Important Considerations When Looking for Persian and Oriental Rugs – Part Two

This post is the second part of a two-part article, which explains what to consider and look for when buying a Persian or Oriental Rug – and how to care for and use a rug optimally. You can find part one of the article here.

Materials

Hand-knotted Persian and Oriental rugs are made with a small variety of natural materials. Wool, silk, and cotton are the main ingredients. The wool in most Iranian (Persian) rugs is better than most other countries and is of the right type to be perfect for rugs- hard and soft strands in the fibre to give the best of both worlds. Handspun wool is used most often for Village and Tribal rugs whilst the finer weave and designs of City/Workshop rugs need a tighter machine spun yarn. Hand spun wool gives a more open and necessarily longer cut finish which gives the rug more depth of colour, as well as comfort.

The base (warp and weft) of rugs can be wool, cotton or silk – in some cheap Indian rugs jute is also used, and these rugs should be avoided at all costs as they do not react well to damp or wet conditions, so are hard to clean. The most stable platform for a rug is cotton and most Persian and Oriental City/Workshop and Village rugs are made like this. Silk warps and wefts can be found in some finely woven rugs and these strands allow for a much higher knot density than other materials. Wool is used in many Tribal rugs but can alter length with damper atmospheric conditions, which will change the shape of the rug, which is why you see many older examples with curves.

Remember! The most stable and durable materials are rugs with a 100% wool pile woven on a cotton warp and weft.

Dyes & Colours

Unless vintage, and often not even then, a rug will have synthetic manmade dyes. Like most home furnishings they are made in a wide variety of qualities and do not have an impact on the durability of rugs. However, the better dyes give a new rug a more subtle and attractive start in life and they can be altered to present a pleasant washed out appearance. Cheaper “hard’ dyes do not age and fade very well. The more expensive rugs have dyes which reflect the quality of the other materials’ and generally improve and soften with use and the effects of light.

Remember! Ask your retailer about the dye quality as the rug may keep the same colours for a long time and not improve and mellow with age.

 Vegetable dyes – outside of the UK you may see them described as ‘vegetal’ which means they are vegetable and mineral based – are not often used anymore. The expense and time involved in collecting and crushing roots, leaves, barks, petals, roots, berries, skins, and minerals means that they are too expensive to be viable for large scale rug production. There are some beautiful, but limited, rug collections commissioned by rug purists which have natural dyes, but these are high-end examples and mostly are sold in North America and Europe. Perversely, vegetal dyes start life with intense bright tones which become even more beautiful with time- so if your new rug has washed out soft colours it will have synthetic dyes. As usual with the rug business this is not a hard fact. There are many intense colours which are synthetic and will not tone down. Many Persian Village and Tribal rugs have a vibrant pink, orange and pink which may look acceptable in the intense glare of Central Asia but are really bright in cold Northern light.

Remember! Most rug retailers will tell you that the rug has vegetal dyes to justify a higher price. This is simply not true, so ensure they commit to the proper description in the invoice.

 Your rug should connect with the other room furnishings – or not! If your room has walls and fabrics which are muted and monotone then you can use a vibrant rug as the centrepiece and focus. Doing this has the great attraction of being much more practical than a pale rug, hiding dirt and stains, as well as giving the room a warm and inviting glow.

Remember! If your room has a lot of direct suns then install clear UV film to your windows as all rugs fade, no matter what you are told. This is an easy and inexpensive process.

A dye compound in India

Design

Persian and Oriental rugs are woven in a huge variety of patterns, ranging from completely plain Persian Gabbeh to wildly ornate, intricate floral City/Workshop examples like Persian Qom, Tabriz, Nain and Isfahan. Ancient cottages, Georgian and Edwardian homes and Victorian townhouse generally require a traditional rug to suit the age of the house. However, there are no hard and fast rules so select a rug you love above all else.

