Micro-Decorating: Create a Home Office

A work from home office can range from a privacy bubble like a laptop case that opens to form wings either side of the laptop to “delimit a workspace in any location or circumstance”, or it can reflect the trend for “micro decorating” as a desk-based zoned space. The micro trend was set in motion before global coronavirus lockdown, but it has accelerated as more of us move towards working from home on a full-time or part-time basis. Quick, easy, and affordable are the mantras of the micro decorating trend – read on for our super simple rug idea that combines the trend for Suzani textiles as wall hangings with the trend to zone an area in your home as a “micro office”.

For many of us locating an area in the home for an office isn’t easy when space is at a premium. Few of us have a spare room that can be turned into an office, so the alternative is to zone a micro area in a room. While some opt for an office in the bedroom others see potential in dedicating a micro area of a family room or living room to function as an office by simply using a small table or a desk with a chair. Similarly to the way we at Shahbanu promote the use of rugs to zone spaces in a room in order to “code” space so users intuitively understand how the space is used, so too we think the best way to zone your desk area is with a striking rug hanging on the wall behind your desk or table.

Suzanis are hand embroidered textiles featuring delightful Persian-inspired vibrant flowers, vines and other floral themes. Vintage examples were created as bed covers, wall hangings, and frames around door openings, but they were never intended to be used as rugs as the textile and embroidery are too delicate for foot traffic. So if you are inspired by the patterns of Suzanis, why not use a Suzani patterned rug as a wall hanging instead of a vintage Suzani textile?

There are several advantages for hanging a rug instead of a textile in your home office, particularly if your micro office is part of a high traffic space. The first advantage is that rugs generally have a denser fiber matrix than most textiles which means rugs help absorb sound – a bonus if your office routine includes audio such as zoom or cell phone calls. We can’t promise that sound won’t travel at all, but rugs do act as effective sound baffles on walls or floors. Secondly, one of our Suzani patterned hand-knotted wool rugs will be far easier to spot clean should a splatter of coffee find its way to the rug surface. If you live in an apartment consider laying a rug underneath your desk too. It will not only tie the overall design scheme together and further consolidate your office zone, but it will help prevent impact and vibrational sound from reaching your neighbors.

The Top Design Take-away from the Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach

If we were to single out the most prevalent design idea we discovered at the 3rd annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach (1st February – 1st March 2020) it would be that all 19 designers – each assigned a different room or area of the house – bring aspects of the outside inside to create glorious tableaux of nature-inspired roomscapes. Read on to discover take-away design ideas from five of these designers that will inspire you to bring the outside inside!

The Design Dynamo Behind the Kips Bay House

First things first, before we get to some of the designers’ ideas, let’s look at the house chosen as this year’s Show House as we think its owner-designer is key to understanding the “green” trend within the Show House. The sprawling house was designed in the Cape Dutch style by its owner – famed interior designer and antiques dealer Lars Bolander. Although Bolander is not one of the house’s featured designers, his style and inspiration seeps through many of the designs in the house. Known for “theatrical simplicity” blended with Scandinavian influences and flourishes of nature indoors (think room-sized potted trees and lush plants), Bolander is a long-term resident of Florida but also one of Sweden’s foremost interior designers.

Bolander’s stores in West Palm Beach, New York City, and Connecticut all feature a relaxed, indoor-outdoor living style. His newest store has a room-sized tableau featuring sofas atop a large, dark red tribal rug over which hangs a delicate white paisley patterned indoor tent-style canopy – an outdoor-indoor look that works inside the home as well as on a patio or deck. So take it from us, the big trend from 2020 onwards is bringing nature indoors via blues, greens, natural textures (think handmade natural fiber rugs) and plants – lots of plants!

Natural Fiber Hand-knotted Rugs Help Bring Nature Indoors

Hand-knotted wool rugs are a chief example of how a carefully chosen featured décor item can instantly transform a room. Choose rugs that echo nature through color (greens and blues of course but also cloud-like whites) balanced by an abstract design like one of our hi-low pile hand-knotted rugs or through more realistic, nature-based designs like the ever popular “Tree of Life” motif. Time to read on for nature-based design tips from the designers at Kips Bay Palm Beach!

Key Designers and their take-aways from Kips Bay Palm Beach

  • Kevin Isbell Interiors– his “Writer’s Retreat” guest suite features a tribal rug next to the bath and a swirling abstract rug next to a tent-style bed. The tent bed brings the outside in as does the tropical palm tree panoramic wallpaper. Notice how Isbell’s choice of a strongly colored rug enlivens the bathroom’s black and white theme which looks like it was inspired by the narrow black and white decorative band in the rug’s design. Or maybe the black and white theme inspired Isbell’s rug choice? Either way the take-away is clear: a strongly patterned rug like a tribal can work with other strong patterns if the rug does the heavy-lifting color-wise, while the other patterns remain “neutral”, a role which black and white achieves in this room.



