A hand-crafted area rug can easily be the most expensive piece of décor you own and an investment that will retain value even as you use it.
Besides complementing a beautiful floor or covering an imperfect one, a handwoven or hand-knotted rug stands out as a sizeable piece of artwork that unifies the other pieces in the room.
So how do you choose a carpet that’s worth the investment? We asked Grace Markley, content editor for online estate sale company Everything But The House, a Long & Foster partner through Home Service Connections, for some pointers.
Q: What should a carpet shopper look for?
Markley: Durability over time is a key factor in choosing a rug, after deciding on a color scheme and pattern. It’s important to understand the differences in the types of weaving in handcrafted rugs.
Hand-knotted rugs will have a pile to the surface, while handwoven rugs don’t have a pile. Those include many nomadic or tribal rugs from the Caucasus Mountains region, Turkish and Anatolian kilims, or dhurrie rugs from India. These rugs are thinner and looser, with lower or coarser knot counts. Rugs from Bijar are called “Iron Rugs,” and are known for their exceptional durability due the tight and dense weave.
Look for rugs with a wool foundation and wool pile to have the longest durability. Silk rugs are the gold standard in beauty, but are typically thin and do not stand up to heavy traffic wear. Tibetan rugs are renowned for their hand-carded, hand spun wool, which is durable and stands up well to foot traffic.
Q: Which rugs are most desirable and likely to retain value?
Markley: There are certainly formal rugs which are highly desirable and will increase in value if cared for properly. Key elements to look for are a high knot count, glossy, soft and high quality wool, and they should be free of rips, tears, curling and fraying.
An antique or semi-antique rug made with vegetable dyes can increase in value over time. Vegetable dyes were used before about 1860, and those colors are stable, deeper, more saturated, and are more resistant to fading and bleed. Aniline dyes and other chemical dyes used in rugs proliferated in the early 1900s because they were less expensive to produce and provided a wider color range. This is not to say that more contemporary hand-knotted rugs are less desirable, as there are many newer rugs that can be just as beautiful, retaining and even increasing in value.
Q: Where should someone shop for a handwoven or hand-knotted rug?
Markley: A reputable rug retailer will have the best selection and should provide complete information about their rugs. They should provide an appraisal with the regional origin information and know the content (wool, silk or cotton). They may be able to provide specific information about the town, village or family that created the rug, and offer details about the dyes used and construction.
If readers are looking for a pre-owned rug, online auction sites can be a good source with a wide variety. There are many sites that offer rugs for sale, but sometimes on closer inspection the images aren’t complete or clear, making it difficult to determine quality. Make sure there are a number of photos: full cover pattern, selvedge edges, where the fringe is attached, and a section of the back of the rug showing the knots. Close-up photographs should show any damage; fraying yarn, tears, holes, moth damage or dirt and residue.
On rugs with a backing, look for staining on the back, which can indicate water saturation or pet issues. Is the rug tagged or marked? You can research the maker on a tag for an idea of their reputation, quality, and for the materials of manufacture.
Q: Anything else people should know?
Markley: Caring for your rug will add life and value to it. Have your rug cleaned when you first receive it, especially if it’s pre-owned. Your local professional rug cleaner can give you an assessment of the overall condition and give it a proper cleaning based on the fiber, dyes and weaving construction.
For daily care, vacuum regularly, rotate the rug periodically to avoid traffic wear and breakdown of fiber, and if possible, keep out of direct sunlight to avoid fading.