Decorating & Design

January 9, 2009

Shopping For Area Rugs

A quality area rug can add colour and texture to a room and also add a sense of luxury and some softness underfoot. Use this guide to help you make the right choice.

Flat-weave rugs

“Flat-weave” describes flat pile or no-pile rugs. Two common types of flat weave rugs are Aubusson and kilim:

Aubusson rugs are flat-weave rugs that usually have soft and delicate colours detailed with floral and architectural designs. Now handmade in China, Aubusson rugs are sometimes given a chemical wash to achieve this faded effect. Aubussons look best when mixed with antiques or used in a more traditional space for a touch of casual elegance.

Kilim rugs are characterized by their bright colours and geometric, stylized floral and animal designs. Kilims are 100% wool flat-weave rugs that were originally handwoven by nomadic people in countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan. Used during their travels, it was easier for the nomadic people to transport narrow, smaller looms — making large antique kilims a rare find. Today, new kilims are produced in a full range of sizes at very affordable prices.

Pile rugs

A pile rug is created when the weaver ties the pile to the warp threads and then trims the final rug to produce an even, smooth surface. Hand-tied rugs are typically made from wool, cotton or silk, take a long time to produce and are therefore much more expensive than machine-made rugs. Thicker and more lush than flat-weaves, pile rugs come in many different designs and under many different names. Persian and oriental are two common pile rugs. Often thought of as the same thing, Persian and oriental actually refer to two very different types of rugs.

Persian rugs are made in Iran, usually named after the city in which they were produced or the nomadic tribe that wove them. Clean details, fine, tight knots and curvilinear floral designs are typical of pieces made in cities such as Tabriz, Kashan, Heriz, Mashhad, Nain, and Esfahan. Tribal pieces, from tribes such as Hamadan and Bashtiari, have a heavier pile with coarser details featuring geometric animals and flowers. Most Persian rugs are woven with deep reds, blues and ivory as background colours.

Oriental rugs are pile rugs made to look like Persian carpets and are woven in India, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Turkey. Often referred to as “oriental” rugs, they usually have a thicker, denser pile than those made in Iran.

If you are thinking about purchasing a hand-woven Persian or oriental rug, one of the qualities to look for is its “fineness” or number of knots per square inch. Similar to the thread-count in linens, the more knots per square inch in a rug results in a sharper and more defined image. The number of knots or fineness of a rug does not actually make the rug more durable, but it makes the image clearer. Also, a thicker carpet doesn’t mean that it is of better quality. The thinner the carpet, the more clearly defined the image will be.

One of the main differences between Persian and oriental rugs is the weave. Iranian weavers use single, asymmetrical knots resulting in a sharp, clear image pattern while symmetrical or double knots are used in other regions. These double knots result in a denser pile and therefore an image that tends to be less sharp.

One test of authenticity of a quality handmade oriental or Persian rug is to flip the rug over and look at the pattern on the back. Good quality rugs have a vivid and almost identical image on the back as on the front.

Good quality carpets should never have a dry feel. The wool should have a springy resilience to it. When pressed on with your thumb, the depressed area should rebound to its original shape.

When shopping for a good quality area rug, look for the number of knots per square inch, the material it’s made of (whether wool, silk or synthetic) the uniqueness of its design and the level of workmanship that went into creating it.

For more information on area rugs, choosing sizes and decorating with rugs, check out Cameron MacNeil’s video.