  • Light on White, directed by Alizée Brion, changed the home’s entrance into an allée of tropical greens and trailing plants hanging from white pots held securely by ’70s style macrame slings. Called “Le Jardin” by Brion, the hall is dominated by shades of green and accented with over-sized fern frond wallpaper.


Sarah Blank Design Studio– the colorful blue kitchen cabinets are accented with large red terracotta urns displayed on an open shelf below a center island. Far be it from us to suggest a change, but we can’t help wondering if a tribal runner atop the wooden floor between the island and the sink might be a preferred choice rather than the blue runner the designer chose? A runner with striking colors would refer back to the terracotta urns while grounding the blue cabinetry, rather like how the earth “holds” the blue sky in nature.


  • Branca Inc, directed by Alessandra Branca– blue and green are two colors associated with nature, but in Branca’s serene bedroom, shades of blue predominate while green is reserved as a punctuation point via a single large-scale potted philodendron. The drama of the green punches up the blue without overpowering the delicacy of the blues. Branca’s plant choice is yet one more example of the inside-outside trend.


  • Brady Design directed by Brian and Alexandra Brady– transformed the entryway of the house using yet another panoramic palm tree wallpaper, this time one designed by Jim Thompson.

Bringing the outside inside is more than a trend. We predict it will shift from trend to a standard design element for years to come. And while “Classic Blue” is Pantone’s 2020 color of the year – a choice meant to instill calm, confidence, and connection” – we interpret the prevalence of blue-green themes at Kips Bay Palm Beach as an indication that we’re all yearning for more of the natural world, and no better way to help your home reflect this aspiration than with a natural fiber, handmade rug.

Texture: An Important Element For a Happy Home

Can texture in our home design increase our health and happiness? Daylight, wood and green plants are great ways to create an ideal indoor environment, but according to a wellness design article inElle Decor2019, the key to creating space with health and happiness benefits is “tactile” surfaces – in other words textures, and lots of them.

Read on to discover our top 3 rug textures, plus our texture tips for your home.

Texture: new discoveries

As experts in handmade and hand-knotted artisan rugs, we’ve known for decades that texture is a key component in interior design, but what we didn’t know is that new research says “biophilic” design – textures and colors that mimic Mother nature – results in high levels of serotonin (the “happy” brain chemical). An abundance of serotonin helps create the same subliminal feelings of wellbeing we experience when we’re outside enjoying the real Mother nature.

This is big news. It means that even though the outside world is full of anxiety prompts, with mindful buying of the right rugs and textiles for our homes we can give a positive assist to our psyches. And who doesn’t need that?

Texture: a bit of background

An English trade magazine published in 1937 reported that texture was the most requested rug feature. Surface design has long since overtaken texture as the most requested consumer feature, but texture remains the interior designer’s go-to secret. Why? Because texture is a key way to balance the interrelationship between rugs, furniture, fabrics, objects and overall design while it also incorporates a key biophilic design element.

Some contemporary techniques we use today to create textured rugs are the legacy of Manhattan-based Stanislav V’Soske (1900-1983). His fine arts background gave him the idea to create new rug textures. His texture techniques included hand carving, but he also created texture illusions using dye and color. For example he used a wide color selection rather than weave to create his “Chalk” rug which created the illusion of the soft, “crumbly” texture of the white stick of rock we all know as blackboard chalk. Design illusion is another key element in creating a textured environment.

But enough history. From the tactile pleasures of tribal rugs with purposeful knots and chunky weaves, to mixed fibre rugs (like our popular Oxidized Collection), to the sheen of silk rugs, texture in handmade rugs has been around for centuries. Here are our top 3:

1. Sari Silk

There’s no denying the tactile and visual allure of silk. Our Rothko-style sari silk rug is hand-knotted with textured wool to create an incredible tactile ensemble of two distinct fibers that increase the overall texture. The visual qualities of the design recalls the depth illusions of American artist Mark Rothko which contributes to the rug’s remarkable tactile quality, while the mix of wool and silk creates a Rothko quality of “inner light”.

2. Carved pile

Carved pile is “sculpted” by hand into high and low rug areas by artisans using scissors. (Our artisans always use scissors, but be aware some rug sellers use mechanized carving tools.) Carving can accentuate a pattern or it can BE the pattern in a single color rug. Our hand-knotted “Blue Heaven” contemporary design rug in 100% wool is a perfect example of how two colors – gray and ivory – can be carved to create a textured overall pattern.

