Of all the accessories that make a room both comfortable and attractive, the rug must be the most neglected. Following those brief moments of aesthetic pride that are part of any domestic purchase, the rug is overlooked, forgotten; subject to incalculable foot traffic and never considered again unless something is spilt, it begins to look shabby or starts to smell offensive.
In practically all domestic households, little thought is given to the humble rug, to its creation, evolution or to the technological advancements that create the quality item that is able to withstand whatever the domestic or business environment can throw at it.
Whether it be through the utilization of palm leaves or the creation of rag rugs from old clothes, throughout civilization, mankind has always looked for ways of making their homes more comfortable.
In Western society, our traditional view of rugs comes from the luxury items that, being hand-made by artisans, were too expensive for the working man, and adorned only the homes of the aristocracy and the wealthy from the 17th century onwards. Thanks, however, to the pioneering ingenuity of one man, rugs have become a significant presence in homes throughout the world.
Through his invention of the mechanical loom, Belgian born Van De Wiele was able to transform rug production from being the time-consuming product of artisans to the supercharged product of mechanisation; increasing production and creating a product affordable to everyone.
But such transformations are rarely delivered fully formed and various innovations needed to take place until we have the quantity and standard of rug production that we have today. For the looms of Van de Wiele, this moment came with the recognition of the hidden potential of polypropylene pellets (waste products of the petroleum industry) to be converted into synthetic yarn. Having previously been made using only wool, rug production could still be expensive and was hampered by limited wool production. The invention of synthetic yarn revolutionised the process, with yarn being available both cheaply and on demand. Although initially limited to production using only four colours, further developments have created a synthetic yarn that it not only softer but can now utilise twenty different colours at any one time. Additional advancements in digital printing creating rugs that are both unique and affordable.
Rug production today has exceeded even Van de Wiele's expectations. Not only in the variety of yarns available, including viscose, silk and nylon, but also in the hybridization of the process through the hand weaving of the base rug in a neutral colour and then overprinting the main design with spectacular results. And rug revolution doesn't end there with the recent introduction by Pointex in Italy of the fray resistant rug. Utilizing a new production process the rug is created by weaving a design on a jacquard loom as a fabric and bonding it with a thermoplastic backing that does not fray to arrive at a stable rug that sits well on the floor without requiring any underpad with open sides that do not fray thereby eliminating the added process of surging or overlooking the sides. The above allowed Pointex to produce the material in roll form two meters wide and cut to the required length to get a rug that fits the required space without requiring it to be finished on any side.
It would seem that now in the 21st century the sky is no longer the limit in rug production and the industry has the potentiality to take things much further.