What do I look for when buying an oriental rug?
Updated: Jan 26, 2019
Perhaps one of the most frequent questions folks ask us about rugs is ‘What do I look for when
buying an oriental rug?’ While I am sure I could write a book to answer that question, there are
several key points that answer the question without having to write a book on the subject.
Before I begin to list to you a few observations on what to look for, let me begin by stating
what I believe to be the most obvious. That is, first and foremost rugs are works of art. When
I am with a client trying to help them find a perfect rug for their need, one of the things I
watch for is their reaction to the rugs I show them. My goal is to lay out a rug before them
that causes their countenance to change. Like beholding any work of art that just sends you and
makes your heart sing, I believe a rug should do the same. Rugs are masterpieces and need to
be seen like that. This is why we have adopted the saying ‘Rugs As Art’.
People ask me all the time, ‘what do you look for in a rug?’ Sort of semi-jokingly I tell them
‘color, color, harmony, condition, and color.’ While that may seem trivial to some, finding a rug
that will fill a particular need means first and foremost it should be beautiful. And the thing
that makes it beautiful is the color and harmony of the rug. While I understand that everybody
has different taste and may like different colors and designs, I do know that whatever their
taste, it has to be harmonious and attractive. There are many rugs that use harsh colors and
unattractive designs. In fact, one of the things I tell people when I am teaching a class on
oriental rugs is to go into the average rug store and look around. Usually, your first reaction is
to be overwhelmed with all of the rugs. Then, you begin to focus in on the rugs on display.
Frequently, your next observation will be a realization that ‘there is nothing here I like.’ The
reason for that is that most rug dealers buy in quantity without a lot of concern for each
individual piece. Trust me, for every one good-looking rug, there are nine not-so-pretty ones.
This is why, for me, the most important thing to look for when buying a rug is how pretty it is.
Now having laid that groundwork, there are several other things to look for when buying an
oriental rug. If someone comes into our shop, not sure of what they are looking for, I have a
simple combination of questions that can usually navigate us to the right rug for them…
Obviously, the first is what size are you looking for. For instance, living room rugs don’t
have to fill the whole room; the rug can just sit in the middle of the room with furniture half on
and half off. However, in a dining room, the rug must be big enough to accommodate not just
the table but also have enough room to be able to sit at the table without pulling your chair off
Once you have narrowed down the size, you want to decide whether it is a formal or more
casual feel you want from the rug. Often times this will dictate a pattern being more floral, for
a formal rug, or geometric for a more casual look. Then we talk about colors… Do you like reds and blues or more rust and earth tones? Or perhaps you like a more pastel look with very limited colors. Do you like sharp colors with lots of saturation, or do you want the colors to be softer and without the contrast? With the above questions being answered, the only other question to be asked is regarding the budget. Believe it or not, answering those 4 questions can narrow down your choice quite a bit. Then it is just a matter of finding that one rug that you’re not only in love with but will meet the requirements of your room.