Contemporary Area Rugs, Oriental Rugs, Persian Carpets

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Area Rug Basics

If you haven't shopped for area rugs before or don't know much about them, they're a bit of a mystery.

For instance, why can you walk into a department store and find a 6'x9' rug for $59, then walk across the street to a specialty rug store and find a rug the same size for nearly $10,000?

Several differences are obvious to nearly everyone. For instance, most shoppers will realize that thickness indicates better quality. And wool or silk certainly should cost more than synthetic fabrics. And a rug made by hand will cost more than a machine-made rug. For most of us, the understanding ends right there.

The middle of the price scale is what really causes confusion, especially when you find a beautiful 6'x9' 100% New Zealand wool in a retail store for $599. It's hard for most people to appreciate the differences between that great value and another 6'x9' 100% New Zealand wool rug for 10 times the price.

We hope to help you understand the differences between a $59 rug and a $10,000 rug, and those priced in between those extremes.

The best way to begin shopping for a rug is to determine how much you're willing to spend. There are many styles of rugs at almost any price, so if you've established a budget, you can concentrate on finding the best rug for the money.

There are many variations of rugs available today with different combinations of fibers and construction techniques involved. Those two categories, construction techniques and fibers, will be the main focus here. Together, those factors are what most influence a rug's price.

First, there are two main types of rugs:

Machine Made - these rugs are made in massive quantities using power tufting machines and looms using almost any type of yarn. These rugs can be made in different textures, styles and sizes quickly and easily and therefore are less expensive than a hand-made rug. There are many differences between tufted and woven rugs. The woven carpets have the pile face woven along with the backing, making them strong and hard-wearing. In the construction of tufted carpets, the pile is inserted into the backing material with needles.

Hand Made - these rugs vary in the amount a person is involved in the construction. Some might simply involve a person using a tool to tuft the rug by hand. Others might start with a person actually spinning the yarn and knotting each rug 1 yarn at a time. In cases such as these, a single 6'x9' rug can take 9 months or longer to construct. If you find a $6,000-$9,000 hand-made rug, that's likely the kind of handcrafted attention involved in its creation. Hand-made rugs are made with natural yarns like wool and silk. Some antique silk and wool rugs can be very valuable and have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In general:

  • If you're looking for one or more rugs to accent your home and have a tighter budget, give strong consideration to machine-made rugs.
  • If you're looking for a beautiful, heirloom-quality investment, look closely at handmade rug choices.
  • For a one-of-a-kind rug, talk to a designer or another informed resource to find a trustworthy rug specialty store.
Fibers in Rug Construction
As important to how a rug is constructed is the fabric used to make it. In the Olefin and Nylon categories, there are two types of yarn; staple and continuous filament (also known as BCF). The staple is much like a chain of yarn strands linked together. The area where the strands are joined forms the weakest point. That's where the fibers are most likely to break loose, leaving small loose filaments or links. The visual result is fuzziness, pilling or shedding.

Just as it sounds, continuous filament is one long strand without the weakness of a link, so filaments are much less likely to break free of the strand. BCF costs more to produce, but is less likely to show long-term wear. This distinction between staple yarns and BCF is a general simplification that doesn't take esoteric differences in the extrusion process into account. But it provides a pretty good rule-of-thumb.

Fabric choices include:
Acrylic (synthetic) - Because acrylic yarn is flammable, it has mostly been used to construct small rugs (4'x6' or smaller) such as bath mats. Recently some acrylic yarns treated with a flame retardant have been used in larger rugs. Acrylic yarns can result in crisp colors and excellent sculpted designs, and they can be very reasonably priced. Olefin (synthetic) - Also known as polypropylene, this yarn is one of the most commonly used. Within olefin yarn choices, there are very large differences in the fiber. Some single-ply olefins are very cheap in both price and quality. However, there are some very well-constructed rugs with excellent stain resistance, fade resistance and other wonderful qualities. Some newer styles in olefin are cottony soft and have beautiful textures. This yarn's low cost and its possibilities make it an exciting choice, but the variety of yarn types available can lead to confusion.

If the rug looks good and feels good AND it is in your price range, don't immediately dismiss it. If you like the style, texture and color, it might be exactly what you're looking for.

