The Definitive Glossary of Area Rug Terms and Definitions

The Definitive Glossary of Area Rug Terms and Definitions

Everything you always wanted to know about area rugs but were afraid to ask

Your definitive guide to finding, buying, and loving the area rug of your home’s dreams

Flat weave. Oriental. Hand hooked. Hand knotted. When it comes to buying a rug, there sure is a lot of terminology involved. And if it’s your first time shopping for one, all those terms can get a little overwhelming. You may have a rough idea of what you want, but once you set foot in a shop or go shopping for a floor covering online, you’ll start to encounter a lot of detail that demands your attention. Unfortunately, all those little details can add up, and without a little knowledge, they can cost you. Big time.

That’s why we’ve set out to solve this problem by taking steps to keep you (and your wallet) informed. By the time you’ve finished reading this very extensive article, you’ll be armed with the kind of go-to knowledge that will keep you from questioning if you’ve made the right decision for your home decor. Read on for what we’re pretty sure is the web’s most-definitive rug glossary!


Abrash Area Rug Glossary



Named for a village in Iran, Abrash (which is heard as “Uh Brash” ) is a subtle change in colored dye patterns that occurs during the weaving process. Abrash can either occur over time as an antique piece naturally ages, be done intentionally by the weaver to compliment a design, or may simply be the place where the weaver ran out of a particular color of yarn and had to start over with a new dye lot. Either way, Abrash is just one aspect that makes a handmade item unique.


Acrylic Area Rug Glossary



Sometimes called “artificial silk”, acrylic is another polymer that has been molded into a soft yet highly durable fiber. With a texture reminiscent of wool, acrylics are lightweight and can easily resist fading from sunlight. As an added benefit, acrylic is highly hypoallergenic and can usually be machine washed when needed.


All-Over-Design Area Rug Glossary



An “all-over” refers to a floor covering with the same pattern or design spread over the entire piece. This style will lack a center medallion or other type of focal point in the piece’s middle. All-over-Designs are great if you intend to place it beneath furniture.


Antique Wash Area Rug Glossary



Antique wash
A chemical process used to make a new floor covering look aged. If you’re looking to save some cash, an antique wash may be a cost-efficient alternative to buying a true antique.


Anti Static Area Rug Glossary



A mat or floor covering that protects the surface or furniture on top of it from electromagnetic (“static”) charges. Anti-static floor coverings are typically made from or backed with rubber, foam, or vinyl to help ground the charge. This is particularly helpful in an office setting or anywhere electronics are stored or worked on.


Arabesque Area Rug Glossary



Among the details you may find when examining a Persian, arabesque detailing is often defined as scrolling, linear patterns that interlace and seem to have a sense of rhythm to them. You may see this type of detailing used as a border as it harkens back to friezes and decorative pieces seen on the outside of Islamic mosques.


Art Deco Area Rug Glossary



Art Deco
A style of design that originated in Paris, France, and first became popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, art deco features angular designs and geometric patterns that lend a sophisticated, cosmopolitan flair to any motif.


Art Nouveau Area Rug Glossary



Art Nouveau
Not to be confused with Art Deco, Art Nouveau also got its start in Paris but it became popular during the latter part of the 19th century during the era now known as La Belle Époque. This style features subtly flowing lines and highly stylized organic elements.


Art Silk Area Rug Glossary



Art Silk
A synthetic fiber featuring the look and feel of silk. Also sometimes referred to as “rayon” or “viscose”, art silk affords the luxurious texture of silk at a fraction of the cost. When shopping for a textile, you may find that art silk is often mixed with other fibers such as polyester and real silk.


Aubusson Area Rug Glossary



There are two things that the word “Aubusson” can refer to. First there are the classic Aubusson rugs that date to 17th century France. Second, there are replicas – typically made in India or China and sold as Aubusson style – that are now widely available for purchase as floor coverings. An antique Aubusson is a flat-woven textile that was typically used as a tapestry.


Axminster Area Rug Glossary



At once a term referring to both a method of weaving originally created in Axminster, England, and the brand “Axminster ” itself, Axminsters typically feature a colorful pile made from soft fibers and attached to a stiff backing. Buy one and you’ll have the distinction of owning the same type of floor covering that graces the home of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.


Backing Area Rug Glossary



The base of a floor covering that the pile has been stitched or woven onto. Backing comes in a wide variety of materials depending on quality and serves to hold the body of a textile together.


