How To Clean Your Oriental Rug

I know you all are chomping at the bit to get out there and buy your first Oriental rug, but there’s one last thing we should discuss before I send you out into the real, rug-buying world (I promise I’m not going to cry when that happens. I may shed a tear, but I won’t cry, per se).

You may be asking: “what else is there to learn? We’ve covered history, how they’re made, how to ‘read a rug,’ and the differences between natural dye/hand-spun wool/antique rugs and synthetic dye/machine-spun wool/modern rugs.”

The last thing you should know before you buy a rug is how to clean it.

That’s right: how to clean it.

If you already know you’re buying a new rug, good for you. But in a few months you’re most likely going to want to clean it and you’re going to wish you had read this article. So stick with me. We’re in this together, remember?

It’s a Carpet! It’s a Rug! It’s a…(n) Air Filter?

Some of you may be saying: “what’s the big deal? It’s just a rug. I can just take it out and beat it whenever it gets dirty.” Yes, you’re absolutely right. You could do that. But the problem is these rugs are made of wool. Wool is a natural filter for removing bacteria, dampness and dust from the air around it. Little did you know you get a two-in-one deal when you buy a rug: a decorative asset to your house and a lifetime replacement for the air filters in your house (please don’t neglect your air filters and think that a rug can actually replace them. Because it can’t). All that filtering makes for a dirty rug, though. And that ole “take it out and beat it” technique just will not cut through all that dust, bacteria, and dampness. It needs a deeper clean.

If you don’t believe me, there are other ways to check if your rug is dirty. You can do a corner test by picking up a corner of the rug and, while holding it up, kicking the underside of the rug. If a small amount of dust and wool fibers fly out, that’s totally normal. If a dust cloud that rivals The Dust Bowl circa 1930 comes from the rug, it’s probably time to clean it.

You can also check its cleanliness by rubbing the fabric with your hand in a half-circle motion for 5 to 10 seconds. If your hand is dirty, it’s a good sign the rug is also dirty. Onto the cleaning!

Mr. (or Mrs.) Clean

Just a heads-up, you’ll be doing more than just beating it.

The best place to do this is in a room you don’t mind getting a little dirty, like a utility room or your garage. You could even do it outside. Get some Vitamin D and clean your rug all at the same time! Just make sure whatever surface you’re working with is a clean surface.

First, you’ll need to vacuum both sides of the rug. Then you’re going to shampoo the rug with cool water and soap. You can use a mild liquid soap or a rug shampoo. DON’T use any kind of strong detergent or ammonia water. And make sure you test for color run in a small area before you begin. The last thing you want to do is ruin your priceless magic carpet. Next, you’ll need a soft, long-haired brush or a firm, non-shedding sponge. You’re going to brush the rug firmly in the direction of the weave. Make sure it is thoroughly saturated with soapy water (or rug shampoo).

Wash any rug details (like off-hanging fringes) in the same soapy water solution. Make sure you brush them away from the rug. Now rinse with running water. Using a rubber window squeegee (I’ve found this works best) to squeeze out the excess water. You’ll want to do this in the direction of the weave until you see no more water being forced out. Lay the rug flat to dry, and after one side feels dry to the touch, flip it over so the opposite side can dry. If the rug feels stiff, brush gently through it or vacuum on a light setting.

If you ever encounter a stain, it’s probably best to take it to a professional rug cleaner. Cleaning the whole rug is one thing, but spot treating a stain has the potential to go south if you don’t know what you’re doing. Some jobs are better left to the professionals.

Now you have this beautiful, clean Oriental rug. Good for you. But what happens when you notice the carpet all around is looking a little lackluster?

I had a good friend from the Houston area encounter this problem. He had just bought his first Oriental rug and he was so excited. He had his living room arranged just so, and the rug fit in perfectly with the rest of his interior design. He was planning on throwing a party to show off the new addition to his home. Until he noticed his carpets. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time they’d been cleaned. Luckily enough, he remembered a close friend of his had his carpets cleaned by Katy Carpet Cleaners and had nothing but good things to say about the whole experience.

My friend called them, and they were able to come to his house that same day. When they got there, they were careful with moving all the furniture and his new rug out of the way so they could get started. They were friendly and they were fast, but still did a great job on his carpet. My friend’s party went off without a hitch and thanks to Katy Carpet Cleaners, his carpet was almost getting more attention than his new rug.

