Artisan-crafted rugs weave the narratives of their makers into each hand knot. From added personality to enriched designs, here’s why three interior pros look to handmade rugs.
Founded on the principles of dignity and compassion, Jaipur Living puts people first, creating beautiful lives for the artisans who handcraft its rugs, the interior designers who create spaces around them, and the customers whose homes they inhabit. Today, the brand works with more than 40,000 artisans—85% of whom are women—from over 600 villages in rural India.
Through its partnership with and support of the Jaipur Rugs Foundation, Jaipur Living has had the privilege of positively affecting nearly 300,000 lives and counting. Social initiatives, entrepreneurship development, education programs for rug-makers and their families, and access to health care have transformed artisan communities. The women weavers of Jaipur Living have become respected members of their villages, recognized global artists, and hold their heads up with pride.
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“Thankfully, in today’s modern world—although there is more progress to be made—what is means to be a woman can be so broadly defined,” says Forbes Masters‘ Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters. “As women, and especially as women of color, we are constantly trying to break molds that others would put us in. So, how do we inject our femininity into our designs? Well, by letting our designs be as complex and layered as we are as women and by being intentionally authentic in what we create.”
With artisans and other female creatives as their muse, interior designers Forbes, Masters, Ali Winkler, and Donna Mondi get candid about women in the industry, design, and where the art of the handcraft fits into it all.
“Women are strong, sexy, beautiful, and complex,” says Donna Mondi of namesake firm Donna Mondi Interior Design. “My designs are typically high contrast (strong), have a sensuality to them (sexy), are surrounded by yummy textures and interesting forms (beautiful), and curated from vendors and artisans all over the world (complex).”
Leaning into her four pillars, Mondi crafts spaces that look both to the past and the future, have unexpected design elements, and always, always have an impactful art moment. “There’s that indescribable element of something surprising—a bit jarring at times—that sets my designs apart,” she says. “I always want the spaces in our clients’ homes to feel cohesive as you pass through from room to room, but for each room to tell a slightly different story. Elements of surprise sprinkled throughout add to the mystery and discovery of our homes.”
“In a world that became dependent on instant gratification, there’s a need for slow design. Take your time in designing the perfect space and allow the artists the time they need to craft those pieces for you. It’ll be worth the wait.”
—Donna Mondi, Donna Mondi Interior Design
1. “My No. 1 has to be Free Verse Light. It’s the perfect rug for me: high contrast, a little off balance, without much color.”
2. “I also love Urban Pause. It is the perfect blend of old and new, as it appears to have areas worn through to reveal a colorful pattern underneath.”
3. “A new favorite has to be Cercles. It reminds me of the doilies my grandmother used to make. Even a bold woman can be sentimental!”
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“We are inspired by so many different women—not only in design, but also in business,” says the Forbes Masters team, noting Kelly Wearstler and Brigette Romanek in particular. Much like their sources of inspiration, the Forbes Masters style is nuanced, complex, and entirely original.
“Overall, our aesthetic is textured, organic, eclectic. However, we approach it from different perspectives,” says Masters. “I am influenced by the juxtaposition between architecture and nature. I love parks that are placed in the middle of the city. Where you can look up and see all these soft trees, but also all these hard steel structures behind. Tavia has a fascination with history—often feeling inspired by art and architecture of the past. She is always looking at how to update it and bring it forward.”
“Being able to support female artisans whenever possible is something we strive for. When something is artisan-made it already has such a story to it and to be able to incorporate that into our design always adds that extra layer for us.”
—Tavia Forbes & Monet Masters, Forbes Masters
Forbes & Master’s Favorites
1. Inspired by the unrushed quality of the natural process, the Urban Pause collection showcases an assortment of grounding solid designs.
2. The Aakar Natural collection mixes global motifs with chic, modernized takes on geometric patterns.
3. Captivatingly modern and exceptionally handcrafted, the Free Verse Light collection makes a bold statement.
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Looking to a collaborative process that involves clients from vision to execution, Ali Winkler of Ali Reeve Design has formed a signature style that is rich in inspiration and varied in its references. But at their core, each Ali Reeve Design home has an undeniable warmth and inviting nature thanks to Winklers unique mix of textures, layers, and artisanal and custom furnishings. “I love understanding and being able to describe the process and origin behind furnishings that we source for our clients,” she says.
Winkler often looks to other Brooklyn-based women designers for guidance. “I am inspired by so many women in design, from interior designers, architects, furniture designers, textile designers—the list goes on! Katharine Earnhardt and Kathleen Walsh are two fellow Brooklyn, N.Y., designers who I admire greatly,” she says. “They both run incredibly successful businesses; manage expert teams; produce beautiful projects; and are involved, committed mothers.”
She points to multitasking as key to the success of any interior designer, but women in particular. “As a female small business owner and mother of a young child, my definition of being a woman revolves around strength, agility, and versatility,” Winkler says.
“Artisan-made rugs are not only high quality and timeless, but they also tell a story about where they’re from and who made them, which adds depth and personality to rooms.”
—Ali Winkler, Ali Reeve Design
1. The Manifest collection features designs inspired by North African motifs.
2. “I love the entire Saga collection.”
3. The Eloquent collection emanates traditional elegance, lending a soft and serene look.