Bamboo Area Rug Glossary



Bamboo is a natural and strong material used for a variety of functions both in textiles and building materials. Bamboo has become popular in recent years as a choice for durable and sustainable hardwood flooring. In much the same way, rugs made from this material also hold up well against stains and foot traffic. If you suffer from allergies, bamboo might be a good choice because of its hypoallergenic qualities and ability to ward off odor.


Berber Area Rug Glossary



Originally constructed by the Berber people, a North African tribe, Berber floor coverings consist of a looped pile that is traditionally hand woven. Color patterns are typically plain but the lighter-colored pile will bear tiny bits of a darker shade.


Blend Area Rug Glossary



A somewhat ambiguous term, blend typically refers to any mix of fabrics or fibers used in rug making. For example, you may see that a rug’s pile construction is a blend of silk, nylon, and cotton.


Boucle Area Rug Glossary



From the French for “curl,” boucle is a type of yarn that features loops of pile in a variety of sizes that gives it a stubby, textured appearance.


Boteh Area Rug Glossary



A decorative element resembling a pear that is found on many Persian rugs. Boteh comes from the word “bush” and can represent a number of natural items including pinecones, leaves, or fire.


Braided Area Rug Glossary



Whether the final product is round, oval, or rectangular in design, braided fabric ropes are intertwined and then stitched together to create a thick and durable floor covering. Dating back to the Colonial era, American settlers would use scraps of cloth to create tightly knitted pieces that would keep their feet warm during the chilly winter months. Today, most braided rugs are made commercially by machine, but the thick texture still remains.


Carding Area Rug Glossary



A term traditional to wool making, carding refers to the mechanical process of creating yarn. Fibers are passed back and forth between two surfaces whether by hand or on a machine. This process cleans the fiber, blends it, and straightens out tangles to create a continuous thread.


Casual Area Rug Glossary



While the word “casual” might make you think “cheap”, in this terminology casual means more relaxed than formal. Casual designs can either be a solid color or feature unique patterns including wording, flowers, swirls, geometric shapes, and even animal prints.


Chenille Area Rug Glossary



Stemming from the French word for caterpillar, chenille is a type of colored yarn named for the process used to create it. Chenille is known for its soft texture, which is the result of a twisted yarn pile that stands at right angles and gives the fabric an iridescent sheen. Though generally manufactured from cotton, synthetic fabrics like rayon and olefin can also be used when making chenille.  Crazy about chenille?  Read more here.


Chevron Area Rug Glossary



Recently the subject of a very popular trend in home décor, a chevron is a shape or pattern in the form of an upside V. Chevrons harken to military uniform detailing and are often paired with bold colors in textiles and floor coverings.


Classical Area Rug Glossary



A type of Persian rug that would have been popular in the courts of Persian royalty around the beginning of the 19th century. Typically silk or wool in construction.


Combing Area Rug Glossary



Much like you’d straighten the tangles in your hair, artisans use a comb-like instrument to separate and untangle knots from yarn during the weaving process.


Contemporary Area Rugs Glossary



Another term that you may hear used interchangeably with the word “modern”. See the entry for modern.


Color Symbolism Area Rugs Glossary



Color Symbolism
Just one facet of the ongoing lore of Persian rugs, certain colors used by artisans were often associated with different historical figures or were meant to invoke a specific emotion. For example, the Prophet Mohammed is often associated with green while blue symbolized honesty and solitude.


Cotton Area Rugs Glossary



As you probably already know, cotton is one of the most widely used fibers in both clothing and textiles. In rug making, cotton has been traditionally used as a backing for other types of materials. However in recent years, cotton items have become an attractive and durable alternative to pricier pieces made from wool or silk. Cotton area rugs are soft to the touch and easy to clean, making them ideal for a variety of décor settings.


Cowhide Area Rugs Glossary



Not to be confused with leather, cowhide is the unbleached, unprocessed skin of a cow. Tanning methods are often used to make these skins softer, improve their odor, and to help them age properly. A backing is applied to help the skin keep its shape and to assist in its practical application as a floor covering or wall hanging. Some of these skins, usually those of lower quality, are then dyed to resemble zebra or tiger skins for a more exotic flair.


