Rugs 101, Part 1: Begin your rug buying journey: what are the different types of rugs?

When you step into The Rug Merchant, one of the first things we ask you isn’t “what can we help you with?” but “what can we help you find?” With all the different types of rugs we offer in our 10,000 feet of showroom, we know the choices can be dizzying! Thankfully most of the time our customers have a good idea of the size they need and what they don’t like.

This is a great start, but it’s really helpful (and far more challenging) to describe what you DO like! If you’re just beginning your rug-buying journey you probably haven’t been exposed to enough options to truly understand what your choices are.

In this article, we’re going to cover some key ideas you’ll use to define exactly what type of rug you’re looking for. So read on and prepare to become a rug-buying expert!

  • What the heck is an Oriental rug anyway?
  • How is it different from a machine-made rug?
  • And what does “hand-tufted” mean?
  • Why are they so different in quality and cost?
  • How can I tell what I’m really paying for?

Oriental Rug

When you think of an Oriental rug, chances are this is what you’re picturing:

But did you know that these are also Oriental rugs?

What?! How so?

In the rug world “Oriental” does not describe a style of rug (the way it looks) but how, and where, it is created. An Oriental rug is any rug that has been entirely hand-knotted in any of these rug-weaving countries:

  • India
  • Turkey
  • Afghanistan
  • China
  • Romania

(In later Rug 101: Rug Buying Guides we’ll cover different styles of rugs: “contemporary”, “traditional”, colors, patterns, borders, etc. to help you determine what look you’re after. But for now, know that any type of rug: Oriental, machine-made, or hand-tufted, can have any style the designers want!)

Machine-Made Rug

A machine-made rug is any rug that has been woven in whole or in part on any type of machine, whether its been made on the best Axminster Loom (here’s a great video describing the Axminster Loom) or is a piece of carpet that’s been serged (bound around the edges.)

Machine-made area rugs can be made almost anywhere, from the good ol’ US of A to any of the same countries where Oriental rugs are made. But remember, Oriental rugs are hand-made, so no matter what they look like, a machine-made rug is never a real Oriental rug!

Here are a few examples of machine-made area rugs:

Surprised? Machine made rugs, like true Oriental rugs, can have completely different styles. It’s just the way they’re made that determines what type of rug it is.

Hand-Tufted Rug

A hand-tufted rug is not a real Oriental rug, either. A hand-tufted rug is made by the weaver holding a tufting gun (link or pic?) and shooting the yarn into a canvas, then putting latex onto the back of the rug to keep the yarn in place and covering the back with a piece of fabric, because as the latex dries it becomes hard and bumpy and can damage your floor. What makes a difference in the price in tufted rugs?

  • material
  • amount of material, and
  • quality of the latex or glue used to hold the material together

When you look on the internet and see two very similar tufted rugs with VERY different price tags, it’s probably because the construction and quality of materials is different.

So what kind of a rug is it, anyway?

If you’re looking at a photo of the front side of a rug in a magazine or on the internet, it’s next to impossible to tell how a rug is made is unless you already know what you’re looking at. Looking at the back of the rug in person will tell you everything you need to know about its construction and what type of rug it is:


  1. Oriental rug: you can actually see the individual knots on the back.
  2. The machine-made rug (better) is a little harder to tell except that the knots are really uniform (something that’s impossible to accomplish when you’re tying thousands of knots by hand!)
  3. With the (good) machine-made rug it’s a bit easier; you can barely see an actual knot at all.
  4. The hand-tufted rug is the easiest to see; fabric back=hand-tufted.

Okay, so how can I tell the quality of a rug by a picture on the internet?

The short answer is, you can’t. The only way to tell the quality of a rug is to see and feel it in person. But the oldest Oriental rug and area rug cleaning company in Evansville can tell! Some brands make their rugs with quality materials 99.9% of the time. These brands will clean their rugs without you signing a release. Some brands are less consistent with quality control and the chance of the glue disintegrating and the wool shedding with cleaning is greater, a risk they want you to know about before they clean.

The answer? You need to buy a trusted brand name from a trusted source so if there is any problem with your rug, the problem will be theirs, not yours!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this first Rug Buying 101 Guide. We believe that that the more informed you are, the more fun you will have on your rug buying journey. Stay tuned for our next installments of Rugs 101 where we will cover determining your perfect style, and how to choose the right size rug for pulling a room together in just the right way.






Rugs 101, Part 2: Discover your rug style: Colors, patterns, textures, oh my!

With this installment of Rugs 101, you will learn some tips for determining your rug style, and how to communicate that while you’re shopping for your new rug. There are (literally!) millions of different rugs on the market today, and we’re going to help you determine which style is “you”.

In Rugs 101, Part 1 we covered the different types of rugs, how they’re made and what that means for quality and price. You learned why an “Oriental rug” might look thoroughly modern, and one easy, sure-fire way to tell if a rug has been hand-tufted. Didn’t read it? Go back and catch up! We’ll wait.

Since “style” is largely an intuitive process, it’s likely you’ve never considered exactly how to define it. Most people will claim they “just like what I like.”

Fair enough. But all of us have certain tastes we have developed over the years. For example, if our parents had something in their home, it’s equally possible that we have affinity for similar pieces, or there is NO WAY that piece will ever see the inside of our house. Without even realizing it, we see ourselves in the people we relate to. So their clothes, their home decor, and even their cars can impact the things we like or don’t like.

