Oriental Rug Styles: What to Know

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Oriental rug styles are some of the most popular types of rugs available and look great in almost any setting. Choosing an Oriental rug and incorporating it into your home can seem difficult, but if you follow these tips, you’ll have a gorgeous new rug in no time.

John Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Sam Presnell, owner of the Rug Gallery, an Oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today, we’re talking about Oriental rug styles. Welcome, Sam. Sam Presnell:  Hi, John.

What Oriental Rug Styles Are Available?

John:  Sam, what are the style choices for Oriental rugs? 

Sam:  There’s lots of different styles out there. I would kind of put them into [categories.] You’ll have what I would call modern, but that’s a big generic name that a lot of things can fit into it. It’s just something that’s a little more contemporary, or not what you would see in traditional rugs. Then, there’s also a category today besides traditional and besides modern that’s becoming very, very popular and that’s called transitional. This is basically a style which, I would say, takes traditional elements and embellishes on it. Or, removes parts of it, or opens up parts of it, or alters a traditional piece and makes it its own design that has influences of different elements.

Transitional Rugs

John:  Can you describe maybe a typical type of transitional rug a little bit? Sam:  A traditional rug, I would say you can take any Persian rug ‑‑ you’ve probably seen that. If you go online, you would definitely see it, where you take the design and you would, what I would call, erase part of the design. You’ll see. You’ll look at it in a picture and you’ll swear that it’s got worn out spaces in it. You’ll see designs that used to have a border to it, a traditional Persian design, or Turkish design, or whatever it may be. Most Oriental rugs always had borders in the old days, when I grew up. Now, there’s lots of rugs where the pattern just bleeds right out to the edge of the rug and there’s no borders anymore. To me, that fits that description of transitional.

How to Determine Your Personal Rug Style

John:  How can I determine what my style is? Do I like modern, contemporary rugs? Or, do I like the more traditional ones? Maybe, I like a little bit of both. How can I determine what my style is, or what the style is of the rug that fits most with my home?

Sam:  That’s really easy today compared to when the past, you just had to go through and touch and see and do a lot of things physically. Today, you can just go online. There’s a site that I really highly recommend to everybody, and that is Houzz. H‑O‑U‑Z‑Z. You can just type in the room that you’re beginning to work on. I would say just don’t try to work on the whole house. Work on the most important room, and then start there and build from it. Basically, you can type in “Living room,” “Family room,” whatever you want to say, and they’ll be populated with tens of thousands of people who have decorated and designed very, very cool rooms in different ways. From there, you’ll just like or favorite the ones you like. At the end, go back and review them and you’ll start noticing something. “You know what, I really like this. There’s something that I like about it.” You’ll say, “You know, I am more of a traditionalist.” “I am more of a modern guy.” “I’m more of a country person, or rustic person.” Or, whatever kind of style you like. You’ll start honing in on it. Then, sometimes, of course, what you like and what’s going to fit into your house and look right are two different things. Sometimes your house can dictate to you what your style is as well.

John:  Obviously, if you have like an older, say, Victorian‑style home, maybe a more traditional‑type rug might fit with that. If you’ve got a more contemporary home, then a contemporary or modern rug might fit better.

Sam:  Especially if your home is left in period. Everything in there is from that period. A lot of people do modern and contemporary today in traditional homes. I see a lot of that. That’s very, very popular. But, as a whole, a lot of people will tend to go with traditional in a traditional home.

Oriental Rug Styles & Trends

John:  What’s really hot in Oriental rugs today?

Sam:  Wow, it’s really all over the board today. The really hot things today are [sometimes] hard to describe. I could show it to you, but it’s really hard to put into words. The best way I can say, it’s almost organic. It’s something that really has no definite design. It’s splotchy. If you can imagine you took a piece of metal. You took it out in the field and you left it out there for 20 years. You came back, saw the rust growing on it, and different proportions of panels and green from the, whatever, the algae or whatever growing on it. It really makes no sense, but it really looks cool. It’s kind of like looking at the sky, almost. If you look at the sky, you see all those clouds forming, different directions. That’s what’s happening out there in what I call the modern, the real popular world. It’s the best way to describe it is it’s modern, or it’s contemporary, or, basically, I call it organic. It just has a flow. There’s no set rhyme or reason to it. It just has a certain sense of splotches. That’s the best way to describe it. Or, cloud‑like or whatever. That’s the real popular one. The other is I described in transitional. That is also very popular, taking traditional stuff and then embellishing it, or taking away from it, or making a scale larger, or just taking one element out of that and making it into one design for the entire rug, or maybe two elements and make it the entire rug. Those are really traditional designs. They can be whatever. The other thing would be, what I would call, geometric rugs. Moroccan rugs are very popular. Most like a shag, but they have a design to them and they’re very crude and very primitive, but very, very cool‑looking stuff. Anything geometric seems to be very, very popular today. Those are the four major things that are really happening or hot today.

Traditional Rug Styles

John:  If you do have more of a traditional style, or your home is more traditional, and you want it to fit that, do you have any recommendations on what to buy in a traditional rug?

Sam:  I do. If you are going back to popular, what I would recommend maybe would be something you won’t like, because I’m more of a traditionalist as far as design. It should be very fine, it should have a lot of pattern, it should have a lot of color. The color’s got to balance. For me, that’s very important, it’s how they mix the colors. To me, it’s like, I guess it looks like old Dutch masters. You know what I mean? You look back and you’re like, “Wow, that’s really unbelievable work! But, you know what, that’s not my style.” In traditional today, what’s very, very popular is geometrics, as I went into. You’re going to find more nomadic, tribal stuff, like Moroccan. It could be what we call Caucasian or Tribal‑type influence rugs that have definitely more of a geometric flair to their design work. Carese, Syrappe, very popular. One of the big areas on our design business is Oushak. Oushak is a Turkish weave back from turn of the century. They used very modern, contemporary colors back then. They weren’t just red and blue like most of the other rug dealers were buying. Their designs were more simple and open, like we talked about in transitional. Oushak is a very, very popular rug. Very fuzzy rug, not a very high‑quality rug, but very, very popular today in traditional.

John:  That’s excellent information, Sam. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Sam:  You’re welcome, John.

John:  For more information about Oriental rugs and carpets, visit, or call 513‑793‑9505.

Categories: Ask Sam, Rug

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