The lesson to be learned here is don’t neglect the areas surrounding your rug. You don’t want your rug to stand out because it’s the cleanest thing in the room or because you don’t take care of your carpets. You want your rug to stand out because it is a masterpiece and should be treated as such.

What Else On Oriental Rugs?

I bet you’re tired of hearing from me by now, but I promise that we are finished enduring through all of the boring, dense stuff. Now to the fun stuff!

You may ask, “What else is there to talk about?” We’ve covered everything from the history to thread count to air filters to pet stains. But we’ve never really talked about why these rugs are so popular in the United States. I have a few theories and they’re all concerned with one aspect of our culture.

Pop Culture

That’s right, pop culture. The thing Millennials love to know way too much about and secretly wish existed as a college major choice. Obviously, pop culture has a very large presence in our society. It’s constantly being fed to us through phones, TVs, movies, music, magazines, books, and billboards. Those are just a few examples. Because it is so omnipresent, we are heavily influenced by the images it projects. Whatever it suggests we eat, buy, listen to, watch, do, wear, or say we tend to do. Monkey see, monkey do, and all that jazz.

You may never notice the effect or not want to admit the power it has over us but it’s definitely there. All of this to say exposure to the same thing over time can leave an imprint on our brain of said thing. In this case, it’s rugs. And one outlet that they appear to pop up in the most is movies. I’ve included a few examples below of iconic rugs in popular movies. Movies you may have seen countless time, but never noticed the subtle integration of rugs.

The Shining (1980)

You had to have noticed this one. It’s all over the hotel where much of the movie takes place. That creepy, hexagonal pattern still gives me the creeps when I think about it. It makes me think of scary twins, an axe-wielding manic, and just an all-around scare fest. You can’t watch this movie without catching sight of the carpet at some point and feeling goosebumps just from the sheer horror of the sight of it.

Toy Story (1995)

Speaking of that same creepy, hexagonal carpet, it makes a brief appearance in Toy Story. When Woody and Buzz are trying to escape from the next door neighbor Sid’s house, the carpet can be spotted. The colors are a bit different, but the reference is still understood. It’s also a good spot for the carpet considering what a psychopath Sid is. That movie may have scarred me more than The Shining. No one needs to see toys dismantled like that only to be put back together in the most nightmarish of combinations.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Just like you may be discovering in your own room with your new rug, the Dude’s rug ties his room together. It’s really the only thing that ties anything together since everything else exists in a disassociated fashion. While you can get pet urine stains out of the rug, I’ve never heard of a person peeing on one before. Maybe it’s one of the most disrespectful things you can do to a man who really only has that rug, even if it a dingy old rug. Remember, antiques are priceless! That one just needed a good spit and shine, that’s all. Well, until it got peed on. Then it had to go. Don’t try that at home, folks.

American Psycho (2000)

We’ve come full circle, folks. This list started with murder and it’s going to end with murder. When I first viewed this movie, I immediately wanted to pop in my copy of The Dark Knight because I much prefer watching Christian Bale be the valiant anti-hero rather than play the uptight, murdering fiend. While I sometimes had to turn away when Bale gave into his psychotic tendencies, I couldn’t help but stare at his immaculate home décor. If the scene about business cards revealed anything, it showed Patrick Bateman has a very specific eye for detail. Who notices a watermark? I certainly wouldn’t. But Bateman was astounded by it. It infuriated him that his business card was outdone by his colleague’s card. I can imagine he feels the same way about interior design which explains why his home is so well-decorated. He also knows he’s going to make the occasional kill, so he’s going to need furniture that’s easy to clean up. Which is why the newspaper rug is such a good choice. When you’re done murdering to your heart’s content, you simply wrap up the remains in the newspaper rug and toss it in the dumpster. No one can tell the difference.

So that’s it! Some of the most famous rugs in movies that you may have never noticed before or maybe you have. Hope you all enjoyed learning about Oriental rugs with me, the ins and outs, dos and don’ts, and so on and so forth. So I guess that about wraps this all up!

You all had thought I forgotten, hadn’t you? Like I could forget.

