Ever wonder what the difference is between a rug and a carpet? Or between a pile rug and one that is flat woven? Mostly no, you might say. But then, every so often, when it’s time to cover a room or embark on that dream interior decorating project, you’ll find yourself asking that age-old homeowner’s question, second only to painting the walls: what do I with the floor? And, how much will it cost?
It’s a knotty subject, choosing the appropriate floor covering, more so if you’re going the fashionably expressive rug route – but one that is well worth exploring. Especially when you consider that purchasing a rug is really the act of making a long-term investment, akin to, say, buying a house, getting married or having a kid. Only longer.
In fact, the world’s highest quality rugs last for multiple generations, and have been known to survive wars, famines, landslides, numerous family pets and, yes, probate court. It’s because they are painstakingly made and, more than likely, produced through a traditional process from a loom in the Middle East, North Africa or Central and South America. Some rugs can literally take years to create.
Which brings us back to rug vs. carpet, and the definition of pile. First, there’s very little difference between what the two words mean. Rugs are typically smaller, say no more than seven feet in length. Carpets can stretch across an entire room. What’s most crucial to the value of each is their pile weave.
In pile weaving, the “warp” is the lengthwise yarns held in tension and stretched across the frame of a loom, while the “weft” is the yarn or thread that goes back and forth, over and under, between them. The pile ends accumulate as loops over the top of the base fabric and can be left as a pile or cut to form a velvet finish. Herein lies the art: the ability to imagine, and then execute, colorful pile weaving that forms complex patterns or geometrical storytelling arrangements that border on the absurd when difficulty, time required and creative vision are all factored in.
In Afghanistan, where the best rugs continue to win gold medals worldwide for their illustrious craftsmanship, rug makers use the pile weave technique in creating the famous “Afghan rug,” which is essentially art that hangs on the floor. The very best of these rugs are made in Herat province, where styles like the Shindand or Adraksan are adopted from the names of local towns, the way chardonnay or champagne hail from specific regions in France. Natural dyes made from local roots, nuts and assorted leaves render the final product rich in color and intricate tonal variation, while ensuring a certain permanence through the dyes’ full absorption into molecules of the thread. You’ll want an Afghan rug for that new living room.
Kilims, on the other hand, are produced by tightly interweaving the warp and weft strands to produce a flat surface with no pile. Depending on your taste, the design can be no less impressive than a traditional rug – the Kilim just takes less time to produce, is typically smaller and often has a practical intent. Kilims are known for their simple, yet elegant motifs and geometrical patterns, and tend to be hung on a wall, aligned as decoration with certain pieces of furniture or used as prayer rugs. Recently kilims have been “discovered” in the West as an exceedingly good accoutrement or accent piece to nearly any room in the house.
Don’t confuse tufted rugs, which are usually manmade thread injected into a backing material, or other synthetic floor covering substitutes, for the real thing curated by Modern Fiber. Our source has spent more than 30 years collecting authentic Middle Eastern rugs and kilims from marketplaces and villages in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Turkey, and throughout India. You’ll find this investment in effort will be more than worth the reward for your own investment – one that will last for this and additional lifetimes.