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A carpet to spruce up your living space: tips on picking the right one

Obeetee’s Rekhta collection is hand-knotted using different vegetable dyed wool and silk. Price on request
If you read the Arabian Nights as a child, you would most likely recall several tales that had flying carpets. Part of Middle Eastern folklore and culture, carpets have become a standard living room feature in affluent Indian homes and today, rug makers go to a great lengths to customise them for anyone willing to pay the right price.

A Brazilian, who had relocated to Miami, wanted to recreate a ‘Copacabana promenade’ from his native place Rio De Janeiro on his home rug. The walkway in question was a creation of architect Roberto Burle Marx. The Latino wanted 'relatable' designs woven into his living space, so he could feel 'at home' and have the 'emotional connect and comfort' of his city even while stationed abroad. He shared the specific design with Mumbai-based entrepreneur Ayush Choudhary, founder of Cocoon Fine Rugs, who got it customised for him.

Choudhary, who graduated from the London School of Economics, is trying redefine a three-decade-old family business in carpets in the contemporary context. His company caters to demand from both the overseas and domestic market through its online portal and offline stores in Mumbai, Kolkata and a recently-opened store in Jaipur. Well versed with the idiosyncrasies of his high-end customers, who he feels are “touchy-feely about rugs”, he narrates how once there was a demand for a mammoth 25-foot by 32-foot piece which no existing loom could produce. So first a loom was created and then the rug was handmade over a period of 13 months for a mansion at South Carolina, US. The client paid a staggering $100,000 for it.

Italian-inspired patterns meet abstract patterns; hand-carded wool and over 50% handspun silk combine to create this piece called “Reflection” from Cocoon Rugs’ Urbane Collection. Price for a 5ft x 7ft carpet: Rs 1,35,000

Choosing the right carpet

“Rugs are a very appropriate medium to infuse colours, textures, context and artisanal quality in living  spaces,” says interior designer Shantanu Garg- “They have a unique ability to transform a space in terms of design characteristics as well as a spatial layout. In larger spaces, a rug helps in anchoring a layout and in a smaller space it adds character to the space.” However one of the biggest mistakes that people make is to try and match the carpet with other items such as upholstery and tapestry. "If anything, there should be a contrast -- of design, colour, or texture -- so that in the end, it must all balance," says Garg. For instance for an uber modern living space, one could introduce a well patterned-paisley on the floor.

Persian and Turkish designs have always held sway, but there are some contemporary designs that are also finding takers. The chief ones prevalent today include traditional and modern but the bestsellers are Indian modern or a play on classics which is also called transitional. This is a fresh take on the past, and comes in undefined and distressed patterns, and has caught the fancy of most luxury buyers. According to Angelique Dhama, Chief marketing officer, Obeetee, “With respect to styles, a Persian vocabulary is timeless however the current trend is for transitional patterns as they work beautifully in classical, traditional and minimalist homes.”

When it comes to high-end knotted carpets; very often clients like to order the size that fits in perfectly with respect to their space, though the most popular sizes for carpets are 8-foot by 10-foot and 9-foot by 12-foot and runners -- the long, narrow rugs meant to be used in hallways, galley kitchens -- of size 3ft x 8ft are seen being ordered more frequently. 

“One must be mindful of the size of rug--it should fit in perfectly with your space,” advises Rashi, Principal Designer, Carpet Couture. If it is too big, it will make your space look cluttered and if it is too small it will take away the sense of space from the area. With technology at one’s disposal, one can actually visualise before the purchase how the rug will sit with the rest of interiors. According to Rashi, “Get the site measurement done, and then share the Autocad plan with your carpet vendor. He should be able to show you the selected rug in your autocad plan and you can see if it fits with your furniture.”

An eye-catching rug can pull the look of any space together such as Cocoon Rugs’ Alchemy Collection. Price for a 4ft x 6ft carpet is Rs 93,000

Handmade vs machine-made

There is a huge premium on handmade rugs as opposed to machine-made ones. A typical query that every rug buyer has is: How can you tell the difference between a handmade rug and a machine made rug? While it may not be easy to distinguish between the two, especially to an untrained eye, a closer look will reveal a few very prominent differences. One must check the underside or the back of the rug. "If the weaving and the knots are not perfectly uniform, know that it is handmade. The tactility of a handmade is very different and it has a disintegrated surface as opposed to uniform machine made carpets," says Garg who adds that a handmade rug comes with a “wabi sabi approach, of perfection in imperfection. A handmade rug is never too polished or too finished. Even the pattern will change. Every single motif is different and there will be a little bit of ruggedness when you walk on it and yet it has a classy feel.”

In the luxury market, the emphasis is always on "Handmade” and most such rugs are woven by tying knots on the warp strands. There are different methods by which knots are tied. The two predominant types of knots are asymmetrical and symmetrical. There are other kinds as well such as jufti and Tibetan. Knot density could be a factor in the value of a rug, and on average, this could vary from a knot density of between 25 to 100 knots per square inch. Rugs with higher knot density take a longer time to make, and all the yarns are hand-spun, beginning with 100 knots, going up to 600. A handmade carpet generally takes 6-7 months to make.

Says Obeetee spokesperson, “Usually handknotted carpets take the most time in the journey from inspiration to the actual creation. A carpet enthusiast often loves participating in this activity which also creates a different sense of bonding with the product. These carpets are an investment for the long term.” They do not require high maintenance. With proper care these rugs can be used for 15 years or more.

Pricing depends upon many factors such as the type of weaving, type of raw material used as well as the design intricacy. Prices start at Rs 1,800 per square foot at Carper Couture while at Obeetee, the range is Rs 5,600-8.100 per sq ft depending on silk wool composition and intricacy of pattern. Prices could go up to a few lakhs especially in designer collections such as Cocoon Rugs’ Isfahan by JJ Valaya, Baroque Garden by Varun Bahl or Obeetee series of carpets designed in collaboration with brands Tarun Tahiliani and Abraham & Thakore.

Tips for buying and maintaining a rug:
  • Your rug could complement your hard finishes like the floor and wood polish, but do not try to match your cushion covers and curtains.
  • Go for something that has timeless appeal in both design and colour. You might change your cushion covers frequently but a rug will be there for a long time.
  • It is normal for new rugs and carpets to SHED yarn. These are excess fibres that got left behind while spinning.
  • Simply vacuum your rug when it is new. With time, the fluff will go away. Do not use a vacuum head with bristles or sharp ends.
  • If there are any loose threads, do not pull them. Use a pair of scissors to cut them.
  • Do not give the carpet to an inexperienced dry cleaner. Wrong cleaning of the carpet can cause an irreversible damage.
  • Attend to spills immediately. Blot with a white cotton cloth dipped in liquid detergent. 

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