The Dark Age of Carpet Design

Dark Age of Design

260 Years of Machine Made Carpets

Two hundred and sixty years on from the invention of machine made carpets the carpet industry has largely forgotten how to construct textile floor coverings from renewable materials.

For 192 years machine made carpets were made from wool. These carpets were made to last for decades, and they did.

In the middle of last century nylon was invented which meant that cheaper carpets could be created that used lower quality materials. In the worst examples carpets lost their ability to biodegrade, to absorb moisture and create healthy breathing zones and even became flammable.

Several generations of carpet designers and carpet sellers have been operating under the belief that wool carpets are improved by substituting 20% of the pile content with synthetic fibre. This is not correct, we have entered the Dark Age, and the wisdom of the past has almost been lost.

Nylon is added to wool carpet to meet a price point. The addition of cheap oil-based fibre allows yarn strength to be maintained with lower quality, cheaper fibre.   The nylon adds no benefit to the product, it only increases the visual appearance of wear as nylon is shiny and wool is dull.

A carpet correctly made from 100% good quality wool is going to keep looking good for years and years.  A carpet that is a blend of materials is not a smart or responsible thing to design, sell or buy.

The challenge for carpet designers is to think about the user experience, and the full life cycle of the products they bring to life. Carrying on with poor information is lazy design.

Good design considers form and function. The experience of a product should not just be about price point and a quick sale but it should consider the total experience a consumer will have.

 The ultimate carpet would be:

Visually attractive.

Constructed from rapidly renewable resources.

Be either fully biological or fully mechanical (either 100% natural or 100% synthetic)

Enhance the habitat of people in the home and office by filtering noise and pollution, insulating against heat, absorbing volatile chemicals, trapping dust from the breathing zone and reducing the rick of fire.

Long lasting in looks and performance.

Have a pre-determined plan for the end of its life as a carpet.

Consider both the environmental and social benefits of its supply chain

The world keeps pumping out 80/20 carpets under the impression that this is the best way to make a carpet and that is simply not true. 80/20 is better than plastic carpet and it still going to perform well and look good. But it is not as good as a 100% wool carpet and it is certainly ignoring the fact that nylon requires oil to manufacture and it takes 40 times longer to biodegrade than wool.

We should not keep making lazy design choices based on the fact that its always been done that way, especially as for more almost 200 years of the 260 years of machine made carpets it wasn’t done that way.

Below is a 100% natural carpet the way it is supposed to be done.

100% Natural Carpet

A 100% Natural Carpet in Buckingham Palace.

I used to be a…

This pencil used to be a CD case.

This pencil used to be a CD case

Pencil from the Royal Society of Arts “This pencil is made from UK recycled CD cases”

The pencil is a brilliant piece of marketing. It allows the Royal Society of Arts (from whom I stole it) to gently remind its visitors about the need to be responsible in designing products.

There is no hard sell, no advertising, no interruptions, just for those observant enough, a though provoking piece of plastic that talks to the integrity of the organisation and asks the questions; Do you know where your materials are coming from? Do you know where they go?

If your product cannot be turned into something new, you have a design flaw.  What can we do with wool and textiles?