugs; they also transformed the floral pattern, creating a geometric interpretation of flowers in a bunch to fill the entire space. In the way it had been done in the past, floral designs were scattered on rugs and carpets.
Jones used the influence of Eastern culture to create the new floral designs. Pugin was the architect who created the geometric interpretation to group flowers into one big bunch. Morris encouraged the textile designers of the time to resume hand looming Jacquard weaving; he also encouraged the use of vegetable rug dyes, rather than chemical dyes to create the colors seen in Victorian rugs and carpets of that time. He also created a trellis design that is still used in today’s rugs.
How Victorian Rugs Were Made
Rug weavers of the Victorian era used the knotted pile method, which added needed durability and beauty to the finished product. This method also allowed for almost infinite patterns to be created, giving individuality to the rugs that were then sold to Victorian families who wished to display their wealth to family, friends and even competitors.
Weavers created knotted pile by weaving the yarns on a foundation made up of heavy, horizontal threads (weft) together with the heavy vertical threads (warp). Different colors of yarn were used to create the pile that would eventually reveal the intended design. The pile yarns were tightly knotted around warp threads so their free ends stuck up above the rug’s foundation. The result was a tufted pile covering one side of the foundation threads.
The rug knots were created in rows in between interlocked and tight weft threads so that each row of knotted yarn tufts would stay in place.
Once each row was tied down, it would be firmly beaten down against the rows that had been knotted earlier, using a heavy comb that resembled a mallet. This hid the foundation warp and weft threads. Once the pile was beat down in place, the ends were sheared evenly. Carpets made for wealthier homes tended to be finer rugs which were sheared down to a shorter height (less than one inch) than those for less-wealthy homes.
Victorian rugs made by British craftsmen came about after Turkish carpets were brought to the country. Designs were English rug patterns that looked like contemporary embroidery, using heraldic devices and the dates they were created.
The growing demand for Victorian rugs meant that more factories were built in Moorfields (near London), Fulham, Paddington, Exeter and Axminster, located in Devon.