I couldn’t do a list of movies that featured famous rugs and not talk about the one, the only…

Aladdin (1992)

That’s right! The best movie rug ever simply because it’s a magic flying carpet. None of the other movies on this list can even come close with their creepy carpets and their pee-stained rugs. Not even close. I also have to talk about this carpet because it’s what inspired me to go on this journey in the first place. It’s what brought me here and it’s what helped inspire these articles. You can’t forget about your roots, am I right? No other rug has saved Aladdin from a collapsing Cave of Wonders, been the comedic relief at just the right moment, and helped convince Princess Jasmine that Aladdin was a prince (even though he clearly is out of his element). The magic flying carpet is just as much of a scene-stealer as the Genie is. And that’s what you want from a rug. You want it to steal the room, to capture everyone’s attention as soon as they walk in. Which is why I consider this movie the best representative of the iconic rug image in our society. It’s the reason I got started with Oriental rugs, so who’s to say that it didn’t jumpstart someone else’s interest?

I promise this is actually the end of this article. You should feel like a rug expert now, well maybe not an expert, but definitely more educated than you were when we began this journey together.

Now I can officially let you guys spread your wings and fly solo. I hope you find the rug of your dreams and I hope it makes you happy. Happy shopping!

Never Work with Children or Animals

This must be how principals feel after seeing their senior class graduate. They’ve watched them grow up, make mistakes, fall down, pick themselves back up, and finally they’re watching them make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I could not be more proud of each and every one of you.

Hopefully by this time you’ve purchased a rug, or if you already had a rug, you’ve rekindled the romance that was once there before. Now your old rug is new and exciting again, as it once was. Especially if you took my advice and cleaned it. Now it’s as good as new again.

But there’s a few other things you should know because now that you’ve made this investment (no matter what you actually paid for), you’re going to have to take any additional problems that may come up in stride.

Never Work with Children or Animals

Do you have a pet? He/she may decide they want to mark their territory on the rug at some point. Have a good rug cleaner that you trust on call for when that does happen.

Have kids? Those beautiful little angels can be quite messy. Whether it’s grape juice, Kool-Aid, spaghetti sauce, “washable” markers, or finger paint, your kids are bound to spill something on that rug at some point. Once again, have a good rug cleaner on hand and maybe practice some breathing techniques so you don’t totally lose your cool on your little ones.

Any little thing that upsets the balance in your house can affect your rug, whether it’s directly or indirectly. You had no idea you were investing in another member of the family, did you? You essentially are when you buy a rug.

Too Hot, Too Cold, Just Right

Remember how I talked about the ingredients in a rug and how they act as natural air filters? Great for you! But as soon as there is a difference in your air quality, that’s going to affect your rug. Whether that’s through your rug getting dirtier faster when your air filters need to be replaced or even a shift in the temperature can affect your rug.

I have a friend who is familiar with shifts in temperature. Living in Houston, Texas, it’s pretty much mild weather with high humidity, but every now and then Texas weather likes to go against the norm. When that happens, you need great insulation. My buddy didn’t have the greatest insulation installed already. He would notice it and complain to me every now and then, but he never fixed it. His electricity bills went way up and he was using a lot more energy than he was used to since his heater was running all the time in the winter and his A/C in the summer.

He wanted to fix it eventually, but the problem never seemed urgent enough. Well, he ended up buying an Oriental rug, per my recommendation. I helped him pick it out and I was there when they delivered it to the house. He was so excited! He had spent months analyzing the different styles, textures, and patterns. He knew just the one he wanted and he was willing to invest since he wanted an authentic antique rug. He rearranged his furniture in the living room and adjusted the style to fit his new investment.

When the rug finally arrived, it was like Christmas for him. Not even slightly exaggerating. He threw a huge “homecoming” party and invited all his closest friends and family to help welcome the new addition to his home. He had no worries about staining the rug because he has no kids and no pets. He’s just a bachelor with a nice Oriental rug. Everything was perfect.

Or so it seemed.

That winter was an unusually cold one and, once again, his heater was running all the time to keep his house at an optimum temperature. What he didn’t notice at first was how it was affecting his rug. Because of the heat, the rug was actually drying out and getting dirtier much faster than it originally had when he first brought it home. He was worried since this wasn’t a modern-made rug. He wasn’t quite sure what else would happen to his rug or if it would be ruined because of the drastic lack of insulation. This was the last straw.

