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True Nature

June 01, 2022

An increasing number of interior and rug designers are favouring fibres such as abacá, hemp and jute for their floorcoverings of choice. Denna Jones checks out bast fibres’ eco and user friendly credentials to see what all the bast fuss is about

Flux abacá rug, Topfloor by Esti

Bast is best. An umbrella term, bast describes fibres made from flax, hemp, abacá, agave, jute, river rush, plus many more. Coiled, plaited and woven bast mats have been made since antiquity.

Interior featuring Scallop abacá rug by Patterson Flynn. Interior Design by Studio DB

The popularity of bast is partly in response to accelerating awareness of our ecological crisis, which in turn corresponds to a growing appreciation for the preservation of cultural heritage craft. The romance of bast fibres and their historical role in multiple civilisations is epitomised by English artisan Felicity Irons, who plaits spiral rush mats from bulrushes she scythes in the spring and early summer while punting on the Ouse in Bedfordshire and the Nene in Northamptonshire.

Beachy Breakfast Hideway by Amanda Reynal Interiors at Kips Bay Palm Beach 2022, featuring bast fibre carpet by Patterson Flynn

The Global Natural Fiber Carpets Market anticipates a sharp rise in demand for natural fibre rugs and carpets between 2022 and 2028. Apartment Therapy reported in September 2021 on the rising popularity of ‘sophisticated’ patterned jute and sisal rugs. Pam Marshall, Creative Director, Patterson Flynn (to-the-trade luxury custom rug and carpet division of F Schumacher luxury custom rug and carpet division of F Schumacher & Co), agrees that exploded’ for plant-based rugs. ‘We’re known for our use of natural fibres, wool and silk, but also for plant fibres such as jute, sisal, hemp and abacá.’ Marshall believes bast’s popularity is due in part to universal concern over the decline of the natural world and the growing imperative for natural alternatives to synthetic rug fibres that are difficult or impossible to recycle and often release harmful fumes in the home. But bast isn’t popular solely as a response to negatives; its popularity is also due to bast’s ‘incredible textural warmth’, a feature increasingly important in interior design. 

Gia abucá rug, Carioca collection, Inigo Elizalde

This is an extract from an article in COVER 67. To find out more about bast fibres, buy a copy of COVER 67 or subscribe to COVER here.

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