Cross-Woven Area Rugs Glossary



Sometimes called “bias woven”, this type of textile employs a weave that is done from side to side rather than up and down. This technique accomplishes a number of things: it allows for delicate detailing, it lets the weaver use more colors, and it accomplishes the subtle color change across the pattern that is seen in Abrash designs. In this type of piece, fringe is woven into the motif rather than simply added to the end of it later.

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Curvillinear Area Rugs Glossary



Besides being just a really fun word to say, curvilinear refers the looping or curved patterns found in textiles. Picture scrolls, swirls, and rambling floral designs.


Cut-Pile Area Rugs Glossary



Refers to the visible end of the textile’s fibers. When a floor covering is completed, a manufacturer or artisan will sometimes trim the ends of pile to give them a uniform and even appearance.


Denier Area Rugs Glossary



A term derived from the name for a French coin, denier is a unit of measurement for fiber density.


Density Area Rugs Glossary



Refers to the density of knots or pile in a floor covering. A very dense textile will have more tufts or knots per square inch than one with a lower density. In a floor covering with a high pile, you can determine the density of it by running your hands through the tufts to examine each fiber at its base or simply turn it over and look at it from the back. As a general rule, the denser the pile or knots, the higher the quality and durability will be.


Dhurrie Area Rugs Glossary



Also sometimes seen as “durry” or “durrie”, this is a traditional Indian floor covering. Most dhurries are thick in texture and are of a flat-woven variety. The majority of these types are made from cotton and created by hand, making them lightweight and low maintenance. Patterns and color use vary greatly across manufacturer.


Dyes Area Rugs Glossary



A substance used to give color to any material. Whether derived from natural sources such as plants or minerals or made from synthetic chemicals, dyes are used in textile making to color pile fibers and fabrics like wool, cotton, or silk.


Eco-Friendly Area Rugs Glossary



While many floor coverings are made from sustainable materials, buying an eco-friendly one is a way to be certain your home’s environmental footprint stays minimal. Many of these textiles are made from natural and sustainable grasses such as sisal or jute. Other biodegradable fibers like hemp or organic cotton may also bear the term “eco-friendly”.


Embroidery Area Rugs Glossary



A generalized term referring to needlework. Embroidered elements are generally used a detail in textiles whether to personalize an item or to give a design a greater sense of intricacy.


Empire Area Rugs Glossary



Taking inspiration from classical architecture, French Empire rugs were first seen at Napoleon’s home, Malmaison, in the early 19th century. These floor coverings relied on symbols and designs that depicted a romanticized Roman Empire. Textile motifs, even in replicas available for purchase today, largely employ a needlepoint look featuring repeating patterns and strong borders. This style heavily influenced the American Federal style.


Faux Silk Area Rugs Glossary



Faux Silk
A synthetic material made to resemble the look and feel of natural silk. See also “Art Silk”.


Federal Area Rugs Glossary



Inspired by the geometric architecture that was so heavily favored by the Unite States’ founding fathers, Federal rugs were first seen adorning the hallways and offices of the US government buildings in Washington, D.C. Much like the French Empire style textiles, strong patterns and classic symmetrical design is a hallmark of this style.


Field Area Rugs Glossary



The center section of a floor covering. A field will usually feature one center motif, such as a medallion, surrounded by a decorative border. This style is most commonly seen on Orientals and Persians.


Fiber Area Rugs Glossary



Threading or filament created by or for yarn either made from a natural or synthetic weaving material.


Fine Area Rugs Glossary



Refers to the condition of a rug, particularly an antique. This means that are no tears, stains, or signs of heavy wear. An item that is also in fine condition will not show any signs of repair work.


Flat-Weave Area Rugs Glossary



Flat-weave rugs are made by hand on a loom and lack the tufts that their hand-knotted counterparts have. Flat weaves also tend to be very thin once they’re finished, making them great for low-traffic areas or even as wall hangings. Recently very popular, flat-weave rugs are at once durable, easy to clean, and allergen resistant.


Flokati Area Rugs Glossary



Typically woven from sheep’s wool, Flokati is a type of traditional Greek textile that has a fluffy shag texture. Flokatis are generally left un-dyed to show off their natural white or off-white color but can be found in varying colors. As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the Flokati, the more expensive it will be. In recent years, Flokatis have become a popular choice in modern American home décor because of their soft texture.


Foundation Area Rugs Glossary



Consisting of warps and wefts, a handmade rug’s most basic structure is sometimes referred to as its foundation.