3. Kilims and flatweaves –

These traditional tribal rugs are highly decorative and pleasingly textured. Flatweave is the category name and includes other types of handwoven rugs, while kilim is the subcategory characterized by bold colors and patterns. Created by interweaving warp and weft fibers these rugs do not have a pile, but do have a wide variety of textures. The bonus of kilims and flat weave rugs is the ease with which they can be layered in a room whether several on the floor, or draped on a sofa. Layering textiles and rugs will accelerate a room’s visual interest while adding tactile qualities.


And finally a few texture tips for your home

• Texture is literal and figurative, in other words texture in real physical objects like rugs, but also our perception of the visual texture in a room
• Opposite elements can increase the perception of texture, for example a bold tribal rug layered across the back of a nubby white boucléwool upholstered sofa.
• Texture can be monochromatic and still be visually warm and biophilic. Look for rooms designed by Swedish designer Lotta Agaton for inspiration. Her rooms are layered in shades of white, and it’s her many layers of texture that shift white from cold to cozy.
• Rug texture can be amplified by a wall of books. Each differently colored book adds visual texture to your space. Want more texture? Add objects in between some of your books.
• Another sometimes overlooked way to create texture in a room is with the walls. Wallpaper can achieve this, but even better is a 3D wall such as board and batten or coffered.
Remember, texture is the interior designer’s secret. Learning how to layer texture in your home with handmade rugs is the first step towards creating a “biophilic” design or what we prefer to call a cozy and nature-inspired home.


Get Layered Up With the Latest Trend in Rugs

The world’s most famous sofa is in a modest house museum in a London suburb. The circa 1890 sofa belonged to the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and is covered in layers of Oriental Rugs with another rug hanging on the wall behind the sofa. The sofa is where Dr Freud’s patients reclined during sessions, so it’s safe to assume the rugs gave his patients a sense of warmth and security. Whatever the reason for the rugs, the interior decorating idea of layering Oriental rugs – new, vintage, or antique – on furniture and floors is not a fusty, dated idea, but a confirmed contemporary trend.


A Brief History of Layered Rugs

Rugs have been used throughout history in more ways that just covering a floor. Rugs and Kilims were used to hang on walls, as room dividers, as bedspreads, table covers, and of course as floor carpets.

When Europeans began to buy Oriental rugs they were expensive and highly valued, so often they were used to cover furniture rather than floors to protect them from damage. By the 20th century, designers and architects like Charles and Ray Eames and Le Corbusier used Oriental rugs in their modern homes, with the Eames duo layering multiple traditional Oriental rugs in the den area of their super modern California home. These designers knew that incorporating Oriental rugs was a quick and effective way to create layers, contrast, and visual warmth while “broadcasting” their knowledge of valuable textiles and

embracing globalism. 


Why Layered Rugs?

Without Freud around to help us psychoanalyze this trend, let’s consider a few reasons why layering is a great idea for homes and the hospitality industry.
• Layers create a sense of well-being, and when stress is the default position for many of us, well-being is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for personal and professional spaces
• Layers create visual warmth (a good thing!) and in practical terms layers also create thermal insulation which is no bad thing if you want to reduce heating bills
• Layers allow you to use more of what you love in a limited space, and with more of us living in small spaces, layering is a welcome trend!



Layered Rugs in the Hospitality Industry

Two new on-trend boutique hotels opened in 2016 – one in New York and the other in Paris – and each one creatively employs the layered rugs concept.

The Beekman Hotel, New York City, is in a historic building dating from 1883 during the Victorian era. Described as “cozy glamour”, guests are welcomed at the wood panelled reception by a long desk layered with a succession of classic Oriental Rugs. Designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, the rugs are carefully curated to curve with the shape of the desk to create a single sleek look. Lighting hidden beneath the curve further unifies the different rug designs.

The design of The Beekman Hotel successfully employs the 25% rule for layering antiques and vintage with new and contemporary. The most successful designed rooms have a subliminal sense of proportion to avoid any one style or era from predominating (remember, you don’t want your room looking like Freud’s sofa in a museum!). Keep antiques and vintage objects (including rugs) to no more than 25% of a room’s real estate, and use contemporary or new items for the remaining 75%. The Beekman Hotel’s reception deftly achieves this rule by the way in which they’ve layered the antique rugs in a highly contemporary way, and by lightening the look with a brightly tiled floor and contemporary art.

The boutique Amastan Hotel in Paris opened 2016. Similar to The Beekman Hotel, the design cleverly incorporates an Oriental rug but in a completely different way. A sofa alcove in the hotel lounge features a large gold contemporary rug that hangs from the ceiling, drapes over the sofa, and falls to the floor to continue as a rug. The look is dramatic and contemporary, and the rug’s status as a work of art is enhanced not only by its use as a partial wall hanging but by dramatic lighting that makes the rug look like an artwork in the Louvre Museum.