Nylon (synthetic) (BCF or Staple) - Some manufacturers use nylon in their rugs. Typically, suppliers that use nylon yarn also make broadloom (wall-to-wall carpet). Nylon is very tough and is priced higher than olefin. It's available in a great number of textures and styles. Many people buy broadloom carpets in small quantities and have them made into rugs, because they like the style and color.

Wool (Natural) - There are many types of wool. As a general rule, wool is very tough and is found in rugs at all levels of quality and price. Wool has a great soft feel to it and is flexible in the way it can be constructed. Some rugs made with what's known as "five-season wools" are some of the toughest imaginable. Of course, once you've spent the money required to purchase a five-season wool, you probably won't put its toughness to the test. You'll be more likely to treat it as the piece of art it is.

Silk (Natural) - Silk is often used as to add accent colors on high-end wool rugs. These delicate accents can really enhance the look and styling of a rug. Silk has a very soft, luxurious feel to it. Though silk can be used to make an entire rug, it will likely be one of the most expensive.

You'll find more detail on cotton/flax/linen and weaving styles such as wilton and axminister in our other articles.

Machine Made- Tufted Hand Made-Knotted
Low Price Middle Price Upper Price
Acrylic Olefin Nylon Wool Silk

This chart gives you a rough idea where most types of rugs fall in a price continuum. And while rugs are not always made of one kind of yarn, the chart can still give you an idea how the blend you've found will affect price.

For example, if you find a 50% wool rug combined with 50% olefin, it will probably cost less than a 100% wool rug. Of course, the construction and the overall quality have to be considered, too.

For much more detailed information about the fibers used in rugs, read our "fiber primer" article.

Area Rug Styles
The following categories show how we've defined the rug styles offered at here. It's a step we've taken to make shopping easier, because styles can be categorized in many different ways across the industry. Even the world's best rug manufacturers use these style names in interchangeable or contradictory ways.

As a result, we have tried to isolate the patterns, colors, motifs and general geographic origins that give a rug its unique character. A quick look here will let you know how we've organized our offering and help lead you to the style you're most interested in.

Characterized by curvilinear patterns, intricate, often intersecting lines. The finest examples of this form were woven between the 16th and 18th century. True "Persian Carpets" are made in Central Asia. They feature wool or silk and the "Persian Knot" construction. Patterns are intricate and highly detailed. In more than five colors sometimes as many as thirty colors, the basic background colors are usually deep reds or blues. This is often what people think of when they think of "Traditional Oriental Rugs."

In our broad definition, we include all rugs that include the traditional oriental motifs often with symbolic meanings, including the Lotus, Vase or Pearl. These rugs are traditionally made from wool or silk. The pile surface is sometimes sculpted for a relief effect. Colors can be light such as peach, white, yellow and shades of blue. The patterns are widely spaced with more background color showing. The following stylized motifs are common and may serve as examples.
  • Bamboo- A symbol of longevity.
  • Canary- A symbol of family harmony
  • Butterfly- connotes great age or time

Usually rugs with a strong Western European influence, containing patterns less than 25 years old. They might reflect an urban lifestyle, geometric styling or any abstract art style or pattern that creates an impression rather than an exact likeness. Modern florals may also be included in this style. Colors can be as simple as black on white, or include bold primary colors.

Native American
These rugs are primarily Southwestern in origin with geometric patterns and blocks. Most are considered "Pueblo" designs or "Navajo," but in our broad definitions, we include the color block and band designs of the Northern Native Americans and South American geometric patterns. Generalizing colors, Southwestern colors include red and orange tones, salmon, rust and browns. North American tribal rugs generally deep blues and primary red bands. Grays and more muted tones are found in South American patterns.

We include all florals here, not just traditional classic European floral styles. Among them are:
  • Aubusson, characterized by an elaborate border and a large medallion containing the floral.
  • Elaborate Savonnerie styles.
  • English Garden, with its floral grouping floating on darker colored background.
Not all of patterns in this group are European in origin; some of the modern Chinese styles would also fit in this section.

These rugs often have more primitive patterns, such as simple geometric shapes and straight lines or stylized animal representations. The Native American styles and the Primitive Tribal styles may cross over into this group, despite their different origins. These Folk-Tribal styles often contain Far Eastern European patterns from south of Russia. We also include North African and Moroccan tribal rugs, because they have similar bold colors and patterns. The designs often have a random, pieced or block feel.

