Rug Reflections ...
With all the time we spent in our homes over the past couple of years, I'm sure that many people are realising that their spaces can become more cozy with the simple addition of the perfect rug. Now there are rugs... and there are rugs and I have a penchant for them!
Of course, selecting a rug boils down to the perennial question of how much money you or your client is prepared to part with. For a smaller budget I would always recommend buying a vintage rug over a cheaper new one - many contemporary rugs are poorly made, pile almost immediately and simply don't endure the test of time. Needless to say that if you or your client doesn't really have a budget, then the world is your oyster, as they say.
Knowing the true provenance of a rug used to be quite a minefield, but nowadays there are now many measures in place to ensure that we can make an educated choice to ensure that the rug has been produced by craftsmen earning fair wages and having good working and living conditions; that the production is eco-friendly and that no child labour was used in the making of the rug. Goodweave is an NGO which works tremendously hard in ensuring that fair trade standards are respected and that rug dealers do their part to commit also, giving us peace of mind that we are making a valued recommendation to our clients. So remember to check that any new rug you buy is respecting these essential standards.
I love to source rugs, and attending Trade Fairs teaches me so much and keep us up to date with the latest technology and keep us abreast of specialised manufacturers and allow us to interact with new rug showrooms. In the US, there is a national "Rug Show", where literally millions of rugs are on display, bringing together rug wholesalers, smaller talented artisanal rug designers, such as Lucy Tupu and the larger more well-known rug showrooms such as a few of my favourites: The Rug Company , STARK, Samad, ABC Carpet & Home and Rug Star. There are presentations by specialized ateliers who can create a bespoke rug from any design you specify in any palette (below I'm at an Art DayWorkshop coordinated by the Canadian company Creative Matters, who will generate a custom rug to your precise specifications - starting from a simple concept or a watercolour painting), there are talks by rug designers and frankly anything and everything rug-related.
Whilst visiting Maison et Objet and Decoff in Paris and Salone del Mobile in Milan, I relish in seeing the vast selection of luxury rugs which are launched for these important Trade Fairs, below are some images from recent visits.
Turkey remains the world's largest exporter of rugs, followed by India and China. Sourcing good quality rugs can be intimidating, but once you learn about materials used in the construction, different qualities, its durability, knot count, whether machine made, hand tufted or hand woven, you will be in a much stronger position to make a qualified decision in the selection of a rug. I will write another post on rugs - including how to source, how to measure and determine the correct-sized rug, the differences between machine made, hand-tufted and hand-knotted rugs, the historical context of rugs, rug trends, questions you need to know to ask when sourcing, and also talk about the importance of using a rug pad. I will also explore latest trends in rugs, which include the incorporation of metal logos and luxurious metallics (see below for a teaser)!
A rug serves as a tangible, physical and visual platform for a room - in fact it should be treated like a piece of art. A good quality rug is pliable, its colours will not run or bleed, and don't forget that its material dictates durability and longevity. Following on from my previous post, here are some useful pointers regarding sourcing a rug, which I always refer to when sourcing for clients.
Key things to be considered when sourcing a rug:
- The purpose of the rug;
- Amounts of natural and artificial light in the area where the rug will be;
- Room size and configuration;
- Traffic (high, low, offset etc);
- Which material and construction will work best;
- Ceiling height;
- A rug's visibility.
How to optimise the space/correct rug size:
Of course the placing of rugs is subjective, like so many other things, but the basic rule of thumb is to leave a border of approximately .6 metre (60 cm or two feet!) between the edge of the rug and the wall, for the width of a room, and a little more for the length (.7 metre). A rug should anchor a room, don't create a rug island effect by skimping of a smaller rug instead of choosing the optimal size.
For dining rooms, you should calculate the size of the rug so that when all the chairs are pulled out - ie so people can sit down - and add about 30cm around those dimensions. Similarly, for bedrooms, everyone likes to get out of bed and feel a little luxury between their toes - ideally leave 60 cm either side of the bed.
Generally for living rooms, all furniture should sit on the rug, with the only exception being when a sofa for example is placed near a wall - of course any good designer knows that no furniture should be right up next to a wall as the beauty of the back of furniture can often be as stunning (if not more so) than the front or side aspects.
A rug from one zone/room should NEVER encroach into other areas - ie a living room rug should never extend into a hallway.