He called Houston Pro Insulation.  Turns out since his house was built in the 1900s, the insulation that had existed in the attic when it was first built was either gone altogether or barely there. The guys from Houston Pro Insulation set to work restoring the attic to a fully-functioning, properly insulated attic once more. Not to mention, my buddy realized how dirty his attic was and decided his next project would be cleaning it once the insulation problem was fixed. That’s another story for another time, though.

When Houston Pro Insulation http://www.houstonproinsulation.com was done, my friend was left with a house that remained cool on hot days and kept warm on cold days. His electricity bill dropped back down to a somewhat reasonable rate and his energy usage went down to a respectable level. His rug was restored to its previous impeccable state.

There a lot of things to consider when buying a rug. You’re probably tired of hearing me say that, but that story of my friend is a great example of something you may never have thought of before. Now you’ll know better, and because of his mistake, you’re better off.

There’s also a lesson to be learned here about simply properly insulating your home. You can save big bucks on bills and decrease the negative impact you may be having on the environment. Think of all the energy that was wasted over all that time when the solution was such a simple one. It took nearly damaging his new rug for my friend to realize what needed to be done. Don’t let that be you. Make sure you have the optimal atmosphere and environment for your rug to exist in.

How To Buy An Oriental Rug

Now that we’ve covered rug history, design meanings, “reading the rug,” and natural vs. synthetic, it is time. Time for you to spread your wings and fly away on the magic carpet of your dreams. You’ve officially graduated from Oriental rug juveniles to Oriental rug adults. Before you go, let’s talk about the buying process and some things you may encountered while.

Prep Work

Since you’ve already read up on the history of Oriental rugs, studied their symbols and patterns to get an idea of design techniques, and learned the differences between manufactured and hand-woven, you’re already a few steps ahead of the game. But don’t go out on a rug shopping spree just yet. I have a few more tips for you before I set you free into the rug market.

Know Your Measurements.

I’m not talking about your suit measurements. (Although these will come in handy at some point in your life if they haven’t already and you should learn those if you don’t already know them.) No, the measurements I’m talking about are the dimensions of your room. You need to draw up a rough sketch or diagram of the space the rug will be living in once it’s brought home. The last thing you need is to spend several hours shopping only to come home with a rug that’s too big for your living room or one that’s so small it looks better on your coffee table as a coaster. Also consider that you may want a variety of sizes. Being too stubborn or too particular with size may limit your choices.

Measure your space before you go, and take a rough sketch with you as a guide. Easy enough, right?

Keep an Open Mind.

Most designers agree that when designing a room, the rug is a statement piece and everything else should adjust to complement the statement piece. If you already have a look in mind for your living room and you don’t feel that a rug would fit, maybe consider another place for your rug, like a den or a bedroom. These rugs demand attention and when you place that kind of centerpiece in a room where too much is already happening, you throw everything out of balance.

If this rug is a part of moving into a new home or an already bare room, then great! You can start with the rug and build the room around it. You can go neutral with the surrounding pieces, you can complement the rug’s color palette, or you can go bold and pick contrasting pieces and colors.

If you don’t feel comfortable designing a room from scratch, hire an interior designer. But make sure you’ve already picked the rug you want because these designers have an idea or a “look” in their mind and they’re going to do everything in their power to convince you that it’s the right one. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t look good or feel right to you. They’re working for you, not the other way around.

Listen to Your Inner Voice.

Some people refer to it as their conscience, others prefer the little angel and devil on each shoulder. Whatever that means to you, listen to it. It’s there for a reason.

If you are even a tiny bit unsure, move on. You can always come back. Since there’s such a wide variety of sizes, styles, colors, patterns, and designs you’ll have no trouble finding the one you want. But it needs to be absolutely perfect for your taste, your home, and your life. Don’t settle. Don’t let a vendor talk you into something you would never buy on your own. Don’t let them con you into a “sweet deal” for a less-than-perfect rug.

Just like the saying goes, the customer is always right. You are the customer. You are always right. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Quality Over Quantity.

