As the owner of an Oriental rug gallery I have been asked certain questions so often from people that have either inherited a rug or were considering a purchase that I thought a few of these ideas may be of interest.
The most often asked question is, "Can I use a rug on wall to wall carpet?" Yes, over 40% of rugs purchased are chosen to add color, mood and a "look" to a room. The best wall to wall carpet to place an area rug on would be a shorter pile broadloom. If the pile on the broadloom is too long, the rug has a tendency to move around the room. A rug pad can be used to prevent this but on a shorter pile carpet, this problem is nominal.
The smaller the rug, the more places it can used in the home. Here are some ideas for placement of smaller rugs such as 3 x 5's, 4 x 6's and small runners. Entryway, side of the bed, end of the bed, in front of a dresser, placed in front of a small furniture group, as a wall hanging, draped across a dining room table when not in use (great for kelims and antique pieces), in front of a fireplace or completely covering the top of a table as a tablecloth.
When Turkish rugs were first imported into Europe they were rarely placed on floors. You can find many paintings of wealthy merchants or members of Court proudly standing next to their prized possession, draped upon a table.
Small runners work great in large bathrooms placed directly in front of a double sink. Wide runners make wonderful wall hangings for entryways or alcoves with high ceilings.
Another important question for placement is age, condition and type of rug. Delicate or very fine rugs are not good choices for entryways in busy households. A rug with a "heavy body" woven with excellent quality hand-spun wool and vegetable dyes will out perform most other types for durability and resisting stains. As beautiful as many Chinese rugs are, I have not found them to be very stain resistant. I would say the same thing about the very finely woven Tabriz rugs with the white background or field color. The Bidjar rugs from Iran, woven mostly by Kurdish weavers are called the "Iron Rug" for good reason. The pile on these rugs is so dense, the rugs are often very hard to fold or even pick up! There are many older Bidjar rugs still in existence which is a good testament to their survival potential.
I have found most rugs from Afghanistan very durable, including the Turkoman rugs. The first one I owned was my prize possession and survived vigorous games of inside ball playing with my German Shepard in the winter in addition to much activity with guests, family, etc. When I later sold the rug it looked the same as the day I bought it.
Do the colors in the rug need to exactly match the décor in the room? This is a big question and the answer is NO. If you were to carefully look over a hand woven rug you will find anywhere from two to fifteen colors. Many silk rugs have minimally 10 colors. It is not the exact colors that we care about but the overall look that appears to the eye when casually glancing at the rug. For example, the smaller increments of color placed next to each other in a particular design can appear from 5 or 6 feet away to be another color entirely. I have seen a rug with tiny navy accents, placed near an entertainment center that was black and the accents in the rug appeared black. I have seen a rug without an ounce of purple work magically in a room with purple as one of the central design colors as the blues and reds appeared to create this color by their proximity in the design. The overall look is always the question. A very busy, detailed rug will often look much more subtle when viewed from across the room and sometimes one will only see the "navy" or "light avocado green" as the only visible impression.
Do silk rugs wear as well as wool rug? No, they do not. A silk rug in not recommended for busy traffic areas such as an entryway, hallway, etc. Silk rugs are unquestionably beautiful and work well to create an elegant look in a space but will never wear as well as a wool rug. They are great if one has a home where shoes are not worn. They also make excellent wall hangings. The recommended spaces for silk are parlor, conversation area, bedroom, den or office, if large enough to place the rug in a spot where traffic is minimal.
Other good rugs for a wall hanging are older or antique rugs and kelims and as these should never be subject to heavy traffic. One can have a local tailor sew a small fabric sleeve to the back of the rug which works great.
I actually have a rug on a small antique mission-oak table that I use for my computer. The top of this table was quite worn and I had a rug that fit perfectly. I enjoy seeing it every day and it covers the unsightly blemishes on the table top!
Can an Oriental rug be placed in a kitchen or bathroom? Yes, to both questions with one caveat. Your fans must be working perfectly as one would not want to subject a rug to excessive amounts of steam or grease. This choice would be additionally influenced by the size of the room, the bigger the better. My recommendation for a rug in front of the sink in a kitchen would be a thicker rug, whatever its design.
Is there one country that makes the best rugs? No, there are wonderful rugs from many different areas. Iran is now producing some of the most gorgeous tribal rugs available on the current market but also, at the same time, some of the most generic, displeasing rugs woven with dead wool and unharmonious color combinations. Each rug must be evaluated for its own merits and as itself, period.
The basic idea here is that if your enjoy looking at the rug do not hesitate to be a bit creative in your placement. Hopefully, with this in mind, you will have some fun decorating with your Oriental rugs.
Penny Krieger is the owner of Paradise Oriental Rugs, Inc., located in the San Francisco Bay Area in Sonoma County. Her gallery at 137 North Main Street , Sebastopol , CA , specializes in tribal rugs and carpets woven with hand-spun wool and plant based dyes with a strong emphasis on Persian tribal rugs. 707-823-3355 http://www.paradiseorientalrugs.com