French Provencal Area Rugs Glossary



French Provencal
Sometimes also referred to as “French country”, French Provencal refers to a style of design that harkens to the Provence region of France. This is a relaxed, casual style that celebrates natural elements and embraces light. Popular French country colors include yellow, blue, beige and soft reds reminiscent of terra cotta tiles and sun-drenched fields.


Fringe Area Rugs Glossary



A decorative element usually found attached to the edges of a textile, fringe is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “threads left loose or formed into tassels or twists”.


Gabbeh Area Rugs Glossary



Though Gabbeh is classified as a type of Persian, the majority of Gabbehs are thicker and have a more coarse texture than the typical Persian. The word “Gabbeh” itself comes from the Persian language and means uncut or raw. Designs tend to be geometric and simple with the use of many bright colors. Though these rugs are generally handmade, the texture and quality makes them less expensive than a traditional Persian.


Geotmetric Area Rugs Glossary



Describes a specific style of pattern or motif that consists of lines, circles, and shapes with right angles. This term can also be used loosely by some manufacturers to describe any type of repeating pattern that covers the entire surface of a floor covering, but that is a misnomer.


Ground Area Rugs Glossary



Ground refers to the primary color featured in the background of a design or motif. Many floor coverings are categorized by color according to the color seen in the “ground”.


Guard Stripes Area Rugs Glossary



Guard Stripes
A smaller border or stripes that may be featured to the side of a piece’s main border. Guard stripes add depth and detailing to any design.


Hand-Hooked Area Rugs Glossary



A hand-hooked or a “hooked” rug is made by using a small needle to hook the item’s yarn through its backing. This technique affords for intricate designs and elegant patterns. The finished pile created by the hooked pieces of yarn is often left untrimmed, so you may spot small hooked pieces of pile when examining one of these.


Hand-Knotted Area Rugs Glossary



As their name implies, hand-knotted floor coverings require an artisan to tie each and every knot in it by hand. Each of those knots is connected to the backing and creates a pattern. Hand knotting stems from an ancient tradition and many artisans can create between 50 and 20,000 knots per square inch of carpet. Though hand-knotted textiles tend to be among the most expensive on the market, the result is a durable, quality piece that’s made to last a lifetime.


Hemp Area Rugs Glossary



Hemp is a natural fiber that lends a supple durability to fabrics that are made from it. Hemp is naturally thick, meaning it creates a long-lasting textile. Many hemp plants are also grown organically, making a hemp rug a great choice for the environmentally conscious consumer.


Ikat Area Rugs Glossary



Similar to tie dye, ikat is fabric dying technique that uses bindings to create a specific pattern. Multiple colors of dye can be applied to produce more elaborate patterns until the desired result is achieved. The artisan then removes the bindings to reveal the finished product. The word “Ikat” has Indonesian origins, but the technique has been employed by manufactures the world over especially in South America. Ikats will often have a nicely faded-out appearance where the fabric bindings had once been.


Jute Area Rugs Glossary



Jute is a naturally occurring plant fiber that is commonly used to make burlap and rope. Though soft and shiny in its natural state, when woven, jute creates a strong, course thread. Jute area rugs are at once environmentally friendly, durable, and color-fast. It also stands up well in areas with strong UV exposure, making it a great choice for a sunroom or an outdoor setting.


Kashmir Area Rugs Glossary



Kashmir is a region of Northern India that borders with China and is near a number of mountain ranges including the Himalayas. In terms of rug making, most Kashmirs are actually not indigenous to that region but rather are Persian in both origin and style. This style will feature intricate motifs in a wide variety of colors and usually include some sort of floral pattern.


Kilim Area Rugs Glossary



A highly decorative, flat- woven carpet native to Pakistan or the Balkan region. Kilims are tightly interwoven and the finished product shows relatively no pile. Designs are intricate with diamond shapes, connected medallions, and other geometric motifs. Lighter colors are almost overwhelmingly favored with pink, ivory, and red being the most common. Though they’re often used as floor coverings in Western homes, Kilims have traditionally served as either prayer rugs or wall tapestries.


Knot Area Rugs Glossary



Tiny ties in the surface of a textile that make up its surface. Pile-woven items will contain either thousands of asymmetrical or symmetrical knots to create their designs.


Knot Count Area Rugs Glossary



Knot Count
The number of knots per square inch contained in a floor covering. In general, the higher the knot count, the finer (or higher quality) the rug will be. Knot counts should always be taken on the back of the item and range from “super fine” to “very coarse”.


