Tittle

The History of Rya Rugs

Shaggy and colorful, Rya rugs became a sensation in modern interior design, finding place not only in American homes, but also hearts. Nowadays those vintage carpets remain sought-after by collectors and designers alike because of their art deco vibe and modernist designs.

Among all types of Scandinavian carpets the Ryas are the easiest to recognize due to their long pile of about 1 to 3 inches, similar to the contemporary "shag carpets". Each separate knot is composed of three strands of wool, giving the rug rich texture and vast palette of colors. The name Rya (or ryijy) has a broader meaning than one could suspect. Originated from a village in southwest Sweden, the direct translation of the term is simply "rug". However, initially, the word Rya meant a thick bed cover with knotted pile, and the same world is used to describe the wool from which those rugs are made. 

Swedish pile rug by mmf 7x3 bb6124

The invention of Rya rugs would not be possible if It wasn't for the Vikings who introduced exquisite silk textiles from Russia and the Byzantine Empire around 9th and 10th centuries. The knowledge about knotted pile carpets came from the Ottomans in Anatolia and it didn't take long for Scandinavians to learn how to weave. Before the rugs, Swedish peasants used fur and wool to keep warm during harsh winters, which was highly impractical, as those materials couldn't be washed and were homes for numerous parasites. After the introduction of Ryas in Sweden and Norway in the 15th century, they started to be worn first by sailors and fishermen, and later by commoners. The first designs of rugs were extremely simple, geometrical and dyed solely black, white, and grey. Their dense pile, which helped people keep warm, was inspired by the Turkish "Yataks", although those were softer than Swedish ones. Stiff and coarse, early Ryas Rugs were durable but not very elegant, a trait which started to bother some. In the 17th century a new type of Rya appeared, inspired by European Baroque patterns. First woven by the daughters and wives of burghers in Stockholm, those rugs had shorter piles and closer rows of knots, making them much lighter than originals. Beautiful and colorful motifs started to appear, changing Ryas' function from purely practical to decorative. In Finland, they were used as prayer rugs during weddings, often being a part of bride's dowry. After the ceremony those rugs were displayed in homes as mementos passed down for generations to come. The popularity of Ryas Rugs started to spread outside Scandinavia and in 1970 they took the American market by storm despite the lack of advertisement or active promotion. 

scandinavian rya rug
rya rug signed kh gr sannolikt klockagardens hemslojd talberg gunilla rappe

Fusing together centuries of tradition and modern aesthetics, Ryas fit perfectly into the newest interior design trends. A great care for detail exhibited during every step of their production is what makes them so special. Equally beautiful and durable, Rya rugs bring the rugged Scandinavian charm all over the world, while promoting the rich culture of the region.

by Alice White