From the middle ages to current times, if there’s one item in home décor that’s stood the test of time, it’s the carpet – or, the rug (the two words are now often used interchangeably). Starting off as a utilitarian item (it was used to warm the hearth or as prayer mats or as a trading currency), the carpet came into its own, particularly as a decorative and precious object in the 16th century during the Safavid dynasty, especially under the reign of Shah Abbas. (In Iran, they are still called ‘Shah Abbas’ carpets after the monarch).
Today, some handmade carpets can cost an arm and a leg. They probably did, back in the day too – after all, they were exchanged as gifts and symbols of allegiance between kings; and when Marco Polo travelled back to the Occident with tales of dazzling rugs found in the Orient, woven in silk and encrusted with gems, Europe discovered the famous Persian rugs.
To this day, this most favoured home decor element is an object that can evoke emotions, tell a story and light up a home – everything that a beautiful piece of art does. But why exactly are handmade rugs such treasured items?
1. Handcrafted rugs are unique
Keeping design, colour, weave and all other variables the same, no two handmade rugs will be the same. Handmade invariably results in unavoidable irregularities of pattern that give the carpet a unique charm. They are symbols of the creator’s artistic personality, as opposed to machine-made that churn out uniform pieces erasing indications of particular craftsmanship. Traditionally, a certain Oriental or Persian rug is not made in different sizes but exists only once. This is exactly where the charm and character of a handmade rug lie. The uniqueness of each piece means you will be owning a singular piece of art.
2. Handmade rugs epitomise sterling design work
Artists frequently communicate their unique mix of cultures, storytelling skills, and inspiration through their handmade creations. The same applies to carpet weaving by hand, where the maker’s skill and understanding of the design is particular to them alone. The attention to detail in making designs come to life over long periods of time is what makes a carpet a piece of art. What infinite joy it brings to handle a beautifully woven carpet and wonder what inspired its making and its maker.
Skilled techniques are the differentiating factor
Mostly, carpets made by hand are either knotted, tufted, loomed or flat-woven (kilims). Of them all, hand-knotted rugs are the crème de la crème of the carpet world. The knot density can determine the carpet’s quality. By counting the knots in each square inch on the rug’s reverse, one can determine the quality of these carpets. The more knots, the better the rug’s quality, durability and distinctiveness in design.
Their value increases with time
A well-made rug can last several decades without showing major signs of wear and tear – a quality that allows it to be passed down through generations as heirlooms, thereby increasing its value
Rugs are versatile
You don’t often see rugs adorning the walls in every home. But when you do, it leaves an impression. While tapestries are a different art form on textiles, carpets and rugs too can be used to embellish walls. They provide a measure of the distinct character of the home.
. Carpets made out of natural fibres like wool, cotton or silk, using vegetable dyes and featuring a healthy knot density, have the necessary foundation for long-term sustainability. In the case of naturally dyed rugs, when the prints begin to fade somewhat after years of use, they can be over-dyed to renew the colours – or, leave them as is to increase their distinctive vintage appeal.