Knot Density Area Rugs Glossary



Knot Density
Refers to the total number of knots found in a handmade rug.


Kufic Script Area Rugs Glossary



Kufic Script
Thought to take its origins in Arabic writing, Kufic script is typically used as a border. This style of design was first seen in Persian floor coverings and paintings around the 12th century and has a major presence in Islamic art to this day. Perhaps the most well-known incident of Kufic script today can be seen in the writing on the flag of Iraq.

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Leather Area Rugs Glossary



Made from cowhide, leather rugs typically have a short pile that has been dyed to create a soft, luxurious-looking surface that looks great with modern décor. The construction of these pieces is hand-hooked or handmade, assuring a quality worthy of its material. Add one to your home as a conversation piece or for an elegant touch in any room.


Loom Area Rugs Glossary



Ranging from a simple machine meant to assist with handmade pieces, to a complex automated system run by computer, a loom is the structure upon which weaving takes place. Looms can be mobile or fixed, vertical or horizontal, all depending on the desired outcome of the floor covering being made. At its most basic function, a loom will hold warps taught so that wefts can be woven or knotted onto them.


Loop Pile Area Rugs Glossary



Loop pile
Created for the purpose of minimizing tracking, this is a type of pile in which the strands are purposefully left uncut, therefore leaving the “looped” appearance of the individual rug fibers. This is a great choice for high traffic areas as loop pile, such as Berber, tends to be durable and easy to clean.


Machine Made Area Rugs Glossary



Machine Made
A floor covering or textile that has been made using a weaving machine and not made by hand.


Madder Area Rugs Glossary



Used for centuries as a dye, madder is a plant native to Southwest Asia. It produces a yellow flower and spiraling leaves, but has a deeply red root that produces a very effective red dye.


Medallion Area Rugs Glossary



The large center design found in a classic Oriental rug. Medallions can be anything from large circles or diamonds to shields layered with tribal detail and meaning. Meant to serve as a decorative focal point, medallions are normally surrounded by borders and other detailing.


Medallion and Corner Area Rugs Glossary



Usually paired with a center medallion, this type of motif will feature four smaller medallions in each corner of the design.


Merino Area Rugs Glossary



A breed of sheep that shares its name with the type of wool that it creates. Generally regarded as among the softest wool produced by any sheep, Merino wool has highly fine fibers that lend a sense of luxury to any home decor.


Mid-Century Modern Area Rugs Glossary



Mid-Century Modern
Typified by a sense of clean simplicity, mid-century modern is a type of home décor design that embraces nature, light, and organic elements. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was one of its pioneers and his sense for bringing the outdoors in and working with nature instead of against it are among the hallmarks for this style. Textiles of this motif will embrace natural fabrics and simple patterns.


Minor Border Area Rugs Glossary



Minor border
Where most floor covering borders feature a single band all the way around the design, a minor border is a smaller or more narrow border that follows the line of a larger main border.


Modern Area Rugs Glossary



Modern styles typically have bold and unique patterns that reflect a more current or contemporary design than a traditional oriental or antique. In terms of construction, Modern can mean either hand-hooked, hand-tufted, or made by machine.


Motif Area Rugs Glossary



A motif can mean a few things. First, it’s any type of repeating pattern or design. Next, it also refers to the sewn-on decorative print seen in any textile. This term is often used interchangeably with the word “design”, but obviously the two terms can have different meanings.


Multi-Level Loop Pile Area Rugs Glossary



Multi-level loop pile
Creating an eye-catching three dimensional effect, this is a type of uncut pile that has loops of varying height. This design has a modern appeal and is capable of withstanding heavy foot traffic.


Nap Area Rugs Glossary



Nap is a reference to the direction that a floor covering’s pile appears to be facing. If you’ve ever vacuumed your carpet and seen it appear to “poof” back up or change direction, this is the nap.


Natural Dyes Area Rugs Glossary



Natural dyes
Dyes used to color a floor covering that have been made from organic or all-natural materials derived from the earth. Dyes such as these have been usually been culled from plants or minerals and have not been changed at all in a lab.


Natural Rugs Area Rugs Glossary



Natural rug
A floor covering made without any artificial materials including synthetic yarns or dyes. Most natural items are left un-dyed, so the majority are white or beige in color, leaving all of the wow-factor of these pieces to their texture. These have become increasingly popular in the last decade as demand for more natural and eco-friendly items has increased.


