The History of Norwegian Rug Design - Tradition and Novelty

The History of Norwegian Rug Design - Tradition and Novelty

Norwegian design, art and applied art have a history that dates back to the Viking Age. The discoveries of jewelry, textiles, iron and glass objects show that Norwegians were highly skilled craftspeople.   

Contemporary Norwegian rug design is dated from 1930 to today. The early 1930s was an exciting time for Norwegian design and several designers got world-wide acclaim. Several artists and designers received attention for their work in textiles and jewelry. A new furniture industry developed at Synnmøre due to rapid industrialization.

Today´s Norwegian design goes through a new Renaissance, offering a new fresh high quality design with an individual touch. It carves its own place in contemporary Scandinavian Design and has a distinct voice, combining both tradition and novelty.
We take a historical review on the evolution of Norwegian rug design and talented people behind it.


You will be surprised at how delicate and beautiful the Viking textiles were. The burial findings, like the Oseberg ship, present a lavish array of textiles designed for a range of uses. Here we find imported silks, embroideries using silk thread, ornamental tapestries, tablet bands and woolen fabrics for a variety of uses. These narrow tapestries are woven in a combination of wool and a weft made of a plant material, possibly flax, which has disappeared. The tapestries portray a multitude of different animals and people, carts, houses and decorative geometric ornamentation. A large number of tablet woven bands were also found in the Oseberg mound. Most of these are woven in different coloured wools that form geometric patterns. Silk thread has also been used in some of them.


XX Century

Several prominent textile artists defined the textile art and craft in the first half of the XX century. Their work was commissioned by public institutions and exhibited internationally.


Frida Hansen

Frida Hansen represents symbolism and art nouveau. Her major breakthrough was in Paris during the World's Fair in 1900, wherein she was a gold medalist for the carpet Milky Way (1898). She created a unique textile design language by renewing traditional or old weaving techniques, adapting contemporary art. 


Frida was an independent artist with great women empowerment advocacy as she taught women to weave for livelihood. She shared her knowledge with other people and built a workshop in Oslo in 1892. Her workshop extensively produced salable textiles.


In 1883, Frida weaved the “Dandelion”, a large tapestry, and commissioned work for the World Exhibition in Chicago. It was commissioned by the Norwegian Women's Case Association. The symbolic motif showed a woman in the center surrounded by women carrying dandelions in a flower that withered. This rug became a famous artwork of art for the early women's movement. It was an expression of the women's struggle against oppression in the country.

Photo: Norsk Folkemuseum: image no. NFB.35230


Photos: Nasjonalmuseet

Kåre Mikkelsen Jonsborg

Kåre Mikkelsen Jonsborg was a Norwegian textile artist and painter. He studied at the Norwegian Academy of Fine Arts, where he learned composition theories. Kåre was a distinct colorist. He created colorful motifs from a highly restrained palette. 


All the major works of Kåre are thoroughly composed with geometric constructions, creating image spaces and harmonizing image elements. Kåre’s works range includes oil painting, tempera, woodcutting, stone mosaic, and monumental decoration. His rug “Lilletorget” was hung up in the city hall's party gallery of Oslo, wherein the lines draw one’s attention back to the old tapestry tradition.

Photo: Illustrert Norsk kunstner leksikon


Gerhard Munthe

Gerhard Munthe is a Norwegian, trained as a painter, who was initially influenced and inspired by Japanese art and French Synthetism. His famous paintings include the Giant’s Lair (1892) and The Suitors (1892), consisting of three girls approached by prowling polar bears. These paintings of Munthe were exhibited in Oslo at the ‘Black and White Exhibition’ in1893, wherein Andreas Aubert, a critic, compared these two painting masterpieces to traditional Norwegian tapestries. 


Gerhard initially resisted a shift towards textiles. Eventually, he worked with the weavers, Kristine Johannessen and Augusta Christensen to transfer his designs. Gerhard’s shift of medium became a lifelong practice. His drawings and paintings were executed by collaborating with craftsmen.

