Kilims are unique woven textiles, hand made in the Middle East from the Balkans through to Pakistan. Each Kilim is diligently woven by hand using wool that has been dyed with natural pigment; due to the nature of the materials and techniques, no two Kilims are the same.
What is a Kilim?
The word Kilim is of Turkish origin, and refers to a versatile, pileless textile produced using various flat weaving techniques that have been practiced in the Middle East and neighbouring countries for thousands of years. Kilim rugs are often characterised by bright, bold geometric designs.
How is Kilim made?
Kilim rugs are made by flat weaving using two sets of wool ropes. A rope is passed over the same path repeatedly, while decorative images known as ‘motifs’ are formed by using multiple groups of ropes all dyed different colours.
Kilim Rug Examples
Image: Artist Residence | Signature Sofa in Kilim & Paris Sofa
History of Kilim
Over 8,000 years ago in Anatolia, or today’s modern Turkey, women wove Kilim for use in many functional everyday items. Even today, Kilims are used to make floor coverings, cushions, storage bags, tent decorations, saddlebags and many other practical, useful pieces. From the Çatalhöyük people through to the Hittites, the Romans, the Greeks, the Ottomans and many others, the people of Anatolia have preserved this art form while each person has added their own culture, way of life, and expression to the art of kilim-weaving.
The geometric motifs in these antique tribal rugs and weavings evolved directly on the loom. Traditional designs, whether religious, talismanic or totemic, were passed from one generation to the next, with each weaver creating subtle variations that reflected their own artistic personality and interest.
The eye-catching motifs are derived from ancient symbols which have been used since time immemorial to inform, communicate and convey ideas. Over time some of these signs merged with myths, acquired hidden significance and moved into the world of esoteric symbolism. Due to the hidden forces they are believed to embody, their purpose is as psychological as it is decorative.
Kilim Motifs & Their Meanings
Dragon is a mythological creature whose feet are like the lion's, whose tail is like a snake and who has wings. The Turks of Central Asia stylised the dragon with a beak, wings and a lion's feet. The dragon is the master of air and water. The fight of the dragon and the Phoenix is believed to bring the fertile rains of spring.
Due to their fear of its venom, people used to carry jewellery in the form of a scorpion or decorated with the tail of a scorpion in order to protect themselves against its sting. The scorpion motif used on weaves, illustrated here, serves the same purpose.
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Love and Unison, Ying-Yang
This is a symbol of dualism, inherited from the Far-East and imported to Anatolia where it suggests the harmony between a man and a woman.
Kurt agzi, also known as dove tail, is a term used in joinery to indicate the triangular fittings connecting the corners of various woodwork, and in this context the motif expresses the wish for solidarity. Its use on weaves serves a different purpose; to defend against wolves, the dreaded enemy of cattle breeding tribes.
Due to its vital importance for mankind, the theme of running water is widely used in works of art. The pattern varies according to the material on which it is applied. When carved in stone it assumes an angular shape, while on weaves it is curvilinear or triangular.
George Smith and Kilim
Kilims have always been an important part of our work at George Smith, and over the years we have built a reputation for our expertise in upholstering our furniture in Kilim. Working with Kilim is extremely challenging, owing to the thickness of the weave and the intricate patterns, but years of practice and a strong sense of artistry mean that our craftspeople continue to produce stunning, unique Kilim covered furniture for a wide variety of projects. The real skill lies in assessing how best to place the Kilim design on the furniture; cutting, pattern-matching and final application are all part of our upholstery team’s perfected skills.
We hand pick our authentic kilims, choosing the most striking designs and the most interesting shapes in a wide variety of colours to suit any George Smith piece.
Example Products Upholstered in Kilim Rugs
L Shape Signature Sofa
Part of our Signature Collection, this L Shape Signature Sofa has plump feather and down seat cushions and elegant 'English' roll arms. This stunning piece required 3 unique Kilim rugs to create and has been pattern-matched to perfection.
Flowing curved arms and a straight back define the elegant Georgian Chair. This version has a seat cushion for extra comfort.
A deep armchair with beautiful button detailing, the Lennagan Chair is great to lie back into and relax.
Standard Arm Signature Sofa
Part of our Signature Collection, this Signature Sofa has plump feather and down cushions and elegant 'English' roll arms.
Unique and elegant, the Butterfly Chair, with spreading inner arms and back, is the perfect accent piece in any room.
Signature Chair with Cushion Back
Our Signature Chair, with its rolled ‘English’ arms and plump feather and down cushions, is the perfect option for any home.
The versatile Petworth Chair could be used in your study or as a dining chair. Comfortable and sturdy, it brings a touch of glamour to any room design.
Part of our Signature Collection, this Signature Sofa has plump feather and down cushions and elegant 'English' roll a rms.
Top Tips For Picking A Kilim Design
When selecting your two Kilims for a sofa, look for common colours and themes so one can flow into the other organically.
At George Smith we present Kilim rugs in pairs already pre-matched and perfect for a sofa or a pair of arm chairs.
Pick what you love – Coup de Foudre! Like a piece of artwork, your choice of Kilim should be guided by how it makes you feel.
Structured and sturdy in nature, Kilim furniture is both durable and beautiful, making it the perfect choice for a busy family home or as a statement piece in a public area.
Pair your Kilim with one of our leather collections for a rustic look or with Mohair for a luxurious, glamorous feel.
Hunt the Symbol! If you would like to know what your furniture is saying to you, ask our Sales Team. They will be happy to guide you through the historical and spiritual meaning of the various motifs.