New Zealand Wool Area Rugs Glossary



New Zealand Wool
A high grade of soft wool culled exclusively from sheep grown in the country of New Zealand. What makes it so special? The vegetation provided for the herds along with the altitude at which the sheep are raised makes for an incredibly soft, long strand of wool. New Zealand wool will often be mixed with another, more domestic type of wool to offset the cost of importing.


Neoclassical Area Rugs Glossary



Popularized during the 18th and 19th centuries, neoclassical art and design harkens back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome (known as the Classical period). This was a revival of orderly design that favored symmetry (Early Americans loved this type of design — picture the United States Capitol Building and you’ve got the right idea). Neoclassical rugs often feature medallions surrounded by one or more borders. Symmetry is always key and designers during this period would sometimes coordinate floor coverings to a room’s ceiling patterns. Other, more specific names for rugs popularized during this time period include Empire, Aubusson, and Federal.


Nomadic Area Rugs Glossary



Textiles used by sheep herders who spend time migrating with their flock. These floor coverings are typically small, handmade, and feature tribal patterns.


Novelty Area Rugs Glossary



Novelty is a term ascribed to any item featuring a unique and whimsical pattern or design. Sports team logos, cartoon characters, animals, ocean themes, and kitchen items are just a few of the motifs you might find when looking at a novelty floor covering. This type is a great idea for a children’s room, “man cave”, sun porch, or pretty much any area of your home where you want to inject a little fun.


Nylon Area Rugs Glossary



Nylon is one of the more commonly used fibers in American textile making. It is a synthetic polymer that produces a silky and resilient fiber that has great stain-resistant properties. Nylon floor coverings also clean up fairly easily, which makes them a solid choice for areas that encounter a lot of foot traffic or households with pets and children.


Ochre Area Rugs Glossary



Sometimes spelled as “ocher”, this is a natural pigment made up of hydrated iron oxide (a type of rust). Colors of ochre range from yellow and deep orange to brown and people have been using it as a dye since the time of the ancient Greeks.


One-Sided Area Rugs Glossary



A floor covering with a design on only one side of it. This type of piece will usually have a backing made of one solid piece of material on the back. A rug of this type cannot be flipped to distribute wear on the opposite side.


Oriental Area Rugs Glossary



A handmade floor covering that gets its historic origins in Asia, Orientals are made by weaving or knotting fibers either with or without pile. This type of weaving has been passed down among tribes or families to create unique and sometimes priceless works of art that can last several lifetimes. You may also hear of these types referred to as “antique”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are actual antiques. Orientals are a true investment that requires care and attention.


Pattern Area Rugs Glossary



A repeating design meant to serve as decoration on a floor covering or textile.


Persian Area Rugs Glossary



Traditionally made in what is now the country of Iran, Persians are among the most priceless works of tribal art in the world. These are made by hand and have a design that usually includes borders, center medallions, and repeating patterns.


Peshawar Area Rugs Glossary



Named for a town in northern Pakistan, this is a type of floor covering features a large-print design, usually in gold or ivory, spread over a thin pile. Peshawars are often treated to a process called tea washing (see “tea wash”) that leaves them with a distinctive, faded look.


Pictorial Area Rugs Glossary



As the name implies, pictorials feature life-like images of people, landscapes, or animals. Persian by tradition, the first pictorial rugs became popular at the end of the 19th century. Back then, pictorial subjects included depictions of reproductions of famous works of art, classic heroes, and world leaders. These types of textiles are typically made from silk or wool and many are framed and used as wall art instead of as a floor covering. You may also hear of pictorials referred to as “picture carpets” or “rug tableau”.


Pile Area Rugs Glossary



The soft top surface of a floor covering. Pile is formed from either uncut or cut loops of fibers and can either be plush or coarse depending on the material used in construction.


Pile Height Area Rugs Glossary



Pile Height
The height of the loops or fibers used to form a rug’s pile.


Polyester Area Rugs Glossary



Chalk another one up to the polymer category – polyester is a widely used fabric made from naturally-occurring chemicals such as those produced by plant cuticles. You can find polyester in everything from the lining of couch cushions to wire insulation. In floor coverings, polyester provides a highly durable surface that is also colorfast and wrinkle resistant. You will find a wide variety of polyester rugs that have been specially crafted to mimic every type from oriental to shag.


