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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rugs--The Tough Buy

There are many pieces of the puzzle when creating a room but, for me, one of the most important is an Area Rug. Nothing is more central to creating warmth, style, and color. And quite often, nothing is more complicated to purchase. There are so many choices that I thought I would give you some basics to start your search~ Ashleigh

Construction Methods
Rugs can be made in many ways with a myriad of fabrics and textures, yielding a variety of looks.

Hand Knotted is an ancient skill consisting of tying thousands to tiny knots to the weft threads on a loom which are then secured by the warp threads. It requires great skill, patience and artistry and yields a one of a kind and long lasting investment. Machine loomed versions can resemble the unique look and longevity of handmade at a fraction of the cost.

Tufted rugs are produced by pushing yarn up though a mesh foundation with a needle or a gun, glue backed. The yarn is either cut, creating a cut pile rug or left intact called a looped or hooked pile rug. Machine made tufted rugs are the norm and rarely can be distinguished from handmade.

Flat Woven rugs have no pile as they consist of only weft and warp threads---they are literally flat but can be very soft when made of thicker fibers like wool felt. Because of their construction method, flat rugs do not hide debris, wear more quickly than others and slip unless one puts a pad underneath. Nevertheless, their relative inexpensive nature lets you replace them with little or no (financial) guilt!

There are five major categories of materials from which rugs are made from. They vary in price, durability, style, texture, eco-impact, and appropriateness of use in certain climates. The Rugmark Foundation is an global non profit organization devoted to ending child labor in the handmade carpet industry. From their website you can find a retailer of certified rugs by designer or style.

Wool rugs come in an enormous variety of colors, all of the construction methods and resilience to last a lifetime. The most desirable wool comes from Tibet and New Zealand---the colder climate causes the sheep to produce more lanolin, which enhances the fiber's strength, texture and stain resistance qualities. While being relatively soft, wool rugs are water, stain and soil resistant and also is mold and mildew resistant. All of these wonderful qualities do lead to higher prices---you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 for a 6x9 machine made rug to upwards of $20 000 for a handmade designer rugs. If your budget can withstand the hit, a wool rug is an investment which can stand the test of time.
Michaelian & Kohlberg is a trusted vendor that carries both modern and traditional handmade rugs and they have a closeout section (web based) which gives great value for money.

Cotton rugs are lightweight, inexpensive and casual. They are most commonly found in a flat weave but cut pile rugs have been coming out in the market in a wonderful array of colors. If you are looking for a rug to imbue texture and color without wearing out your wallet, cotton is an environmental and economical choice. Smaller rugs can be put in the washing machine or hosed down & scrubbed, treated with common household detergents and they are biodegradable so when your mood, finances or whims change, So Can Your Rug!
I particularly love the color and vibrancy that several of these rugs woven or tufted rugs from Anthropologie provides.

Natural Fiber rugs are anything and everything from sisal (agave leaves), jute (stalks of corchorus herbs), seagrass (from the stems of tall marsh plants), coir (coconut husks), hemp (stalks of cannabis plant), abaca (from the leaves and stems of banana plants) and even paper! The construction methods are becoming more varied from the standard flat weave and interesting patterns and textures come onto the market all of the time. As a neutral ground, natural fiber rugs provide a great backdrop for both modern and antique furniture and are often used as a "summer" option, giving your heavier rug a rest. This fiber can be rough under foot so are best used in places where one does not stand for long periods of time (like in front of the sink!). Additionally, jute and seagrass cannot be used in humid parts of the country, as they absorb moisture and can develop mold and mildew. For all the reasons why not to buy a natural fiber rug, there are many wonderful reasons why this material is a great choice--they are inexpensive, ecologically sound, and their natural tones mean that they can be used in just about every room in the house!
I just installed this rug in a home that Mark decorated; it is amazing for both the color and the texture---and a steal! Crate & Barrel

Synthetic fiber rugs can mimic the highest price of natural materials and still provide affordability, style and durability. Unfortunately, the amount of energy required to make them, their relatively unbiodegradable nature and the fact that they are generally made of petroleum products make them a no go for many devotees of the new environmental movement. They are cheap, readily available in just about every style and there is no wait to suffer once you have made your choice.
I really like the versatility of FLOR rugs but they can only be used on a hard surface so don't make the mistake of laying them over your existing wall to wall carpet.

Finally, Silk rugs make up for a extraordinarily small proportion of the number of rugs sold in the market but in terms of prestige and price, it is a power house! Most rugs are handmade and consist of mostly silk with a bit of wool for elasticity and durability. The beauty of these rugs cannot be surpassed, both for the amazing look of the material in addition to the undeniably rich feeling you get underfoot. Many people choose to hang these rugs as art, as walking all over ones investment of thousands of dollars leaves both footprints, wear and tear and cleaning these beauties is neigh on impossible.
Purchasing a silk rug is highly advisable if you are visiting India, Turkey or Egypt. Notwithstanding that, The Rug Company has beautiful offerings and can make any of their designs in Silk, just for you!

The Size of It
So once you are sure of the material and construction of the rug of your dreams, be sure that the size you are looking for really works in your space. However your furniture is arranged in your room, keep this in mind---Your rug should be large enough to go under the front legs of all large pieces or, if you want to show off your beautiful floor, then it should be small enough that NONE of the furniture legs sit on it...and don't forget a rug pad!