A Persian rug is a much-underrated beautiful art form which has tremendous practicality. A genuine artisan product which is unchanged in the materials and weaving techniques for centuries, a good quality Persian or Oriental rug has the signature of the living spirit imbued within. Many are exactly the same designs and colours, woven with wool, silk, cotton, goat and camel hair which were seen and enjoyed hundreds of years ago. Some are newer creations but still have that definable aura of mankind creating practical beauty with which to furnish their homes- whether a cottage, castle or tent. They are always made by hand i.e. each knot is tied by hand around a warp thread in their thousands or millions. The wool, camel and goat hair came from local flocks, (not so much anymore, with ubiquitous Merino Australasian wool being cheap and soft) the silk from cocoons and from cotton harvests (which is far from being a kind to the environment crop!). Traditionally the dyes were vegetal – i.e. from vegetable, plants, roots, barks and minerals. Nowadays manmade chemicals dyes are used for their inexpensiveness and ease. No machines are used in weaving. By and large it is a sustainable product which provides crucial income across Near, Central and Far Asia.
A Work of Art
A traditional rug is first and foremost an indoor picture- very often a stylized version of an indoor garden with its borders, watercourses and floral motifs. They bring the beauty of nature inside your home. The colours and balance of design provide the perfect foundation on which to build a room and in chillier months give a visual and a practical warmth. A sensible person who has the luxury of starting a room with a blank canvas should choose a rug they love before then taking fabric books and paint swatches to it. You can leaf through thousands of these in situ- try looking at thousands of rugs in the room! Not impossible, but exhausting, time consuming and impractical. It is very satisfying to connect the various elements in the room through picking our either direct or complementary colours.
A Persian or Oriental rug is a taste of the Orient and brings the exotic and unusual into uniform Western homes. A tribal artefact can be small but hung on the wall with a soft spotlight becomes a focal and talking point. A collectable rug made by a bride for her wedding dowry to show her weaving expertise, and therefore her extra value to her new household, is a unique and touching example of human creativity. Many antique and modern rugs use age old symbols to tell a story- whether of the natural world the weaver has observed and soaked up around her or of more formal Pan-Asiatic motifs seen in the architecture of mosques and palaces.
Silk rugs are the epitome of luxury and beauty. Often made to a very high knot count, as silk is a smaller and more malleable yarn than any other material, they give the user a 360-degree difference in tones and shades. The detail in a fine silk rug is quite astonishing and it is hard for us non-weavers to believe the knots were tied by hand. They are surprisingly hard wearing, and silk is the best material for regulating temperature. They are best used in a quiet area, like a study or bedroom, as they can become dirty with tar and oils from outdoor shoes and should only be cleaned by an expert. A pictorial silk rug hung on a wall and well-lit is an original way of decorating and shows the beauty of design, colour and allover workmanship to its best.
A rug is easily transportable! In these days of increased renting it is one item which can say ‘this is ME and this is MY home’. A good quality handmade rug will immediately cover a depressing or dirty carpet and you will feel the reassurance of cleanliness underfoot. A good selection of small to medium size rugs can be used in the living room, bedrooms and hallway wherever the flat or house.
Rugs are hygienic. Wooden and stone floors do not trap dust and dirt so anyone with allergies should use a wool rug to act as a room filter. Vacuuming once a week on a medium to strong suction will remove the particles. Used with a suitable underlay the dirt will fall through the rug and every six months, or month, the back of the rug and floor underneath should be vacuumed to sanitise this hidden area.
A good quality wool rug can be immersion cleaned by an expert every five years or so. This process will completely sanitise the pile and base whilst bringing the colours back to a close semblance of the newly bought item, albeit with some natural mellowing from light and wear. The pile will stand back up and the softness and pliability will return.
Rugs are practical for every room in the house. In a sitting room they are warm and comfortable to sit and lie on – great for playing games and lounging watching a film. One with plenty of colours and design will hide a wealth of spills and stains thus allowing you to get on with living and not worrying about acres of plain wall to wall carpet. Exactly the same applies to a dining room rug which will give a frame to the table and serve as a blotting paper. Using a wool piled hall runner will completely banish unsightly foot traffic patterns and the dirt is easily vacuumed out.
A hand knotted rug can be restored. An expert can make the repair invisible from the front so always inspect the back of a rug to see any re-woven area. It is not always cost effective to do this but ask a trustworthy expert and they will advise you. Your favourite rug does not have to be thrown away just because the puppy chewed it or a guest spilt wine and did not tell you!
Rugs are incredibly good heat and sound insulation. A north facing room benefits from a thick rug and any room that reverberates sound, especially a noisy dining room, will instantly become bearable as the sound is absorbed. Underfloor heating is a worry for some and is a justifiable concern. Heat from beneath a rug will actually dry out the warp and weft (the base) as well as make any pile, be it wool or silk, brittle. This is the same problem as artificial heat drying out wooden furniture and causing it to crack. Therefore, it is imperative to use a good quality underlay which reduces the effect of the heat.
A good quality rug becomes part of the family. The wool becomes polished with use, especially if leather soled slippers or bare feet tread on it. The natural oils in the wool impart a lustre and sheen that is comparable to the patina on an antique table. The colours, in particular natural vegetal dyes, mellow with light and wear and get better and better with age. For those less particular about perfection the puppy stains and chews, the kids’ spilt juices and the late at night knocked over red wine become part of the family story. In short, a tapestry of family life over the decades.
If you are careful and have bought a good quality rug before properly caring for it over the years it can be either handed down or sold for a reasonable price. However, the latter is rarely true as the market is glutted with new and older rugs – those not at the antique rug stage – so prices are low. However, the use and enjoyment the rug has given is enough and any monies gained from the selling is just a bonus.