Polypropylene Area Rugs Glossary



Believe it or not, polypropylene is a type of plastic. It’s a polymer that can be molded into fibers and then dyed to create a variety of home décor items. Perhaps the most attractive thing about polypropylene in a décor setting is its moisture resistance. Polypropylene floor coverings work well in humid settings and have proven to be quite durable.


Rug Pad Area Rugs Glossary



Rug pad
A rug pad is a thin, protective layer of material, usually made of rubber or a rubber-type material, that secures the floor covering to its place on the floor, protects the piece, and helps provides a non-slip surface during walking.

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Runner Area Rugs Glossary



Also referred to as a “corridor rug”, this is a narrow, usually rectangular floor covering typically used on a staircase or in a hallway. Runners make a great transitional piece between rooms and help provide an elegant focal point for hallways.


Saffron Area Rugs Glossary



Ranging in tone from deep orange to orange-yellow, saffron is a natural dye that is sourced from stigma found on the flower of the crocus. Fibers such as wool are first dyed using this color and then woven into colorful patterns.


Savonnerie Area Rugs Glossary



An Oriental-style floor covering originating in France during the mid-17th century and named for the factory that first created them, the Savonnerie Manufactory. Made from wool with silk elements knotted throughout, Savonnerie motifs at first closely followed the Persian model. Later, the manufactory began producing more French-style pieces that featured multiple borders, flowery patterns, and medallions framed by heavy leafing. Designs made by this group were entirely the property of the French royal family until 1768, but today replica designs can be purchased by anyone.


Sea Grass Area Rugs Glossary



Sea grass
Yet another renewable and durable fiber, sea grass is found in the tall-growing plants native to wetland areas around the world. Naturally stain-resistant, sea grass area rugs are a beautiful and affordable choice for any casual setting. The pile on these types lays flat and cleans easily.

A floor covering that is no less than 25 years old and no more than 60 years in age.


Semi-Worsted Wool Area Rugs Glossary



Semi-Worsted Wool
A type of wool that is considered to be of very good quality, though not the highest quality available on the market (see “Worsted Wool”). Semi-worsted means this type of wool has been created by combing together high-grade wool with a medium grade wool.


Shag Area Rugs Glossary



Fun and a little bit retro, this style is made from a hand-tufted acrylic that has a sumptuous, soft feeling underfoot. Shags typically come in one sold color, but some feature two colors or even variegated color. This is a great choice if you’re concerned about the way the piece feels as well as how it looks.


Sheen Area Rugs Glossary



A shiny or lustrous appearance that is often soft in texture. Textiles featuring silky yarns or those that have been given a special finishing treatment are said to exhibit sheen.


Silk Area Rugs Glossary



Among the most luxurious fabrics in the world, silk is traditionally made by weaving fibers produced by silk worms. Artisans the world over have been using silk to weave durable pieces that stand the test of time. However, silk textiles can be expensive to purchase because silk itself is expensive to produce. That’s why you may often find silk either mixed with another fiber such as wool or used as an accent instead of as the main fiber.


Sisal Area Rugs Glossary



Deriving from the agave plant, sisal, like jute, is a naturally occurring fiber that creates a strong material suitable for many uses. In floor coverings, it blends nicely with other materials such as wool or acrylic. If you’re interested in a sisal, it’s best to keep it out of overly humid areas as exposure will cause the material to expand and shorten its life.


Southwestern Area Rugs Glossary



Southwesterns take their patterns and style from décor traditionally found in the American west. Southwesterns often have the look of textiles traditionally created by Native American artisans, though many are created on machine by larger home décor companies. Colors popular to this type of design are usually muted and have a soft look that blends gently into the room’s décor.


Static Area Rugs Glossary



Static electricity, or a static charge, is a small charge given off when two surfaces contact and then separate. Unlike the electricity that flows through the wires in your walls, static does not create a current or transmit energy. It merely stays right where it is, creating a brief sensation that can be both felt and heard (or even seen if it’s dark enough). Static is often a concern when it comes to floor coverings because much of it can be generated simply by walking across one. Anti-static treatments are often applied to eliminate this reaction.


Style Area Rugs Glossary



The dictionary defines style as “a particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character”. When it comes to décor, style has come to mean a particular type. For example, Oriental and Contemporary are two different styles of floor covering.


