To the floor designed

Carpets have adorned tasteful homes for centuries. Now dhurries, the Indian lightweight floor covering has come into fashion in a big way too. Anju Munshi discovers the beauty of both.

The word carpet evokes luxury and brings to our minds a regal air. This luxurious floor covering also defines aristocracy and good living ruling the interiors of  homes for centuries, especially in colder climates.  That is probably the reason why flying carpets connote a fanciful and a charming journey that instantly draws images of emperors and queens and Alladin with his magic lamp.
Carpets provide warmth and style to a room and absorb unwanted noise. They retain their beauty and durability for many years but require effort for maintenance. So in today’s changing and  hectic lifestyle, attention has shifted  from the heavy languorous flooring to light and slim dhurries, the Indian style rugs. Dhurries are good for Indian weather condition as they are lighter and don’t gather dust. Moreover, they are not as expensive as carpets and are available in bright and radiant colours and need minimal effort. However, the price difference in dhurries can be substantial too, especially if they are from Zeba or Shyam Ahuja designer houses.
Dhurries started as an underlay for the expensive carpets but today it occupies a place of pride in up market homes  It is no longer a poor man’s carpet but can be a strong style statement. Dhurrie making was reinvented and commercialised in the mid 90s as an attractive floor covering and even as a wall hanging. The innovative interior designers literally pulled them from the charpoys of the Indian villages, gave them a makeover and slowly these humble rugs started giving the carpets a run for their money. The foremost to bring the dhurrie to the limelight was the famous designer Shyam Ahuja . Not only did he revive rugs in our country but also took them across the seven seas. They have graced homes of celebrities like Madonna, late Princess Diana, etc., besides adorning the country’s highest official residences in Delhi.
Carpets are woven on vertical looms while dhurries are done on horizontal ones. The knots could be the same but the gloss is the prerogative of the carpet. For commercial spaces, various synthetic fibers are intermingled and felted. Then there are the tufted ones, the shaggy ones, the flat weave carpets, the plain weave tapestry and the embroidered varieties which are not woven on a loom but patterns are formed by stitches.
The primary weaving centres for dhurries are  in Agra, UP, Jaipur, Punjab , Haryana and Kashmir. The Kashmir valley prides in manufacturing the krewel-embroidered namdas, gabbas and masnandas . There carpets play an important role for obvious reasons. They deliver the much needed warmth and since the Kashmiris have a sit down arrangement for greeting visitors and for having all their meals, the choice of colour, texture and thickness becomes important. A Kashmiri living room has a wall to wall soft and plush carpet with bolster cushions on the sides. In the summer, a light cotton sheet with floral print covers it all to make it feel cool and it is called masananda . Small woollen rugs with colourful embroidery grace some corners and are called  namdas and gabbas. The former is embroidery on a beige background and the latter is generally embroidered stitches on a dark background like black or maroon. Both are embroidered soft wool rugs, not very big but customised to one’s requirement .These are expensive versions of rugs, of course.
As a floor covering, the difference between carpets and dhurries is not much, except that the former has a luxurious feel, and its thickness is absent in rugs. Pretty rugs are fun to experiment with and one can keep changing the décor as per the mood and the requirements of the occasion. There are improvisations in both by way of bold geometric designs or different textures. At times one also see beautiful rugs made with jute, straw, cotton and even canvas .Both come in bright and cheerful colours today ,thereby satisfying the need for a radiance that is in keeping with the interior trend of the day.
Pinky Kapoor, a fengshui consultant of Kolkata, thinks that the centre space in a living room should be kept as free as possible as this attracts the positive energy and that rugs and carpets could be beautifully spread on the side of the rooms in multiple pieces instead of one big piece .
The dim and  dull niches of one’s home can come alive with vibrant carpets or rugs  says Kolkata’s interior  designer Sunita Bannerjee. She thinks that big carpets dictate terms and setting becomes difficult.”I prefer three to four small carpets than one big sized one,” she says.
True, wall to wall carpeting in humid weather becomes tough to handle but the elderly people in the house find it a big comfort, according to Chumki Patnaik,  a homemaker in an extended family. She finds heavy carpets a big help for them. “Carpets provide relief for ageing adults for whom a firm footing becomes important. You require a slip-resistant walking surface that protects them from accidents within the house. They also reduce or eliminate reflected glare, which minimises disorientation and can reduce leg fatigue associated with walking or standing on hard surfaces.”
Well-known furnishing outlets in Kolkata devote corners for attractive varieties  of rugs and carpets ranging from Rs 800 to 1500; the upscale ones fall between Rs 3,000 and above. Dakshinapan the hub of state emporia in south Kolkata , offers the cheaper variety where dhurries are edged in different manners either with tussles,  colourful sequins or crocheted. Lajpat Nagar in Delhi  is a gold mine for attractive dhurries and small corner rugs  while the South extension area is a treasure trove for designer carpets.
Any which way,  designer carpet or dhurrie, namdas or small rugs, the good old floor is spoiled for choice today.   (TWF)