We’ve talked about natural vs. synthetic dyes, hand-spun vs. machine-spun wool, and antique versus new. You know the differences and the history behind it. Now it’s up to you to decide what fits best in your lifestyle.

Natural vs. Synthetic:

Natural dyes can add up to 30 percent to the cost of the rug, but the charm they add as the colors gently adjust and fade over time is arguably priceless.

Synthetic dyes are available in a wider array of colors and shades and they tend to hold their color well over a long period of time.

It’s also worth noting that unless someone is a scientist with expensive laboratory equipment, they’re not going to be able to tell the difference between synthetic and natural dyes. The difference cannot be determined with the naked eye.

Hand-Spun Wool vs. Machine-Spun Wool:

In terms of hand-spun wool, yarn absorbs more dye when it is loosely spun and vice versa. This adds to the overall effect of the rug, like natural dyes.

With machine-spun wool, it’s going to look all uniform and symmetrical. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you might gravitate more towards this than the uneven color produced by hand-spun wool.

One tip for checking the quality of the wool (hand-spun or machine-spun): rake your hand over the surface of the rug and scratch. If your fingers are covered in bits of wool, that’s a sign that the wool is not great quality. If your hand looks like you’re slowly transforming into a werewolf, that’s a sign that the wool is really poor quality. The hairier your hand looks after scratching the surface of the rug, the worse the quality is.

Antique vs. New:

Antiques are going to be made with natural dyes and hand-spun wool, in most cases, so they’re going to have the uneven patches of color due to wool being spun at different levels and the natural dyes are going to fade over time.

New rugs are going to have more modern prints with uniformity of wool and more vibrant colors that won’t fade as easily over time.

Knot a Problem.

Speaking of quality, there has been some debate among rug-buyers as to whether not knot count matters. Essentially it does not.

What matters is the fineness and density of the knots. Finely knotted or finely woven rugs tend to be more desirable. But once again, it all depends on your taste. You might prefer a coarse rug as opposed to a finely woven rug. What it all boils down to is: as long as there are knots, that’s a good sign.

There is No Rug Expert.

One thing you may not realize is because these rugs have been around for centuries, there is no real guide or expert to Oriental rugs. Sure, there are plenty of resources (like these articles), various guides, and helpful books to point you in the right direction. However even the most experienced of rug vendors are still learning and finding out new things about this art form every day. So don’t feel like you’re too inexperienced or too “green” to get into rug-buying. You have eyes and you have an individual sense of taste. That’s all you need to buy an Oriental rug.

More About Oriental Rugs – Symbols and Motifs

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve had visions of bats, peacocks, tulips, bamboo sticks, and the color orange dancing around in my head ever since that last article. Hopefully the same is happening to you because that means the knowledge is sticking in your noggin and you’re one step closer to being a pro at “reading rugs.”

Last time we talked about colors, plants, and animals and what they mean when they’re used in Oriental rug designs. In this article, we’ll discuss some other commonly used symbols and what they represent as well as analyze how these rugs are made, i.e. what materials and techniques are used, where they’re made, who makes them, etc.

Common Symbols and Motifs

As we’ve previously discussed these rugs have had several different uses throughout history. First for protection, then for declaration of rank and decoration. At one point, certain types were made to serve as “prayer rugs.” From this, the types of symbols used in the design started to reflect these religious interests. They moved away from just using animal, plant, and color themes and started integrating symbols that could be used in spiritual designs.

Botch – flame, universe
Amulet – thwarts evil eye
Ewer, Jug – purification
Comb – cleanliness
Diamond – signifies women (two diamonds attached together represent a man and woman)
Cross – faith
Hand – prayer rug
Star – spirituality, good luck
Mihrab – gateway to paradise
Numbers – signify dates and times

As you can see, the symbols represent things like cleanliness, faith, purification, spirituality, and a gateway to paradise. They can be applied to a variety of faiths and denominations, not just to their nation of origin. Some people believe that the religious designs are created by weavers who are inspired by the domes of the local mosques in their regions.

These rugs can also represent important life events, such as a wedding (the two diamonds) or a baby’s christening (the ewer/jug or the comb). They can be used like some American families use a family Bible to record important dates, like family members’ birth dates, wedding dates, and christening dates. In that same way, these rugs can be so much more than just decoration. They can commemorate a family’s history and be passed down through several generations.