The classic Persian and Oriental rug has a central medallion, four corner ‘spandrels’ which brought together will perfectly reproduce the central motif and a border made up of the ‘main’ and from one to five ‘guard’ borders. These narrow extra borders have the effect of bleeding the main border into the main ‘ground’ of the rug which reduces the abruptness of the rugs’ ‘frame’ Medallion sizes range from the small to the enormous and are the focal point and the area of the rug which should line up with your fireplace, chandelier or seating arrangement. Again, if you have off-centre features then it does not really matter, but like the rug design, balance and symmetry in a room is important.

An Indian hand-knotted wool rug with a small central medallion, spandrels, and one main border.

Remember! A classic hand-knotted Persian or Oriental rug with a central medallion can complete the balanced feel of a room and should ideally line up with the central fireplace and light fitting.

 An ‘all-over’ repeating pattern without a medallion, whether floral, animal or tribal ‘guls (shields) makes the rug placement very easy. It can be placed off centre and not look in the wrong position and has the advantage in that covered motifs are repeated elsewhere so you do not miss part of the look. For lovers of straight-line symmetry, these are the perfect floor decoration.

An ‘open field’ medallion design has only the central motif and then a plain surround, with corner spandrels to provide visual balance. These are more unusual rugs and the large areas with no design can be a practical problem for spills and footfall patterns. However, they are highly elegant and allow the medallion to ‘pop’.

Plain rugs are popular at the moment and allow the other furnishings to be more patterned and coloured. The only hand-knotted Persian rug that provides this look is a Tribal Gabbeh, which are made by the central and southern Iranian settled tribal weavers. Gabbeh are extremely heavy, thick piled robust rugs which give superb sound and warmth insulation whilst being relatively inexpensive. The wool is dense and highly comfortable and they are the best option for a family room for children to play on, as well as being the best value luxury rug in a bedroom. Unlike most plain rugs Gabbeh hardly show the feet impressions. The disadvantages are that spills are highly visible, but the quality of the wool means they are easily cleaned and restored.

Remember! There is a rug design out there for you, but you must weigh up the balance between the design, colours and practicality.

Size

Persian and Oriental rugs are hand-knotted in many sizes but not many shapes. The proportions are generally scaled so the sizes are 3’x2’/0.91×0.61, 5’x3’ /1.52×0.91,6’x4’ / 1.83×1.22,7’x5’/ 2.13×1.52,8’x5’6” / 2.44×1.68 ,9×6’ /2.74×1.83,10’x8’ / 3.05×2.44,12’x9’ / 3.66×2.74 and upwards to 30’x22’. Larger sizes are also made!

Looking at the space you need to decorate take measurements to include the maximum and minimum size you can use. Obviously, there is an ideal size you should try to stick to, but it is very useful to have this information when shopping. Place newspaper or dustsheets in this area to give yourself a better idea of how the rug will fill it.

If you need a hearth rug it always looks best when it matches the width of the fire surround but there are no hard and fast rules.

Going slightly larger, to fill the whole floor in front of the sofas and chairs, will pull in and hold together the arrangement. You can either have the rug free standing with no furniture feet on it or anchor it by just having about 2-4 inches 0.05 0.10m under the furniture. This size of rug looks equally good when it reaches the back of the furniture, so all the feet are on the rug.

The last arrangement is to go up in incremental sizes until the room is almost all rug- with a narrow border of carpet, wood or stone to give it a frame.

Some people, who like to collect vintage rugs, or who simply like to display a variety of colours, design and sizes scatter them and even overlap them to make a beautiful tapestry of Eastern colour and patterns.

A high-grade Afghan wool hand-knotted rug with a Persian Sultanabad design. It’s imperative a dining room rug is big enough, so the chairs do not come off the pile when pushed out.

Remember! The only advice you should take is to try not to accommodate a half on-half off approach to your rug. This rarely, if ever, looks satisfying.

The larger the rug you buy the less obvious it will look. The eye is naturally drawn to smaller rugs, as they become artistic focal points on the floor. Of course, the smaller the rug you use the higher quality you get for your money.

If you are still confused, please contact Nicolas Larsen on 0203 958 4146.