AskThe De­signer

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Dear Sandy,

I just don’t get it. I never dreamed that area rugs could be so com­pli­cated. I thought you just went out and found some­thing that would look good in your room. I never thought of how it was made, where it was made or how the prices were de­ter­mined. In other words I need a les­son in Rugs 101 . A new fam­ily has moved next door and af­ter a few days of let­ting them set­tle in I baked a casse­role and went over to meet them.

I am ex­cited to say that she was very nice and is go­ing to be a fun neigh­bor. She in­vited to take me on a tour and her home is so nicely dec­o­rated. She said she had help with putting it all to­gether and I be­lieve her.

When she took me in her game room I was awed by the area rug. It had such a rich luster and the pat­tern was per­fect with her fab­rics. It looked like it was an in­te­gral part of her de­sign, not just a warm spot in the room. Also shock­ing was the price. Please tell me why some rugs are hun­dreds of dol­lars and some are ob­vi­ously thou­sands of dol­lars. Thank you for your help, Lee

Dear Lee,

I have had this ques­tion be­fore and I think it is im­por­tant for peo­ple to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ences in rugs.

Let me put it this way: You have cou­ture fash­ion and you have knock­offs. You have orig­i­nal art and you have re­pro­duced prints. Well, it is the same with rugs.

The orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als used were wool, silk and cot­ton. Just think how easy it was to ac­cess wool. Th­ese no­madic tribes were al­ways with their herds of live­stock mak­ing it read­ily ac­ces­si­ble. Not only did they have sheep’s wool, they had camel hair, but the draw­back to camel hair was that it did not ac­cept dye so usu­ally it was in the nat­u­ral state. Think about your camel hair coat.

Oc­ca­sion­ally they used yak, cow or horse hair and in cer­tain an­tique rugs you will find locks of hu­man hair in­serted, as this was for good for­tune. Proof that facts can be stranger than fic­tion.

The real be­gin­ning of rugs was born from the need of a sleep­ing mat and pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments, and their pat­terns and col­ors were di­rectly re­lated to the re­gion they lived in. That is why the pat­terns are called tribal, and each “tribe” shared their phi­los­o­phy on life and their spir­i­tual be­liefs in their dis­tinct pat­terns. The col­ors were also dic­tated by their lo­ca­tion be­cause th­ese beau­ti­ful car­pets were veg­etable dyed. Plants used to ob­tain th­ese nat­u­ral dyes varied from pomegranates for the red and mul­berry for the

blues. Oth­ers were made from nuts, su­mac and berries.

There were two es­sen­tial knot­ting tech­niques — the Turk­ish knot and the Per­sian knot. Th­ese helped to de­ter­mine how the dyes would take on their ap­pear­ance.

Truly, the car­pet has been a very im­por­tant part of our his­tory and art cul­ture. They also be­came ar­ti­cles to hang as dec­o­ra­tions, such as pic­to­rial ta­pes­try hang­ings. Th­ese were not only for beauty but they were in­su­la­tion from the harsh weather. They were quite the sta­tus sym­bol.

Most rugs to­day will fea­ture sim­i­lar pat­terns to the an­tique car­pets, and even though they try to imi­tate the col­ors, they lack the luster of a veg­etable dyed rug. Syn­thetic dyes in mod­ern rugs have a more in­tense and even cov­er­age.

That is a quick Rugs 101 course. So now we know why rugs vary in prices and what it re­ally boils down to is what you need and what you want to spend. I have had clients that in­vested very large sums of money in an­tique rugs and I have had clients that want more of a fash­ion state­ment and not a big in­vest­ment. It’s like all dec­o­rat­ing de­ci­sions that are based on your life­style, your bud­get and your in­ter­ests.

What­ever you de­cide, just en­joy it. Sandy

Pho­tos by BETH BRIGHT

Read­ers ask de­sign ex­pert Sandy Sut­ton ques­tions about in­te­rior de­sign. Sut­ton is the owner of The De­sign Center with Sandy Sut­ton.

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