A couple of months ago I was having a conversation with a designer friend about how we approach working with clients on purchasing art. Like most of us, I have a hard time spending a sizable amount of money on a painting or sculpture or piece of art glass. Fast forward a while and we're presenting some area rug options to a new client as the starting point for the design of their family room. After showing them our preferred rug, they asked the price. When I said it costs almost $6,500, they just about fell over. This reminded me of the conversation with my designer friend about art. One of the responsibilities of the interior designers at JBi is to present products to our clients that are both aesthetically pleasing (given the desired look) and also of good quality. However, as we've all experienced, sometimes budget constrains our selections. So, the question is how do get the best possible quality within a predefined budget. When it comes to area rugs, there's a huge difference in quality at the various price points. As in most other products, it tends to be the more you spend, the better quality you get. Without getting too technical, quality of an area rug is directly related to the method of it's construction. Let's look in more detail at hand-tufted and hand-knotted rugs (much of this information was found on a website called AreaRugFacts.com).
Hand-tufted: Different than a machine-made rug which is mass produced, hand-tufted rugs still receive the human touch on each and every strand. Typically made from wool, these rugs are usually well-priced and durable. Using a "tufting gun," the rug maker pushes strands of wool through a backing that has been imprinted with the rug design. When the face of the rug is complete, a foundation (called a scrim) is applied to the back of the rug using a latex glue. Once dry, another protective layer (typically burlap or woven cotton) is then applied to the back. These two layers keep the strands in place. The final step is the shear the rug so that all the loops are cut, followed by any carving, if the design calls for it.
The greatest disadvantage to a hand-tufted rug is overall durability. Because the strands are not secured in place with a knot, they can come loose and/or shed through use. Shedding can lessen over time, but the rug will probably shed for it's entire life. The biggest advantage is cost. Because the manufacturing process is relatively short, these rugs do not have high price tags. This makes them affordable and within reach of most of us. There is a huge range of hand-tufted rug designs available in today's design world.
Hand-knotted: When it comes down to it, a hand-knotted rug is quite a feat of human patience. For each rug, a weaver skillfully tied each and every individual knot creating a one-of-a-kind handmade piece of art. The amount of human labor and skill involved in the rug making process is what drives the price and makes them more expensive than other types of rugs. Let's do some math. At 100 knots per square inch, an 8x10 area rug would have 1,152,000 knots (11,520 square inches x 100 knots per inch). It could take one weaver the better part of a calendar year to create one rug. That's amazing!
Hand-knotted rugs are typically made from wool and silk. Silk is used primarily as an accent since it's not as strong and is expensive (I have seen a 100% silk rug and it was absolutely stunning!). Because of their construction, hand-knotted rugs are incredibly durable and can withstand high traffic and may not show significant signs of wear for 20 years or more. For this reason, is makes it perfect for both residential and commercial settings with high foot traffic. In fact, you might want to check with your children when purchasing a hand-knotted piece because you will likely pass it on to them as an heirloom [insert smiley face].
It is clear that the greatest disadvantage of a hand-knotted rug is it's price. They simply beat out all other types of rugs in looks and durability. However, it's important to note that if one is to amortize the price of a hand-knotted rug by the number of years which the rug will be used, the cost per year would be significantly lower than it's hand-tufted cousin. That's an important distinction.