Synthetic Dyes Area Rugs Glossary



Synthetic dyes
Dyes used to color a floor covering that have been created using chemicals. The base for these dyes may lie in a natural source – such as madder – but a chemical compound has been added to change the hue or give it another property such as colorfastness.


Tapestry Area Rugs Glossary



A woven textile traditionally used as artwork and created on a loom. The word tapestry comes from the Latin root for “heavy fabric”. Navajo rugs and Kilims are both considered types of tapestries.


Tea Wash Area Rugs Glossary



Tea Wash
A chemical process that gives a new rug an aged look. The item isn’t actually washed in tea, but rather a brown dye solution that closely resembles the tea you drink. Tea washing was very popular in the 1990’s when there was a high demand for new décor with an antique look. Tea washing gave textiles a golden patina that softened bright colors and made textiles appear slightly faded.


Traditional Area Rugs Glossary



Traditional is a bit of a general term that refers to traditional styles such as Persian or Oriental though a traditional might not be imported or even antique. Many of these will be in the style of a Persian or Oriental and feature similar patterns and designs without the same craftsmanship.


Transitional Area Rugs Glossary



A type of rug that blends motifs from both traditional (such as Persian or Oriental) and contemporary designs to create a unique floor covering. For example, you may see a classic medallion mixed with the vibrant colors and flowing patterns of more modern designs. Transitionals are a strong choice in a room with an eclectic feel or anywhere you want to blend classic style with modern sensibility.


Tribal Area Rugs Glossary



Similar to the Nomadic carpets, tribal rugs are floor coverings or mats traditional created by tribal groups and often bearing symbols and patterns that have been passed down as part of that tribe’s material culture. Buyers should be aware, however, that the word “tribal” can often be ascribed to many varying types of patterns or motifs (including some types of Persians, Navajos, and so on) but may not necessarily be made by someone from that tribe or even by hand.


Tufted Area Rugs Glossary



While still made by hand, this type of textile is made using a special tufting gun that pushes each fiber of the rug’s design through a pre-printed background. Many tufteds are of the same quality as their hand-knotted counterparts, but quicker production time makes them more affordable. Tufted pieces can also withstand heavy foot traffic and typically last up to 20 years of heavy use.


Velour Area Rugs Glossary



Similar to velvet, velour is a type of fabric that has a soft nap with a thick texture. But unlike velvet, velour has a highly stretchy texture that makes it great for upholstery and clothing. When it comes to floor coverings, velour can lend a sumptuous and sophisticated look. Contemporary patterns lend an indulgent feel that begs to be touched and adds a sense of warmth to any décor. Velour is usually made from cotton but can be sometimes be made from polyester depending on how the eventual product will be used.


Warp Area Rugs Glossary



The vertical or lengthwise threads that make up a woven floor covering. Before the weaving process has started, the warp threads are attached to the loom. The horizontal threads, known as the weft, are then passed back and forth across the warp to create the woven structure of the textile. Oddly enough, the word “warp” itself comes from an Old English expression meaning “that which is thrown across”.


Weave Area Rugs Glossary



When shopping for a floor covering, the noun form of word weave will refer to the type of technique used during the construction process. Hand tufted, hand hooked, and flat weave are just a few of the types you may come across and each of them refer both to the creation process and the eventual product. In its verb form, “weave” will refer to the process of making a floor covering.


Weft Area Rugs Glossary



Thread that makes up the horizontal structure of a woven floor covering is known as the weft. During the weaving process, the weft fibers are passed across the vertical threads, which are known as the warp threads. In many types of handmade rugs, the weft will be passed through the warp using a tool known as a shuttle whereas machine made rugs will employ a mechanized “flying shuttle” to speed up the process. If you’re having trouble visualizing how weft works, think of what it’s called in some parts of North America: “filling yarn”.


Wool Area Rugs Glossary



Just like the wool you’d find in a sweater or blanket, many rugs are made from varying types of sheep’s wool. Though they range in quality, wool is among the most popular and long-lasting types of materials textiles can be made from. You will find a wide variety of styles and colors available in wool.


Worsted Wool Area Rugs Glossary



Worsted wool
Considered to be the finest type of sheep’s wool available, worsted wool refers to the longest, finest strands of wool. During the “worsting” process, the longest and finest strands in the bulk wool are separated from the shorter, courser strands by combing.


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