How To Buy An Oriental Rug
Now that we’ve covered rug history, design meanings, “reading the rug,” and natural vs. synthetic, it is time. Time for you to spread your wings and fly away on the magic carpet of your dreams. You’ve officially graduated from Oriental rug juveniles to Oriental rug adults. Before you go, let’s talk about the buying process and some things you may encountered while.
Since you’ve already read up on the history of Oriental rugs, studied their symbols and patterns to get an idea of design techniques, and learned the differences between manufactured and hand-woven, you’re already a few steps ahead of the game. But don’t go out on a rug shopping spree just yet. I have a few more tips for you before I set you free into the rug market.
Know Your Measurements.
I’m not talking about your suit measurements. (Although these will come in handy at some point in your life if they haven’t already and you should learn those if you don’t already know them.) No, the measurements I’m talking about are the dimensions of your room. You need to draw up a rough sketch or diagram of the space the rug will be living in once it’s brought home. The last thing you need is to spend several hours shopping only to come home with a rug that’s too big for your living room or one that’s so small it looks better on your coffee table as a coaster. Also consider that you may want a variety of sizes. Being too stubborn or too particular with size may limit your choices.
Measure your space before you go, and take a rough sketch with you as a guide. Easy enough, right?
Keep an Open Mind.
Most designers agree that when designing a room, the rug is a statement piece and everything else should adjust to complement the statement piece. If you already have a look in mind for your living room and you don’t feel that a rug would fit, maybe consider another place for your rug, like a den or a bedroom. These rugs demand attention and when you place that kind of centerpiece in a room where too much is already happening, you throw everything out of balance.
If this rug is a part of moving into a new home or an already bare room, then great! You can start with the rug and build the room around it. You can go neutral with the surrounding pieces, you can complement the rug’s color palette, or you can go bold and pick contrasting pieces and colors.
If you don’t feel comfortable designing a room from scratch, hire an interior designer. But make sure you’ve already picked the rug you want because these designers have an idea or a “look” in their mind and they’re going to do everything in their power to convince you that it’s the right one. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t look good or feel right to you. They’re working for you, not the other way around.
Listen to Your Inner Voice.
Some people refer to it as their conscience, others prefer the little angel and devil on each shoulder. Whatever that means to you, listen to it. It’s there for a reason.
If you are even a tiny bit unsure, move on. You can always come back. Since there’s such a wide variety of sizes, styles, colors, patterns, and designs you’ll have no trouble finding the one you want. But it needs to be absolutely perfect for your taste, your home, and your life. Don’t settle. Don’t let a vendor talk you into something you would never buy on your own. Don’t let them con you into a “sweet deal” for a less-than-perfect rug.
Just like the saying goes, the customer is always right. You are the customer. You are always right. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Quality Over Quantity.
We’ve talked about natural vs. synthetic dyes, hand-spun vs. machine-spun wool, and antique versus new. You know the differences and the history behind it. Now it’s up to you to decide what fits best in your lifestyle.
Natural vs. Synthetic:
Natural dyes can add up to 30 percent to the cost of the rug, but the charm they add as the colors gently adjust and fade over time is arguably priceless.
Synthetic dyes are available in a wider array of colors and shades and they tend to hold their color well over a long period of time.
It’s also worth noting that unless someone is a scientist with expensive laboratory equipment, they’re not going to be able to tell the difference between synthetic and natural dyes. The difference cannot be determined with the naked eye.
Hand-Spun Wool vs. Machine-Spun Wool:
In terms of hand-spun wool, yarn absorbs more dye when it is loosely spun and vice versa. This adds to the overall effect of the rug, like natural dyes.
With machine-spun wool, it’s going to look all uniform and symmetrical. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you might gravitate more towards this than the uneven color produced by hand-spun wool.
One tip for checking the quality of the wool (hand-spun or machine-spun): rake your hand over the surface of the rug and scratch. If your fingers are covered in bits of wool, that’s a sign that the wool is not great quality. If your hand looks like you’re slowly transforming into a werewolf, that’s a sign that the wool is really poor quality. The hairier your hand looks after scratching the surface of the rug, the worse the quality is.
Antique vs. New:
Antiques are going to be made with natural dyes and hand-spun wool, in most cases, so they’re going to have the uneven patches of color due to wool being spun at different levels and the natural dyes are going to fade over time.
New rugs are going to have more modern prints with uniformity of wool and more vibrant colors that won’t fade as easily over time.
Knot a Problem.
Speaking of quality, there has been some debate among rug-buyers as to whether not knot count matters. Essentially it does not.
What matters is the fineness and density of the knots. Finely knotted or finely woven rugs tend to be more desirable. But once again, it all depends on your taste. You might prefer a coarse rug as opposed to a finely woven rug. What it all boils down to is: as long as there are knots, that’s a good sign.
There is No Rug Expert.
One thing you may not realize is because these rugs have been around for centuries, there is no real guide or expert to Oriental rugs. Sure, there are plenty of resources (like these articles), various guides, and helpful books to point you in the right direction. However even the most experienced of rug vendors are still learning and finding out new things about this art form every day. So don’t feel like you’re too inexperienced or too “green” to get into rug-buying. You have eyes and you have an individual sense of taste. That’s all you need to buy an Oriental rug.