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What Is a Traditional Oriental Rug?

By : The Rug Gallery 0 Comments

Traditional rugs are beautiful pieces of artwork that have a rich, special history behind them. Each rug is unique and truly captures the essence of the people who made it. Learn more about traditional Oriental rugs in this podcast with Sam Presell, owner of The Rug Gallery.

John Maher: Welcome to The Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher and I’m here with the owner of The Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi, Sam. Sam: Hi, John.

Traditional Rugs Defined

John:  So Sam, today we’re talking about traditional rugs. Why don’t we start with just telling me a little bit about what traditional rugs are?

Sam: I think traditional rugs are rugs that have been around forever, that you would associate or that you have seen maybe in your grandmother’s house or your parent’s house. Those are more like what we call Oriental rugs. Those are traditionally more red and blue in coloring. More times than not, usually they’re more floral in design and very complex in design usually. There is also tribal and geometrics as well in there that you can call traditional, but I think that’s kind of a smaller area of the traditional market or a different kind of traditional market.

John:  Right. So that traditional Oriental rug, you typically have that fringe around the outside and then you have a border that might be four inches or so around the outside of the rug. Then, like you said, lots of complex floral type patterns and then some sort of medallion kind of shape that’s in the middle of the rug. Is that sort of the typical [design], what we think of as a traditional Oriental rug?

Sam: Boy John, I don’t think I could describe it to you better than that. I think you hit it right on the head there. Yes.

Seeing the History and Background of Traditional Rugs

John:  So what is it that you like about traditional rugs?

Sam: You know, there’s something about the complexity I have to say. There’s something about tradition too. I know a lot about rugs, I know a lot of about the history of rugs, I know a lot about the people who make rugs, the country of origins. The tribes, whatever it may be. So to me, it’s been a real passion or a love story for me knowing about rugs and every rug has its unique story. I look at it far beyond what I think the average person would as far as floor covering goes. That’s the part about traditional rugs that I absolutely love. When you start seeing all the colors come together and all the designs, it’s like seeing a good piece of art. To me, it would be if you saw a realistic painting or something like that in the old Dutch days or whatever, it’s kind of dramatic. There’s a lot of really neat things about traditional carpets that I truly do love.

John:  Right. I guess that really must be interesting to be able to look at the rug and not just be seeing the rug but to be seeing the people that made the rug in your mind and the area in which that rug was made. You get a picture in your mind of not just that rug, but the whole history of it. That’s really interesting.

Sam: Yeah, for me it is that way. I don’t know if that’s how a normal person [looks at rugs.] You know, I’m that way about a lot of things. I think about why and I kind of have those same ideas and thoughts. It’s just the way that I’m made, but yeah there’s something about traditional rugs that have that history. I’ve always been a big history buff.

John:  I guess it’s a little bit like you mentioned. You likened it to a piece of fine art and I guess knowing a little bit about where that artist came from, what their history was, the area in which they lived and painted. That must really enhance the viewing of a painting as well, so it’s kind of similar to that.

Sam: Oh my gosh, yes. The best way I can describe it is we were just in Paris this past summer and we went to d’Orsay, which is an impressionistic museum in Paris and Monet was there. Basically, you got to get within inches of a Monet and if you know about Monet, he’s quite a character as well. When you got your nose up against the art, all you saw was like little dots. What the hell is that? Then you back up five feet and then all of a sudden that’s a street scene with hundreds of people in it. Those little dots are people.

John:  Yeah, that’s amazing.

Sam: That’s the kind of things that can happen to you I think that with a rug when you get on top of it, you see different things. You back up. You’ll make up things in your own mind. You’ll say, “Oh my gosh, that looks like whatever. It’s kind of like a garden almost when you look at a rug in that same way of thinking as art.

Caveats of Traditional Rugs

John:  Right. Is there anything you don’t like about traditional rugs?

Sam: Well, I just don’t like cheap traditional rugs that are just made for price.

John:  Okay.

Sam: I hate to be a snob, but yes. There’s a lot of rugs that are made for price and there really isn’t what I would call passion or thought put into it. It’s just a mass produced, churn-it-out type of a product. And then there’s product where you can really see the pride of the weavers in it and their sense of accomplishment when they make something.

What are Traditional Rugs Worth?

John:  Are traditional rugs worth more than contemporary rugs?

Sam: Not today. Not today as a whole. But there was a time, and that’s changed. Who knows what will happen in the future? I have to say, you can’t always say that.

John:  Is that just because of trends and these days, traditional rugs are not as trendy?

Sam: Yes, definitely. Especially in certain pockets of the United States and probably the world. We’re noticing that has just dramatically changed, just the popularity.

Will Traditional Rugs Go Out of Style?

John:  So traditional rugs can go out of style? Or are they kind of a classic that is always beautiful?

Sam: Well, I think they have gone out of style and I think you’ve heard me say this. They may not be dead but they’re on life support. The popularity and the collecting of them or buying of them has definitely wanted. We don’t see many people come into our store anymore asking for them as much. There are some, but it’s just not what it had been or should be, as far as I’m concerned. It is a trend and things have changed and it has become more of a modern world.

John:  Okay, well that’s great information Sam, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Sam: You’re welcome, John.

John:  For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery, and Oriental rugs and carpets, visit Or call 513-793-9505. And make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes. If you can give us a review on iTunes as well, we’d appreciate that. We’ll see you next time on The Rug Gallery.

Categories: Ask Sam, Rug

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