This is possibly the most confusing home furnishing you can start to research and one where getting it wrong can be overly expensive and disappointing down the line. There are literally 1,000s of permutations of age, quality, design, colour, size and materials so it is possible to find the perfect rug with some effort and patience.
The most important knowledge is how the rug you are looking at is made. In brief-
- Handmade/Hand Knotted are constructed entirely by hand, with each knot being tied around a warp thread and the design built up row by row. Turn the rug over and see if the front design is the same, without the pile obviously, as the front. Just because a rug has a Persian design does not make it genuine.
- Hand-Tufted rugs are handmade but are much quicker to make because they are not hand-knotted. The knots are fired into a backing and then a glue and cover are fixed to the reverse to hold it all together. If the rug has a solid plain back appearance then it is tufted. Tufting is also done by machine and then hand finished. Be careful as it will may be sold as a handmade item.
- Machine made rugs often look hand knotted and are close approximations. Turn the rug over and you will see the design in a blurrier form than the real thing. The white weft threads that run widthwise on a hand knotted rug will run the length of a machine-made rug.
1. Depending on your home and the existing furnishings, as well as consideration for your budget, decide how old your rug needs to be. Vintage rugs, those over 30 years old, develop a patina of colour alteration and sheen that is impossible to fake. The older the rug, and the better it has been looked after, will have a look that is highly attractive; they can be worn for the shabby chic impression or in perfect condition to meld with a formal room. The oldest rugs in good condition and with more useable furnishing colours are obviously more sought after and therefore expensive.
New rugs can be made in approximations of vintage examples and are much less money- they can still seem expensive to the layman but remember a high knot count quality new rug may have taken 6 to 12 months to weave!
- Depending on the room you are placing a rug in you should consider the quality and material requirements. With so many rug options on the market you can narrow them down to your exact specifications. For a very busy family room try and buy a hand-knotted rug in either a fine or chunky durable weave. Examples of these are Persian Kashan, Tabriz, Isfahan and Nain for finer examples and Heriz, Bijar, Meshed and Hamadan for heavy rugs. Always buy a wool pile rug for better durability and remember that the wool they use in Iran and Afghanistan is almost always better suited to rugs than from anywhere else. Find a rug expert that does home visits to get the best advice.
- Apart from wool piled rugs you can buy wool mixed with silk, cotton and synthetic materials. As long as the wool content is higher than 50% the rug should be durable and easier to clean but a fully wool rug will develop a patina with usage and can be restored with professional cleaning to complete cleanliness and sheen. The better silk rugs are superb works of art but I would never recommend for them for use in a busy room – if your heart is set on one then use in a quite area to enjoy the glory – a study, formal salon or bedroom are perfect. Alternatively hang it on a wall.
- Flatweave i.e. pileless rugs such as dhurries and kilims are very often a great cheaper option to provide the room with some funky designs and colours. However, they are not practical rugs as the lack of pile offers no protection to the warp and weft and they are very hard to prevent moving and rucking. If you are using a flatweave rug you must use a high-grade non-slip rug underlay such as ‘Foxi’ (other brands are available)
- The size of the rug you start to look for is highly important to get right or the incorrect choice may well annoy you within a short time. Start by deciding what purpose the rug will serve – is it going to fill the room to provide maximum comfort, warmth underfoot and to enable all the furniture to stand on it? Or do you want a centrepiece that is a feature? – this might be a rug that sits in-between the sofa and chairs with the feet all on or all off (a halfway house look is rarely the correct look). Strangely enough the smaller the rug the more noticeable it becomes. The size obviously has an impact on the price so the smaller the rug you buy the finer it can be. Measure the space you think you want to fill and then use either newspaper or dust sheets to get a better idea of how it may look. Very often buyers do not bother to get these most important parameters correct and waste a lot of time and money. Arm yourself with maximum and minimum sizes to broaden your options.
Finally…There are so many factors to consider when buying a rug so try and consult a rug expert who has placed his wares into 1,000’s of rooms or ask your interior designer for their opinion. Always try and look at various options in your room before buying – the more reputable rug expert will insist you try a few in situ for a few days so you end up with the rug of your dreams.