Most Americans refer to any wool area rug with geometric designs and flowers, as an “Oriental Rug” or “Persian Rug”. At one time the ancient Persian Empire extended from North Africa to India, and included Turkey and Armenia. The world of rugs and carpets includes over 10,000 different types, identified by the patterns of the villages in which they were woven. There are thousands of unique peoples and languages in this part of the world, with a history of weaving dating back at least 7,000 years. Most of the rugs and carpets popular in our country today are reproductions of these ancient designs, and many are produced outside the Middle East, in India and China. They are still commonly named for the cultures that produced the original designs. Here are some of the styles you may want in your decorating project:
Soumack: a particular type of stitch identifies the Soumack rug; it’s a durable, double-pass stitch that makes a thicker flatweave carpet. While not a plush pile carpet, Soumacks are very sturdy and attractive, incorporating repeating geometric designs of Turkish influence and borders and floral elements from ancient Persia.
Oushak:woven in western Turkey since the fifteenth century, Oushaks have a low knot count (referring to knots per square inch), resulting in a looser weave and larger, more abstract patterns. Despite the low knot count, they are very sought after because of their traditionally soft, light colors, such as apricots, soft greens, saffron and light brown. The silkiest of wool gives them a beautiful sheen.
Persian: a traditional Persian carpet has a high knot count – 200 to 400 knots per inch for the finest. The tiny stitches allow for intricate patterns and realistic detail, so Persian carpets are known for their depictions of flowers, trees, and animals. Persian rug and carpet patterns are named for their region of origin – Heriz, Kashan, Qum, and Bakhtiar are all designs you may encounter that are called “Persian”. The finest were the carpets of royalty, and can be very large and extravagantly patterned works of art.
Indian or Mughal: Fine Persian weavers were brought to India, where they spread their craft and absorbed Indian design motifs and colors. Indian carpets can be bright colored and are distinguished by realistic depictions of animals, people and flowers, much like paintings.
Kilim: Kilims are flat-woven rugs, made by a weaving technique similar to fabric, so they have no pile and are often reversible. They are used as hanging tapestries and floorcoverings and are made by many cultures, so there is a wide variety of style and color. All have geometric designs, from simple stripes to complex animals, serrated diamonds and leaves. Faded reds and greens and rich indigo are favored by American collectors.
Tribal: Tribal Rugs were woven by Nomadic peoples, so they are quite small since they were made on traveling looms. Each is one of a kind, as they were made by individuals to be sold at market. Designs are geometric, with stylized flowers, diamond and star shapes, and bars of color. They also usually have a lower thread count and rough texture; the complex geometric patterns are very appealing today, and they are often made into pillows.