The first step in defining your style is simple awareness.

First of all, take a look around you.

What do YOU like? Take a walk around not only the room the rug is going in, but the whole house as well. As you do, think about these things:

1. Color

When you walk through your home is there a color theme? Not many people have the exact same colors in each of their rooms, but there is usually a side of the color wheel they stay on. For instance, is your home decorated in warm browns, oranges, reds, or tans? Or the cooler yellow, sage green, and blue hues? Or maybe your taste leans towards the neutral grays, whites and blacks, with splashes of color here and there.

2. Pattern

So many people come into The Rug Merchant and tell us they don’t want anything “busy.” Their couch has flowers, or checks or some other pattern and they don’t want the rug to compete. What makes a pattern “busy” isn’t necessarily the pattern itself, but the contrast in the pattern. And it’s perfectly okay to mix patterns, as long as the “feel” is the same AND the patterns are on different scales.

Notice how the pattern of the rugs is a different size than that of the other patterns? That is what I mean by different SCALE.

Some things to note about pattern as you’re doing the walk through of your home: Are the patterns in my home more geometric, with defined lines and shapes, or they more floral, or whimsical?

Rug Styles

Now that you’ve looked at what you already have in your home in a different way, you can start to define your style. There are millions of different rugs on the market today, all of which fall into three different categories.

1. Traditional

These rugs are present day interpretations of traditional patterns from the rug weaving countries. Depending on where they were woven, the “feel” of a traditional rug can vary greatly. For instance, a rug woven by a nomadic tribe, with sick figures and animals, will look much different than one woven in a village, which will be more geometric in design, which will be completely different than one woven at city looms, where more intricate patterns with flowers and swirls are common. A traditional rug is often thought of as formal, but depending on where it was made, and the colors used, a traditional rug can be as much at home in a den or game room as it is in a formal dining or living room.

2. Contemporary or Modern

The patterns in these rugs tend to have a very bold color palette and while many times they have a free-form pattern. Conversely, they can also have a more Art Deco feel, using geometric patterns that give a nod to the Arts and Crafts period of design.

3. Transitional

This is probably the most difficult to describe. It is is collaboration of traditional and contemporary styles. For instance, a transitional rug may have a lattice work pattern which, with its geometric shape would make it seem contemporary. But make the lines a little wavy, and ta-da! Transitional! Also, many times “transitional” rugs are actually very old, traditional patterns, but change the colors and you have a transitional rug.

It is perfectly okay to mix the style of your rugs with other rugs, or your rugs with your furniture. The biggest thing to remember is for your home to have the same “feel” throughout it.

Even armed with all this information, it can still be a little challenging to define your style if you’ve never given it much consideration. We at The Rug Merchant would be excited to help you discover your style! We believe purchasing a rug should be fun. Stay tuned for our last installment of Rugs 101 where we will cover how to choose the right size rug for pulling a room together in just the right way.

Rug Merchant is Where Customer Needs Come First

What if there was a rug company

where customer needs come first, treating them as partners, instead of just like a number?

What if this company had almost unlimited choices in rugs to fit its customers style, colors and budget?

What if this company introduced new products with only their customers’ needs in mind, instead of their own?

What if this same company sold the highest quality products at the most exceptional value?

Rug Merchant, customers

Could a company like that exist? Could a company like that even survive?

Yes. It does and it has. That company is The Rug Merchant.

Rug Merchant Customers are Partners, not Numbers

For over four decades our unique approach to selling rugs has been to treat our customers as partners and a valuable part of the decision making process when we select our inventory of rugs.

The Rug Merchant has long-standing relationships with our rug suppliers. In some cases, our relationships with these suppliers are well into their second generation. Our strong ties with these family businesses allow us the freedom to hand pick the very best rugs at the very best price from each company. And after 40 years, we are unsurpassed with quality, choice and value. We never compromise quality when meeting the needs of our customers’ budget.

So why buy rugs from The Rug Merchant, rather than somewhere else?

It would be easy to say you should buy from us because we’re an honest, long-standing family business with an impeccable reputation.

But that’s not all.

We hold all of our customers in the highest esteem, whether you spend $10 or $10,000. When your rugs come from The Rug Merchant you can always rest assured that we stand behind our rugs and your needs will always come first.

Contact us to find out more, and come in for a visit.



Who is The Rug Merchant?

My name is Lynne Lewis. My husband Terry and I own The Rug Merchant in Evansville, Indiana. For over 40 years The Rug Merchant has been providing the tri-state area with beautiful, unique and quality oriental and area rugs from all over the world. We’ve been at our 1019 Lincoln Avenue location for almost 30 years, surviving countless recessions and boom economies, and the reason that this small, locally owned family business is still IN business after all these years is that Terry arguably knows more about antique, oriental, and area rugs than anyone~anyone within a hundred miles. For two generations Terry Lewis has been educating this area on every aspect of rugs. From garden clubs to interior design classes, Terry has shared his passion. It’s what he is, it’s what he does. And now, we’d like to share this passion with you.

Some posts will be Terry’s, some will be mine. We write like we talk, so please, grammar police, be gentle!

We look forward to sharing with you the wonderful, amazing world of rugs!