Getting the correct size of a rug is paramount - it shouldn't be too small for fear of getting lost in the space - ie creating a rug island, nor should it be too big otherwise it will dominate the room and simply be too overpowering.
What to ask when buying/ordering a rug
If you're looking to purchase an old rug, ask what year it was made (any rug made prior to the 1940s can be classified as antique - whilst a 1950s rug is classified as vintage).
What material is it made from? - is it natural or synthetic (eg silk, bamboo silk, viscose, linen or wool)? What is the knot count - if you are commissioning a new bespoke rug you will need to specify the knot count and it has to fit the grid - remember that the texture is very important.
Machine made or natural fibre
Here is a breakdown of the 4 most popular materials used in luxury rugs:
Wool - One needs to remember that good wool has a high percentage of lanoline (making it stain repellant) and will therefore never shed since the fibres are longer. If a rug sheds, it is because its fibres are not interconnected and have a low lanoline content. A wool rug can possess reflective and luxurious qualities and used in a formal or casual setting, depending on how it is crafted. Be mindful that good quality wool comes from mountainous regions with cold winters/climate.
Silk - silk has extremely strong tensile strength and can easily achieve a luxurious feel to any setting it is laid in.
Mohair offers a unique plushness and is often mixed with other organic materials and creates such a luxurious feel to any rug, like your cosiest jumper giving you a well-deserved hug. Mohair possesses extraordinary lustre, is breathable, doesn't shed and can be treated to be non-flammable. The South African label Coral & Hive crafts beautiful hand made rugs made from a delicious curly mohair and karakul wool blend in the most stunning palettes.
Bamboo silk is simply the name given to a rug made from viscose, a blend of viscose and/or fibre removed from bamboo stalks. ... Further, bamboo does not require replanting, making it an ideal clothing, linen and rug fibre. They are beautiful and very soft, with the look of more expensive silk, yet be cautious with bamboo silk or viscose, as they don't stand the test of time - not that practical so far as spillages are concerned - even spilling a glass of water will leave a mark.
The lowdown on different types of rug construction and how to distinguish between them:
The three types of rugs are Hand-knotted, Hand-tufted, and Machine-made:
Hand-knotted rugs are hand-made on a specialised loom. A weaver's taxing work is long but rewarding - each knot having been inserted and tied by hand (on average a weaver might tie about 10,000 knots per day. Consequently their quality is far superior to any other rug and can last for generations. Also known as oriental rugs in many parts of the world, these rugs have a flat pile, are identical on the reverse side and are never backed - in fact you can even flip them. A 9' x 10' sized rug can take up to 2 years to craft and would be in the region of $5k. The quality and invariably the cost of a hand-knotted rug is determined by the number of knots per square inch., ie a higher density represents better quality.
A hand-tufted rug is not entirely made by hand, the name is indeed misleading. Instead, the maker uses a mechanical tool called a tufting gun to "shoot" pieces of wool through small holes on a canvas backing which has the impression of the design drawn on it. There are no knotted strands of wool in a hand-tufted rug. Click on the video link here for the most therapeutic clip of Oakland-based artist Alise Anderson's impressive use of the tufting gun ;)
Machine-made rugs have the lowest performance of the three, are much less durable and are the cheapest - they are made on large power looms, and produced using needling and bonding techniques and are normally latex-backed. Any fringing would have been added after production and serve no purpose but for decoration. The only time I would use machine-made rugs would be in a commercial grade quality for heavy traffic areas.
Hospitality/Contract grade machine made carpets which can be bound as a rug (these are from Sacco Carpet)
Using a rug pad minimises wrinkling and slipping and is an absolute must. Not only does it grip the rug and the floor, but it also serves as a protective layer, reducing friction between the rug and the floor. Pads should not be too thick. Rubber Anchor is a good rug pad to invest in, its smooth surface won't show through even the thinnest of killims; they are natural, constructed of dense sponge rubber and are non-allergenic - you won't regret this decision. Another tip is to always pay the fee for rug spreading, the rug professionals will lay your rugs perfectly without a single crease and is a worthwhile investment.
Remember to choose a socially and environmentally conscious rug - look for Woolmark licences, Charitable Fund or Goodweave logos. I hope this helps everyone in navigating the often overwhelming task of choosing rugs.
Enjoy a selection of images of me sourcing rugs below (hover over the image for descriptions) and Have fun rug shopping and please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any rug questions!