The World of Oriental Rugs: Types, Colors, and History

The World of Oriental Rugs: Types, Colors, and History
The World of Oriental Rugs: Types, Colors, and History

One of the first things you’ll hear when you start shopping for a oriental rugs is that it’s an “investment”. Like a fine work of art, a true oriental rug is at once exquisitely beautiful in its appearance and timeless in its quality. Also not unlike a fine work of art is the price tag that sometimes comes along with it.

So, just like you wouldn’t dream of purchasing a painting without first knowing about the artist, it’s best to know a thing or three about oriental styled rugs before you make an investment (there’s that word again!). Where do they come from? What types are considered “oriental”? What colors and designs will I find when I’m shopping for them? These are all fantastic questions to consider when it comes to the world of oriental throw rugs. And your education on the subject starts now!

First, a little history
What truly makes them oriental is how it’s made. They are crafted from a flat-woven fabric that is hand-knotted to its foundation. This traditional weaving style got its start in the Far and Middle East, hence the name. While history can’t quite tell us exactly when they started being made, evidence exists that dates the practice of weaving in ancient Iran as far back as 500 B.C.!

Now for some geography
They were once traditionally made as far east as northern Mongolia or eastern China, but as manufacturing has modernized and popularity increased, you can now find them made as far west as Morocco. You may sometimes hear people refer to different types of oriental styles such as Persian or Turkish rugs. Persian floor coverings always come from Iran (modern-day Persia) and Turkish rugs, as you might have guessed, are made in Turkey. Interestingly enough, the rug world isn’t immune to current events. Sanctions on Iran by the US government have made attaining a true Persian rug very difficult in recent years. If you live in the United States and find one locally, be sure to gather as much information about it as you can before you make your purchase. Either it has been in the country since before the sanctions began or someone could be attempting to pass it off as a Persian when it may have been made elsewhere. Always better safe than sorry!

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Arts and crafts time
What type of fabrics can you expect to find when shopping for an oriental rug? Most are made from a mix of silk and wool. Wool is a very durable and long-lasting fabric that wears well and is great at handling foot traffic. Many rug makers will include silk in the decorative elements of the rug to give it some variation in color and texture. Oriental rugs are also often hand-dyed as part of the weaving process. Once again, the type of fabric used can vary across regions. For example, some manufacturers even use a durable and colorful fiber known as “Allo” that gets its origins from the Himalayan Nettle.

And now the fun part
When it comes time to choose a color or pattern for your oriental rug, you choices will probably be driven by your home’s existing décor. Matching or contrasting the colors or pattern to what you’ve already got in the room it’s meant for is very important. However, designs and colors are often the product of unique cultural meaning and tradition and it can be a lot of fun to find out what they mean. For example, the color white is often meant to signify peace and purity while blue denotes truth and sometimes solitude. Choose red if you’re looking to express joy and green if you want to create a peaceful atmosphere.

If you’re looking to get inspired or you’re wondering how to fit one into a room with modern sensibilities, check out this great collection of photos from New York’s Lonny design magazine. Take note of how the designers have carefully paired simple furnishings and solid colors with oriental styled rugs. The look is balanced, purposeful, and makes your rug the star of show.

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