How It’s Made: Oriental Rugs Edition

Now that we’ve covered all aspects of design, let’s take a look at the building process and what goes into making an oriental rug. These rugs are not dependent on technology. Considering the earliest versions were invented before sewing machines were, these rugs can be hand-made and still possess the same amount of structural and design quality. The only downfall with the recent advancements in technology is as the amount of demand has increased, more and more people see adapting these rugs into a factory setting as a natural next step so they can be mass produced. This didn’t begin all that recently though.

Remember how I spoke about the rugs lasting through several dynasties? They didn’t stay in Asia forever; they couldn’t. When international trade became a large part of the international economy, countries sold whatever they could in order to set themselves apart and to make the most money. Asia had these magnificent oriental rugs to trade with the Western part of the world, and so they did. Once the Western countries got their hands on this merchandise and saw how popular they were becoming, they wanted to mass produce in their own countries and sell their own versions.

One tiny, seemingly insignificant detail was about to change the way rugs were produced and would divide rug-lovers forever.

Dye Debate: Natural vs. Synthetic

From the beginning, only natural dyes were used in Oriental rugs. They were mainly derived from plant materials and insects, including: indigo, oak, sumac, pomegranate, and larkspur. These were the main ingredients in dye because they were the only source used to dye wool. There was no other alternative at the time. That is, until the 1870s.

Just before the 1870s, German scientists were the only ones who had successfully developed synthetic, chemically-based dyes. They were incredibly useful because they involved far less time and labor than the vegetable-derived colors I listed above. These dyes became common in other parts of the world during the 1870s like Turkey, Persia, and Central Asia. Because of the high demand from the Western part of the world, these rugs needed to be manufactured at a faster rate.

A dye that could decrease the time and labor spent while increasing the amount of output. What could go wrong? (Famous last words.)

Over time these synthetic dyes proved to be problematic. If they were exposed to too much light or washed one too many times, they began to fade badly or the colors would run and ruin the rug.

At this same time, industrialization in the west introduced machine-spun wool which would aid in the mass production of rugs. Later in the 1920s and 30s, western technology “saved the day” once again by perfecting the synthetic dye formula. No longer would the dye run or would the colors fade too quickly. They had created the perfect formula for a rug.

But that was just the problem. Now that they used machine-spun wool, all rug textures were the same. And with the perfection of synthetic dyes, all colors became uniform. With these advancements in technology, they lost all individuality that had once existed in these rugs. What used to be individual pieces of artwork had transformed into mass-produced cookie-cutter versions of the same rug.

This natural vs. synthetic debate still exists today since only recently there was a revival of traditional weaving. As a result, many vendors still believe in hand-weaving and using dyes derived from natural substances. While these natural dyes still fade over time, it is a much more gradual shift and the effect makes for an even more original sense of artistry.

So there you have it: this huge debate that you probably had no idea even existed before today. Which side are you on? Natural? Or synthetic? Don’t let this divide your household or trouble you too much, and make sure to stay tuned for the next article!

What’s On The Rugs: Their Designs!

Here we are; another week, another article. Last time we covered the heavy stuff, including the early history of oriental rugs and some common terms to familiarize yourself with. This week we’re talking about what’s on the rugs: their designs!

I tend to be kind of an art geek. What can I say? I’m drawn to interesting images, and art has some of the most intriguing images to offer. Art galleries, museums, art blogs; all of it! What I love most about art is the meaning behind the shapes and colors chosen. Granted, not all art has a deeper meaning beyond whatever the artist splattered onto a blank canvas. In that case, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Oriental rugs feel like art to me, and I like to collect art which is why buying an oriental rug was a natural next step for me. One thing I learned very quickly was that just like two paintings are never the same, two rugs are never truly alike. They make the look the same, share the same color palette, and generally have the same concept. But they are oh so different.

The key to understanding rug designs is understanding what certain animals, plants, colors, and even in which general direction the rug is traveling means. Not only will these things tell you what message the rug is sending, but it will also help you learn more about what area the rug is indigenous to. Before you can become master of rug designs, you have to learn how to “read the rug.” Sounds a bit strange at first, but once you learn the basics, Oriental rug design will be your second language.

