Colin King’s New Rug Collection Is an Ode to Japan’s Influence on French Modernism
In 2021, while working on the French gallery Demish Danant’s “A Harmony of Things”—an exhibit exploring the intersection of Japanese and French minimalism—the interior stylist Colin King had a lightbulb moment. Within the research process, the celebrated decorator dived deep into japonisme, the 18th-century French interpretation (and incorporation) of Japanese style. After trade routes between the two countries opened following the period of sakoku, when Japan closed its borders to the Western world, French creatives were exposed to a restrained, uncluttered aesthetic entirely different from their own, typically more ornate design language. For the next decade, Japan would influence French modernists from Edgar Degas to Charlotte Perriand.
King, who is based in New York City, was immediately fascinated. “It was a movement that radically transformed Europe’s visual culture and permeated fine arts, sculpture, performing arts, architecture, industrial and furniture design, interiors as well as textile and decorative arts,” he explains. “The Japanese elicited the French to question the division between artist and designer and moved them to elevate the contributions of craftsmen. This principle interested me as the melding of craft and contemporary design.”
So, when creating his latest rug collection for Beni, King embraced Japan’s influence like so many great designers before him. Titled “A Study on Balance,” the collection puts a 2020s spin on both traditional Japanese motifs and the clean constructions of French modernists. “It reflects on the powerful influence of Japanese aesthetics, principles, and craft on French art, architecture, and design after Japan opened its doors to western trade routes in the mid-1850s, and over the century that followed,” King says of his work. “The collection was inspired by the techniques, repeating patterns, and motifs found in antique Japanese folk textiles and the scale and composition of Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Chareau, and Le Corbusier.”
Within “A Study on Balance,” ornamentation is (unsurprisingly) rejected in favor of simplicity. The tufted surfaces of rugs are adorned with structured geometric patterns, often realized in dramatic proportions. Strong black lines run parallel and perpendicular across a muted cream surface in a piece titled “Doors,” while in “Faces,” squares and rectangles rhythmically play off each other. (“They’re bold and graphic but feel well-balanced, versatile, and not overpowering,” King says of the designs.)
The color scheme, on the other hand, is mostly muted, with splashes of dusty cornflower blue and brick red. (Along with black and white, they are two of the oldest colors in the Japanese language.) Although many often associate modernism with coldness, King’s collection exudes an intentional sense of warmth. “There is a transformative effect [to the colors] that feels like a vintage textile that has been passed down for generations,” he adds.
With their nods to cross-cultural conversations from centuries past, King’s mats could work everywhere from a Tribeca loft to a Laurel Canyon bungalow, a Parisian pied-a-terre to a Tokyo high-rise. Add in the fact that Beni Rugs are made by skilled female Moroccan rug weavers in the Atlas Mountains? King’s designs are truly global.
Originally Appeared on Vogue
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