Painting by: Christian Krohg 1885 | Photo: Nasjonalmuseet/Børre Høstland


Mid-Century Modern (MCM)

Mid-century modern is a major design movement in architecture, urban development, interior, product, and graphic design from roughly 1945 – 1969, across the United States and Europe. The MCM design aesthetic is modern in style and construction, characterized by clean simple lines and honest use of materials.

Norwegian design had a significant rise during this period and several design classics, such as the 1010 AF chair by Sven Ivar Dysthe, the Krysset lounge chair by Fredrik A. Kayser and several others mark this period.

The textile art is represented by several prominent talents:


Synnøve Anker Aurdal

Synnøve Anker Aurdal was acclaimed “the foremost in this country in the work to get the textile art recognized as an artistic means of expression in line with other artistic media.”

She had many public assignments, including "The High Point" in Håkonshallen (together with Sigrun Berg and Ludvig Eikaas) and the monumental "Room and The Words" (1977; 200x600 cm), which was Norway's gift for Iceland's 1100th anniversary.

Synnøve worked with non-figurative imagery. She was considered an innovative role model for younger artists. In addition, Synnøve had an extensive exhibition business in Norway and abroad.

Photo: Atelier Rude | cropped from Oslo Museum


Brit Fuglevaag 

Britt Fuglevaag  is a Norwegian visual artist (textile weave, drawing) and art mediator, known from several exhibitions. Many of her motifs are taken from Nordmøre and the Varangerfjord in Finnmark.


Her work is very experimental. Brit mixes well-known weaving techniques such as gobelin technique, chopping technique and kelim technique, creating tensions in the textile surface.


Her tapestries often have no motif, no ornamentation, no uniform technique and at times no colors. The textile materials are highlighted. She has been constantly experimenting with new fibers, techniques and colors.


Today´s Norwegian Rug Design

Although Norway does not the same industry in rugs as textile hubs, such as India, Iran and China, several designers, architects, and artists view rugs as a great arena for aesthetical expression.


Ksenia Stanishevski

Ksenia Stanishevski is one of the top rug interior designers in Oslo, who is originally from Tallinn, Estonia. She was born and raised in an artist's home. She took an industrial design course at the School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway, and studied at The University of Newcastle, Australia. 


In 2018, Ksenia started Volver. Her design objective is to bring individual creativity and artistry into different environments, work or home. Ksenia is a passionate rug designer. She constantly experiments, confronting rug and art stereotypes, working with micro to macro scales, and pushing the possibilities of traditional handcraft and available technology.


Ksenia is the Creative Head of Volver. She's a designer herself, collaborating closely with local and international designers, architects, and artists. Ksenia believes in an intuitive and original design point of view that merges individual creativity, the users' needs, and technological possibilities. She breaks stereotypes, trying to find unexpected expressions in new and familiar things. She has received awards for her designs, such as The Norwegian Award for Design Excellence.




Astrid and Ziemowit Kvistad

Familien Kvistad consists of Astrid and Ziemowit Kvistad, artists and rug designers. They create hand-tufted products, like rugs, carpets, poufs, and pillows at their workshop cottage. They have changed their focus from office design to hand crafted with soft materials. All their goods are made from Norwegian wool and handmade in Norway.


Playing with colors in pattern and motif gives them great pleasure. Astrid and Ziemowit work with various creative projects such as interiors, art direction, and styling.


Trine Kielland

Born into a family full of artists, Trine Kielland became a great rug designer. She was born in Oslo, Norway. A large part of her life is art in all its forms, impacting her growth and development as a rug designer and artist. Trine set up her interior design firm, and she eventually devoted her time to fine arts, wherein she dedicated herself to her home in Berlin. 


Trine loves the fabrics found in the man-made world, such as the floors, walls, ceilings, and great buildings. She is inspired by geometric and organic patterns found within nature. Her interest in organic or natural materials comes from her deep passion for growing flowers, vegetables, spices, and herbs, which she cultivates at her lovely summer home in Norway.



Rug design has a rich history in Norway, although the country had never had an extensive industry for rugs.

Rugs serve as prominent art pieces, decorations, and interior objects. Visual talents turn to rugs as an arena for their creative expression infusing their style, experimentation, and creativity.  

 Volver Studios offers an open creative playground for artists, architects and designers to contribute to and enrich the contemporary Norwegian design through means of a rug.

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