Patterns, Symbols, Shapes…What does it all mean?

Instead of simply listing out the different shapes and colors and what they mean, we’re going to start with some basic word association. Most of the colors’ meanings stem from what our modern-day society naturally associates with them. To show you some examples, I’ve listed what I think of when I see a certain color and compared that to what it actually represents in a rug design.

Let’s start with red. Red makes me think of hearts, which make me think joy, happiness, and love. Red also makes me think intense or powerful. It can also symbolize beauty, wealth, courage, luck, and faith.

Blue makes me think of peacefulness and purity; it almost seems holy to me in certain contexts. It often represents solitude, truth and is also an allusion to the after-life.

Obviously when we think of white, we think of purity, like a woman in her white wedding dress or a baby in its white christening gown. It is associated with purity, peace, cleanliness, and grief.

When I think of brown, I think of the soil and that makes me think of fruitfulness, bounty, and fertility. Sure enough, brown symbolizes fertility.

To me black is the absence of something or everything, it’s like a bottomless pit. In a design, it’s normally only used on the borders in small doses. It represents destruction and mourning.

Green makes me think of new life and richness, but not necessarily in monetary value. In an Oriental design, it carries a bit more weight. It’s seen as the sacred, holy color of the Prophet Mohammed and it’s used sparingly in places less likely to be walked on. It represents paradise, hope, renewal, life and spring.

Yellow and orange seemed like the odd ones out to me. I tend to think of happiness and lemons when I see yellow, but it represents power and glory. In some cases, it also symbolizes the sun and “joy of life.” Orange is a hard color for me to pin down because I automatically think of the fruit and I start to smell citrus. But it represents humility, piety, and devotion. You learn something new every day, folks.

Lions and Tigers and Bears; OH MY!

Now that we’ve covered colors, let’s move on to something a bit more complex: animals! To keep it from looking like a zoo around here, I’ve simply included the list of the most commonly used animals and what they mean.

Ram Horns – male fertility
Deer – well being
Bats – happiness
Dogs – protector of noble places
Stag – long life
Duck – faithful marriage
Camel – wealth
Crab – invincible knowledge
Elephant – power
Butterfly – happiness
Lion – victory
Crane – longevity
Fish – abundance & prosperity
Phoenix – Empress
Dragon – Emperor
Dove – peace
Tarantula – prevents bad luck
Horse – speed
Peacock – divine protection
Parrot – escaping from danger, protection

While most of those make sense, I can’t understand how bats represent happiness and tarantulas prevent bad luck. Who knows? Maybe some of you are really into bats and tarantulas because they represent happiness and prevent bad luck. Good on you, friend(s). We’ll have to agree to disagree, I suppose.

Garden of Paradise

Like we learned in freshman biology, you can’t have a functioning ecosystem without any foliage. And let’s face it, no design is every truly complete without some flowers or vine to wrap it all up. (I really cannot resist with all these puns, so you all will have to forgive me.)

Bamboo – wealth & honor
Chrysanthemum – long life
Pomegranate – fertility
Iris – liberty
Cyprus Tree – immortality
Lily – purity
Weeping Willow – meditation
Carnation – wisdom
Tree of Life – heaven or eternal paradise
Lotus – purity
Peony – rank & wealth, power
Blossom – youth, spring, newly wed
Tulip – prosperity
Hyacinth – regeneration

None of the plants’ meanings stand out to me as strange, so understanding what they mean in a design will probably be easier to the naked eye than the animals or colors tend to be. I hope you feel a little better prepared on how to “read a rug.” If you don’t quite feel confident in your “reading abilities” just yet, never fear, there’s always more to learn! In the next article we’ll finish looking at symbols and their meanings and then we’ll begin to discuss how these works of art are made. Stay tuned!

My Obsession with Oriental Rugs

If I’m being totally honest, my obsession with Oriental rugs did not start in the usual way. I don’t know what one would consider “in the usual way,” but my journey into the world of Oriental rugs has been unusual, to say the least.

It started out like any normal Saturday night until I stumbled upon my old VHS copy of Aladdin. Remembering how fond of the movie I had been when it first came out and all the good memories I associated with the film, I sat down to enjoy it once more for old time’s sake. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, but one thought plagued me the entire duration of the film.