How to Get the Layered Look at Home

The easiest way to get the look is to layer rugs on your floors. Rather than match your rugs, choose different patterns and sizes as contrast, but choose similar colorways and weaves to create harmony. Lay the rugs at angles to create more interest, but always remember to consider how the rugs lay together and are anchored to the floor (placing furniture on top is the best method) to prevent trip hazards.

Borrowing the layered rug concept from The Beekman Hotel might not work in every home, but why not steal the look of the Amastan Hotel and hang a rug on a wall and allow it to dramatically drape over the top of your sofa? This look will fit most homes and is especially welcome in smaller homes where floor space may not be large enough for a huge rug. Not only does this idea create a dramatic focal point on the wall while providing thermal warmth, but it will allow you to own a light colored rug that you might otherwise avoid if you have kids or pets.

Layering rugs in the ways described might be viewed by some as a temporary trend, but Oriental rugs are a classic design object. They have survived and thrived longer than any other design object, and they will survive all trends. Bottom line? The Oriental rug is never out of style, so layer them with abandon and enjoy!

The Perennial Popularity of Chinoiserie Rugs Old and New

It’s hard to imagine life without Netflix binges and cheap air travel, both of which allow people to easily experience other cultures, but how did normal people get similar experiences in centuries before TV and cheap travel? Trade is the answer, and the farther away the country was from Europe and the US, the more “exotic” and desired the trade items. One of the most popular “exotic” motifs was – and still is – the fanciful figurative patterning called “Chinoiserie” from China and Japan. In the early modern history of trade few westerners would ever be able to visit the far east, so objects like folding screens, ceramics, and textiles were eagerly collected. Some of the most innovative Chinoiserie designs that merged the best of the west with the best of the east, eventually developed into an early 20thcentury China-based international rug company that produced the designs we now know as “Nichols Rugs”. 

Chinoiserie started with imitations of what westerners perceived as “typical” Chinese and Japanese motifs like pagodas, and themes such as life in the imperial palace. Over time Chinoiserie motifs developed and began to include colorways and themes repackaged for western tastes and to reflect trends in western decorative arts. It’s a slight simplification, but the different design objectives between the west and the east – westerners prized design novelty and originality while Chinese valued tradition, skill, and scholarship – became complementary and harmonious design values. Nowhere were these objectives merged more creatively than in the exemplars of hand-knotted Art Deco era Chinese silk Chinoiserie “Nichols rugs”. 


W.A.B. Nichols was a western owned rug company based in China at the turn of the 20thcentury. A multi-page company brochure from the 1930s describes the “Nichols Super Rugs” as “world famous” and “the most durable and beautiful product of the modern Chinese weavers art” with “designs, colors and workmanship placing them in a class by themselves”. The company described their ability to adapt Chinese motifs and reinterpret them via western design motifs. An example of this fusion is the “broken border” which merges Chinese motifs with the popular French design tradition where elements like plants or potted flowers break through the geometric border into the main field. 


Similar to the broken border design is our indigo blue hand-knotted Nichols rug circa 1930s. Birds and butterflies cross a sky blue field while a darker almost tropical “night sky” border has more flowers and birds. Nichols promoted the “twelve tones of indigo blue” they used while reminding consumers indigo is “China’s national color”. Four flower urns sit on small stands at each corner of the rug. The design point of view makes them appear to tip forward as though they are about to spill their flowers across the field. The Nichols brochure says designs are “gleaned from old palace rugs, porcelains, pottery, temple decorations and bronzes, the old containing a mixture of the new thus modernizing the design and making the rug a thing of beauty for the western home.” The company employed skilled artists who were “always on the alert for something new” who were able to combine “the best elements of the western and Chinese designs into a harmoniously blended whole.” 


Art Deco is always in style, but finding affordable antiques from the era (early 1920s to mid 1930s) is increasingly difficult. At price per square foot, Nichols rugs remain extremely good value. In good condition they not only hold their value, but more often than not, accelerate in value. But if your budget doesn’t stretch to an original Nichols Super Rug, fear not, we stock new hand-knotted rugs in the Chinoiserie style updated for contemporary interiors. For example our hand-knotted contemporary Chinoiserie rug features a central oval field of vibrantly colored stylized flower contrasted against an almost-black indigo field. Rather than a broken border, this design features a distinct design elements that create a vibrant contrast of geometry and color. The pattern is stunning and while it is definitely Chinoiserie, the motif is updated for the 21st century with color choice and pattern elements. 

Chinoiserie offered the promise of virtual travel when real travel to far-flung destinations was impossible for the majority of people. Fortunately even though travel has been democratized and there is no corner of the world left undiscovered, there are still new ways to experience Chinoiserie and incorporate the patterns in your home through the beauty of handmade rugs.