Colorful, Cheery Moroccan Oued Zem Rugs

Colorful, Cheery Moroccan Oued Zem Rugs

Years ago, on a trip back to Marrakesh to see family, Rad brought back two small, cotton white rugs with colorful embroidery on it resembling birds, animals, tea pots, mixed in with some tribal patterns. They were so colorful, cheery and pretty, I wondered why I'd never seen that style of Moroccan rugs before. That became our mission when we decided to open our shop - to bring back not just the popular styles of Moroccan rugs, but the styles that are equally beautiful, unique yet largely under-represented in the global market.


colorful moroccan kilim rug

 From our shop: Nathaniel's Tuesday I 

This rug style, known as the Oued Zem style, came from south of Casablanca. They're also known to be "childrens' rugs" because of the motifs featured. They're normally made of cotton or cactus silk and not as finely woven - the two that Rad brought back have blotches of dye stains on them, an uneven weave leading to curled edges, and knots coming loose in places. On the back side of the rug, threads are left untrimmed, leaving a messy, unfinished look (which only later did we find out the threads are left long on purpose as an anti-slip function - so smart!). 


 One of the two Oued Zem rugs Rad brought back years ago- note the rougher quality of the weave. 

While we still treasure our two rugs, we knew we'd need to find more refined versions of this style if we wanted to carry it in our shop. So we were beyond stoked to find the three Oued Zems we have in our shop (Daydream, Nathaniel's Tuesday I and II). All of them are made out of brushed cotton, which means they're thicker, softer and the colors more vibrant. They're also more finely woven and trimmed so they lay nicely on the floor or hung on the wall and show just the right amount of the handmade touch.

We're already aiming to hunt for more Oued Zems on our next buying trip, because they may be under the radar now, but by our guess, they won't be for long, not the good ones, at least. 



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Knowing Your Moroccan Rugs: Beni Ourain

Knowing Your Moroccan Rugs: Beni Ourain

Open any design magazine and you will most likely find a Beni Ourain featured in a room somewhere. Its popularity is attributed to its simple, classic design that works with most styles of interiors. So what makes a good Beni Ourain rug?  Here is the 101- 



Beni Ourain rugs generally have a cream or beige background with dark brown or black diamonds or geometric designs. They are hand woven by the Beni Ourain tribe from the middle Atlas mountain area.The rugs are woven mainly for function - originally made for bedding, blankets, or capes to keep warm during the harsh winters. In cold weather, the thick wool pile helps to retain heat; in the summer, the rugs are flipped over and used with the knotted side up. So while we may think of the rug as having front vs. back sides, true Beni Ourains are reversible and used both ways - how cool is that? 



Another aspect of the Beni Ourain rugs is the wool - the wool used for the rugs is live wool, shorn from a specific breed of Berber sheep while it's still alive as opposed to wool taken from a sheepskin. Live wool is said to be softer as it still contains the oils from the sheeps' skin and also fluffier. The Berber sheep wool is a bit more yellow in color, more on the beige and cream side as opposed to white. With demand for whiter rugs, some Beni Ourain style rugs nowadays use New Zealand or European wool instead. 


Uneven knots on the back of a handmade Beni Ourain rug

What should you look for when purchasing a Beni Ourain rug? A genuine Ben Ourain that is handmade will have subtly uneven knots on the back, whereas a machine-made rug will have even-sized knots. Also note the color of the background. Even with New Zealand or European wool, the color of the wool should be cream or off-white, not a bright white, which indicates bleached wool or artificial blends. 


Image Credits: Title image via Architectural Digest ; Image 2 by Morgan Blake Beatton; Image 3 via Architectural Digest ; Image 4 by Morgan Blake Beatton

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A Beginner's Guide to Moroccan Rugs

A Beginner's Guide to Moroccan Rugs

As an interior designer and someone who’s dating a Moroccan who is equally addicted to  textiles, my love affair with Moroccan rugs came naturally- the colors, the textures, the slight imperfections of these handwoven, one-of-a-kind treasures, what’s not to love? More than that though, there’s a true artistry behind Moroccan rugs- most of them woven by women in Berber villages during their spare time. They work on the rugs sometimes a couple of hours a day, weaving in their own artistic expressions and symbols that are used to communicate events that have taken place (like a marriage or a birth of a child), as well as their hopes and dreams (unity, peace, happiness).

Moroccan rug styles are as varied as the landscape of Morocco. There are 45 different Berber tribes throughout Morocco, residing in climates ranging from the Sahara desert to the snowy caps of the Atlas Mountains. Each tribe has their own distinct style of rug making that is not only stylistically different but provides for different needs – thick, furry rugs in colder climates to keep warm, thinner flat weaves in desert regions etc. Here, an introduction to the two main categories of Moroccan rugs:


Berber Camp made up of rugs

A Berber-style desert camp made up of kilims  



Kilims are flat-woven rugs that do not have a pile. They are often colorful, featuring intricate geometric designs, although different regions have their own distinctive styles and weaving techniques. The threads in kilims are traditionally colored using natural dyes like indigo (blue), saffron (yellow) and henna (red), which is why these colors feature prominently in most styles of kilims.



Berber Carpets

The most popular type of Berber carpet here in the US is probably the Beni Ourain – the thick, white, fluffy rug style with brown lines, criss-cross, and diamonds. They are super soft underfoot and are used by the Berbers to keep warm in the cold winters. Their simplistic patterns make them a classic that blends into various styles of interior design, contributing to its popularity.

Other styles that are finding its way into design and home décor are the Azilal and Boujad styles. Opposite from the Beni Ourain, Azilals and Boujads are bright, usually a kaleidoscope of colors, and feature irregular or abstract designs.


Want to learn more about the different styles of Moroccan rugs? Stay tuned, I’ll be doing a series where I get more in depth about each rug style.

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