I am often asked what criteria to look for when choosing an Oriental rug. There are so many components to consider when determining if a rug is a good fit for you. Some of those elements are “concrete” factors, whereas other considerations are more relative to personal preference.
If you truly want to own an authentic Oriental rug, you must first look for a few basic criteria that qualify a rug as fitting into this category. The rug must be all hand-woven from natural fibers (wool is the most common, but it may also be made of other materials like silk or cotton), and it must be of Asian origin (India, China, Iran, etc.).
Once you have sought-out a few reputable establishments to browse rugs that meet these three criteria, make the commitment to yourself that you will look at TONS of rugs before making any decisions. By all means, do not cave to any high pressure sales tactics. If you purchase a quality rug, you will probably be looking at it for the rest of your life, and a few generations after you may be doing the same. Therefore, it is obviously so important to take your time and make sure that the rug you choose is the right one.
Oriental rugs selections should not be whimsical choices, but rather ones that you have given careful consideration. These “room anchors” typically outlast other decorating selections, so be sure to decide on a rug that will stand the tests of time. It is less likely that you will tire of classic colors, as opposed to trendier shades that will become unfashionable in years to come. Also remember that rugs of more traditional colors and patterns hold their values much better than less classic designs.
The quality of an Oriental rug is determined by many factors, so I have included a list of the top criteria that I consider to be most important when purchasing a rug for myself or for my South Carolina interior design clients. Here they are:
1. KNOT COUNT. Like thread count in sheets, knot count is definitely NOT the end-all, be-all. A smaller, more detailed design will require more knots to create, whereas a larger pattern will require fewer knots. From this perspective, knot count is irrelevant. However, the knot count should obviously be high enough to accurately convey a crisp representation of the design pattern.
2. QUALITY OF FIBERS. Whatever natural fibers are used to fashion the rug should be of high quality to ensure durability. In the case of wool, a longer fiber length with a course, strong consistency are most desirable to ensure durability.
3. DYE CONSISTENCY. It is important to carefully examine a rug to make sure none of the colors have bled into one another . The quality of the dye and the process used to impart the dye determines how colorfast the rug will be. In addition, if the rug has been cleaned improperly by a previous owner, it may have caused the colors to bleed, which cannot likely be rectified.
4. WEAVE QUALITY. The quality of the weave is determined by the weaver, so there can definitely be variation. It is important to check both sides of the rug for inconsistencies in the weave.
5. FRINGE CONSISTENCY. The fringe on the rug should be even and finished well.
6. AGE. Generally speaking, if the condition of a rug is good, the value of the rug will be higher if it is older. However, I do not recommend sacrificing good condition just to get an antique rug. If you can afford an older rug of higher quality in good condition, certainly consider it. However, if your budget does not include an antique rug, it is perfectly acceptable to choose a new (or “less old”) rug for your home. Just think, your “new” rug may become an antique heirloom for future generations!
Once you have found some “candidates” for purchase, stand back and try to match your personality to theirs. What colors and patterns are you most attracted to? Will the color match the overall “look” you are trying to achieve in your space? Which rugs make you feel most comfortable and “at home”? Narrow down your selections to 2 or 3; Take some digital photos of them…. Then, sleep on it! The chances are that when you wake up, you will be able to envision one of those rugs in your home! There’s your winner!