Just over a decade ago you found hand woven rugs only in dedicated galleries or you purchased one overseas as the ultimate travel trophy.Today you find them all over the place, and of very very different qualities
Synthetic rugs, machine made rugs and other inferior goods have now moved into the general home decor market and they are sold in almost every shop and to the average person they can look like many of the high quality originals............so how do you avoid making a bad buy ?
There are seemingly endless sources for rugs these days –boutiques, online discount sites, decor retailers and big department stores. However for an authentic hand made rug it is always wise to buy from a dedicated and trusted rug professional who is more interested in the authenticity and quality of the rug rather than a quick sale of a 'hip' rug with a funky tag line.!
How to buy
10 Top Tips
''Ironically a good handmade rug can be a similar price or in some cases less that the hyped up 'on trend' rug being sold on various media platforms and online discount sites.''
How do I compare rugs ?
In rug weaving countries every region, village or tribe has sizes, colors and designs that are specific to that area.Comparison is possible only within the same country, group,or style of rugs, therefore it's all but impossible to compare a funky Boho tribal rug in price,quality or value with a fine formal 'palace' style rug..
Hand made means hand knotted or woven, so if you turn over the back of the rug you will see clearly the slightly individual knot structure on the back (machine made rugs are either totally even or look plastic on the back,or may have a backing to them)Many rug dealers push the concept of the higher the knot count the better, but knot count varies from group to group so tribal rugs generally have thicker and less knots while silk rugs are sold specifically by the high number count of knots.
Therefore my first rule of thumb is always to compare 'same with same '.
Do look through a range of rugs as price can also vary significantly from group to group,so if you are not married to one style you may find a far better price option from a different group.Treat them as 'apples and oranges' and celebrate their individuality and then buy the rug that works best for you!
Quality materials = Quality Rugs
A good rug should have high quality materials,medium knot density,excellent colors,balanced design and overall good condition.
The best start is a to go 100% natural with high quality materials of wool,cotton or silk.
Look for wool with a fine lustrous quality,that has shine,softness and an obvious lustre.
Good wool means your rug will last for generations rather than just a few years and often is more forgiving of dirt and spills
Cotton should be fine and supple and real silk is cool and almost wet to the touch.
Avoid Rayon,Viscose or Synthetics of any kind.as not only are they indicative of a machine made rugs but not as forgiving as natural materials and wont last nearly as long.
Which is better - Natural or Synthetic Dyes ?
In antique rugs good quality natural dyes add not only to the beauty but also to the value of a rug and can be preferable to man made synthetic dyes.However synthetic dyes have been used in rugs for 100+ years so many synthetic dyes can be of excellent quality and hold their color very well
Just because a dye is natural does not make it good and just because a dye is synthetic does not make it bad - simply there are good & bad of both.Both can fade in intensive sunlight and both can 'bleed' if not set correctly..
How do you tell a quality dye ?.Always look for colors that are complex,multidimensional and tonally rich as these are more valuable than faded, 'muddy,' or flat one dimensional or too bright tones.
Always walk around to both ends as every rug has a “light” and “dark” direction, so take a look from all angles to truly get the richness of the colors and the overall look.
Should my rug be perfect ?
A tribal,nomadic,or even village rug will never be perfect as the weaver seldom uses a pattern,but creates a uniquely inspired design,sometimes changing colors and motifs to suit her creative desire.
These rugs really are one-of-a-kind and can be so very original, even when they are not precise or perfect in their size,shape and design
As nomadic rugs made on rustic looms are often far from straight,it is a personal choice as to whether this works for you or not, but just make sure the rug does not have any glaring weaving flaws that can cause buckling.l
With workshop rugs and most new rugs,the opposite applies and the weaver is given the pattern and the predyed wool and she is contracted to hand weave each rug.These rugs are generally very well made and while they appear to be close to perfect,each rug is made entirely from hand so we have no expectation that it will in fact be 100% perfect.
If both types are of good quality then the issue of perfection vs creativity is a matter of your own personal taste and what you feel works in for your home and style..
Vintage vs New
One of the best things about buying quality one-of-a-kind, handmade rugs or kilims is that age is likely to help them retain and even increase their value over time as their value is very much assessed like you would a good work of art.As weaving traditions and knowledge of dyes and symbolism disappear with modernity the value of quality old rugs increases and of course the older and rarer the piece the higher the value
However just because a rug is old or vintage doesn't make it good!If the weaver used poor materials, poor colors and poor design 100 yrs ago is will never be a good rug just because it's old. Remember a rug that is worn out, faded and shabby is just that - it is not a sparkling jewel with lustrous wools and vibrant colors that has lasted through the generations.