European and Americana
Included in this very broad category are all the European styles that do not have a floral theme, including some French, English, Spanish and Irish Traditions, American braided rugs and Early American motifs. Non-floral European themes in this category include the current and past standards of rug design: Baroque, Rococo, Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.

Themes - Children,
Animals, Sports, Holidays

This self-explanatory category includes all the "theme" rugs of contemporary design.

This general styling takes traditional designs, then uses updated colors and motifs to provide a more modern feel. To be honest, this category includes many styles that just aren't easily labeled.

The essence of early American folk art is re-created in braided texture rugs.


This vendor offers a superb selection of contemporary area rugs, oriental rugs and Persian carpets. You will find rugs at every price range and a nearly unlimited range of styles. This vendor is a rug expert who has worked in the rugs industry for years before moving to the internet; they are a reliable source for thousands of rug and carpeting products. All of their items are carefully packed and shipped so that your order will arrive at your home in top condition.

Care Tips for Your Rug

General Cleaning

Generally, the safest recommendation regarding cleaning any type of rug is to have it done professionally using a steam-extraction method.

Like clothes, how many times the rug will need cleaning depends on the traffic a rug receives. If at all possible, a rug should not be cleaned either too often or too seldom. Caked on dirt is difficult to remove.

Latex-backed rugs (including almost all hand-hooked rugs) must not be cleaned using petroleum based solvents. The solvents destroy the latex glue on the back of the rugs. The rug will lose its body and the pile will become loose when solvents are used for cleaning.

Reversible rugs should be turned over then around, like rotating a mattress. Once both side are dirty, have both sides cleaned. If a rug has been mothproofed, cleaning will remove the compound. Most rugs offered by this vendor have mothproofing compound applied to the yarns during the dyeing process.

Some customer claim that Scotchgard has helped their rugs stay cleaner, but be sure to have it applied it before the rug is used.

Care and Cleaning Instructions for Braided Rugs

You can expect years of beauty and enjoyment from braided rugs when they are maintained properly. Home care is very important for any floor covering, and braided rugs may require some unique maintenance over the years, easily accomplished at home.

When first unrolled, a new braid may have a little wrinkle or bulge appear that prevents it from laying flat on the floor. This is common and is a result of being tightly rolled or folded during shipping.
The wrinkle is easily removed if the proper method is used. Lay the rug as flat as possible. Use a broom handle or similar pole and, starting in the center using a sweeping motion, push one half of the wrinkle to the left. Then push the remaining half of the wrinkle to the right side of the rug. Never push the entire wrinkle to ne side or end of the rug; this only stretches the rug and may damage it.

Reverse and Rotate
Reverse and rotate braided rugs as they soil. This process will prolong the life of the rug by evenly distributing the traffic to both sides.

During initial use, excess sprouts of yarn may work their way to the surface of the rug. This is to be expected, and in no way lessens its wearability. These sprouts should be clipped off at the base with scissors. Do not pull the yarn out as this may result in damage to the rug.

Only the strongest threads are used to stitch the braids together. Should these stitches become broken and cause braids to separate, the rug should be repaired immediately to prevent further damage. The rug can be restored to its original strength by using simple whip stitch to repair it. Start just before the damaged area and stitch the braids together. Extend the stitches just beyond the damaged area and then secure them with a knot. Try to duplicate the thread color and use the same size stitch originally used in sewing the braid.

Vacuum regularly. Do not shake or beat the rug since this treatment could damage it. Clean spills immediately by blotting with a cloth or sponge. Remove any grease spots with ordinary dry cleaning solvents. Professional or "in home" periodic cleaning using the power spray-extraction carpet cleaning method are recommended. Allow to dry flat on the floor. Clean one side at a time and allow it to dry before reversing to clean the other side.

Choose A Professional Cleaner Carefully
- Be sure your cleaner knows how to clean your particular type of rug. Cleaning a kelim, hand-knot, or braid is a lot different from cleaning wall-to-wall carpet!
- Inspect the rug with the cleaner. Note existing stains and damage before it is cleaned.
- Get a signed receipt for the work to be done and a guarantee, if possible, that it will be done.
- Make sure the cleaner can afford an insurance claim should something go wrong.

Always check for colorfastness before cleaning any rug
Using a damp handkerchief, blot an area of the rug. If any comes off on the handkerchief, the dyes may run during cleaning.