Where can I get my own flying magic carpet?

That’s right, all I could focus on throughout this animated children’s movie was the magic carpet and where I could find one. Sure, a monkey sidekick would be cool, marrying a princess has its benefits, and inheriting a kingdom could help me out financially. However I’m a realistic guy and I know the odds of any one of those events occurring are next to none. So I set my sights on tracking down said flying magic carpet. After many hours of intense digging on eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist I have found the solution to my carpet problem.
Oriental rugs.

Now, before we go any further, I have to disclose a disturbing fact: there is no such thing as a flying magic carpet. Don’t let that discourage you from the possibility of welcoming an Oriental rug into your life though. These rugs represent several nations’ artwork and the history of these rugs is rich enough to satisfy any art-history-lover’s sweet tooth. And though these rugs can’t fly, I would argue that they have just as much appeal.

Now that you know about my humble beginnings with Oriental rugs, it’s only natural that we should dive into their humble beginnings as well.

Oriental Rugs: A Brief History

Some scientists think that the first rugs were used as protection from the elements as well as decorated a person’s domestic environment. Their evidence for this is a Pazyryic carpet found in the frozen tombs of Bashadar and Pazyryk in the High Altai region. While this was the oldest, mostly intact specimen they could find, scientists don’t believe that race was the first to design and create these rugs. Based on the patterns displayed on the rug, which depict some non-Persian elements, they believe it would be more possible that the Persians were inspired by Nomadic “Scythian” art. Since much of the world was nomadic in that time period, there is not enough solid proof to make claims about where the first rug came from. However, the first documented evidence on the existence of these lavish rugs came from Chinese texts dating back to the Sassanid period, which was 224-641 CE. Time period has been determined, but country of origin remains a tad murky.

While these nomadic tribes braved the elements with rugs on their backs, royalty saw rugs as a declaration of their wealth and rank. Reports state that the Achaemenian court of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade was decorated with carpets. It was said that Alexander II of Macedonia was dazzled by these majestic carpets.

This history started with nomadic tribes just trying to survive, and it has thrived through many years of various dynasties, emerging empires, and revivals. For the most part, it has remained untouched and only enriched by the history that happened around it.

Classification Confusion

To most, for a rug to be considered “Oriental,” it has to hail from Asia. Makes sense. However, rugs that come from Iran are called Persian rugs, like the ones I mentioned above. The main reason for this is because Iran is formerly known as Persia. That’s not too confusing, right? Certain modern-day markets and vendors tend to group these rugs based on the specific towns and cities where they are constructed, instead of using general terms like Persian or Oriental. If you’re new to buying Oriental rugs, like I was when I started, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Take this list, for example. It includes some of the most famous varieties of antique Oriental carpets.

  • Sultanabad
  • Bidjar
  • Tabriz
  • Agra
  • Armistar
  • Kashan
  • North Indian
  • Serapi
  • Heriz
  • Kurdish
  • Kirman
  • Chinese
  • Samarkand
  • Lavar
  • Oushak
  • North West Persian
  • Saraouk

None of those really jumped out at you or even seemed remotely familiar, right? Don’t let this list fool you or discourage you from buying a rug. I like to compare this experience to the first time I bought a car on my own. There are so many choices to make. First, you have to decide if you want new or used, then you browse through various makes, then you look at all the different models, and then you have to consider various packages and add-ons for your vehicle. There are so many steps involved and if you’re an indecisive person, it’s most likely going to be a stressful experience. Rug buying doesn’t have to be and I’ll tell you why.

Make and model doesn’t matter so much here. Chances are if you’re researching and reading into the history of Oriental rugs, you’ve already decided you want an authentic antique one. Step one done. Consider where you plan on putting this rug, in what room, whether or not it will be a centerpiece or more of a background piece. Step two done. Because the designs are so specific to each region, whatever design speaks to you will determine what location you’re buying from. So forget about location, location, location, and simply observe the design. Do you like the colors, the patterns, the symbols, or the aura? At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s going to have walk on, look at, and live with this piece of art. It should make you happy, inspire you, and feel like a worthy investment (because it is!).

If you’re still with me, next article I’ll be discussing the significance and meaning behind the various colors, patterns, and symbols. Stay tuned!