Equally many new rugs,while they can lack the individuality and spontaneity of many older rugs, can be made with superior wools, skilks, and dyes.and this can make them better buying and longer lasting than any shabby or poor quality 'vintage' rug..
Check out my blog 'When is your rug Vintage or just old and shabby' for a more in depth look at age and quality issues.
Fall in Love
Don't buy a rug until you find the one (or if you are like me it's the many 'ones') you fall in love with!
Examine it carefully, keeping in mind that hand-made items inherently have inconsistencies; look at it in varying lights; check that the colors are clear and balanced.and that the overall condition is good considering it's age and if the price is right, jump in and enjoy your rug purchase!.
Ultimately a good rug will last you a lifetime so rather than compromise,buy the one that you will love seeing and walking on every day.
Many of my clients become lifelong friends as they come back often to purchase another rug for another space.When I ask them what they paid for an earlier purchase 90% of them don't remember, but they will always enthusiastically tell me how much they love their rug and the joy that rug has given them over the years!
Buy it well so you only buy it once
Quality Handmade rugs often mean bigger bucks, so it’s not unusual for someone to spend $3000 (or more!) on not only larger rugs but also on beautiful antique and high quality rugs.
Everyone has a budget but my philosophy is to 'buy it well, so you only have to buy it once.'
Money can be wasted by cheapening out on something that fills the space “for now” or perhaps doesn’t even literally fill the space properly.I see people all the time trying to buy 'big' rugs on tiny budgets only to end up with the lowest possible quality that will inevitably fall apart.
My advice is to always buy the best you can possibly afford and if you can't afford big then buy a beautiful small quality handmade rug.Quality handmade Persian and Turkish rugs are ideal for high traffic areas as they are so long lasting and wont fall victim to fashion fads and will always be a treasure,or a memory of a place you visited and most importantly you will love it every day!The money spent now will seem like a bargain when it's still looking great in 30-50yrs time.
''One of a kind'' means just that
Before even beginning your search for the perfect rug,it's important not to have your heart set on a particular image you might have seen in a magazine or Pinterest.or Instagram I get many customers who flash me a photo of one they have fallen in love with from a magazine website or similar and while it can help as a starting point to determine their style,its best to not reduce your opportunities to an idea of something you may never find, because it's likely what you're seeing was one-of-a-kind, and your hunt will only end in design heart break or total confusion.
The rug market is varied and the options are unpredictable, so be prepared to go with the flow and fall in love and perhaps end up with something totally different than expected, but just as beautiful.
What may help at the start is to narrow your search down to a rug aesthetic—tribal, traditional or geometric—or color family.
Be realistic about Pricing
After 30 yrs of experience I always say 'a well thought out purchase is better than a cheap bargain''
A beautiful handmade rug can take months and sometimes years to make so my customers who really think about the time and effort that has gone into the making of the rug are usually those that make the wisest decisions.Generally its always better to purchase quality even if it costs you a little more at the time.and be wary of rugs that are too cheap to be true - it may mean they are machine made or a fake.
One of a kind rugs are all priced individually and take into count every aspect of the rug from quality,age,condition,dyes,design,rarity etc, whereas new rugs that are handmade in workshops under controlled circumstances vary little in quality and are therefore sold by size or sq metre.
If you can marvel over the incredible value of the months of work in the rug you are buying then you will also get a better feel for the price you are willing to pay .
Buy from a Professional
Choose a store that has been in business for many years.Trustworthy,well-run businesses really do endure.Equally be wary of stores that go out of business and pop up months later in a different location.And don't be fooled by stores and websites with huge markdowns and going-out-of-business sales - these are best avoided.
Get recommendations from friends and family who are happy with their rug purchases.My best business is repeat custom and its fabulous to get to know my clients as friends, and to even find myself helping the next generation with their rug purchases!
If you are using an online store be aware of those that are actual rug stores vs those that serve just the decorative market where the aesthetic of the rug is the only factor. Looks are important but quality, history and origin of the rug should be just as important as the 'look
If there is just a funky name or tag line without solid details of the rugs' origin, then you are with certainty buying something decorative rather than a rug that will last through the generations..
The best dealers will help you navigate the myriad of styles and designs that are available .Ask them to give you the pro's and cons of each rug and take your time .A professional rug dealer will also be there to help you in all the years to come, whether in person or online. Buying from those you know and trust provides many guarantees..