Turkish Rugs

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Turkish Rugs

TURKISH DELIGHTS: ALL ABOUT TURKISH KILIMS AND RUGS

Stylistically landing somewhere between Persian rugs and Moroccan rugs, Turkish kilims and rugs are expressive carpets that effortlessly ground a room. Unlike Persian rugs which feature elaborate, detailed designs and highly saturated colors, and Moroccan rugs which showcase postmodern-like graphics, high, shag-like piles, and exhibitionist colors (including neons!), Turkish carpets feature ornate, but easily deconstructed designs in softly muted hues. Many antique Turkish kilims and rugs showcase non-repeating patterns that straddle the line between sinuous and geometric, making them an ideal go-between for shoppers who feel that Persian or Moroccan rugs may skew too far on the spectrum one way or the other.

Turkish rugs can be used in virtually any room, but their passive pastel palette (especially common in large-scale Turkish rugs), makes them especially befitting for bedrooms. They can also be a suitable choice for nurseries and playrooms. While the majority are light in color, their time-worn nature means they’re not too precious to be played on and their large-scale abstract graphic shapes can hide wear and tear fairly easily. It’s also common to find Turkish runners. Used solo, Turkish runners make excellent foundations for hallways. For those who crave a design risk, Turkish runners can also be stitched together to create a one-of-a-kind stair runner. Turkish runners are particularly good candidates for this treatment because of the wide availability of similar-palette runners. Two contrasting designs can easily be synced up thanks to a similar color scheme.

Turkish mats, which are small rugs measuring under approximately 3” x 5” are also popular choices for bath mats, kitchen rugs, or doormats. These small Turkish rugs often showcase more vivid color than their larger counterparts, making them a novel way to imbue a small space with bright, unexpected color. More appealing than Moroccan rugs' in these scenarios, are Turkish mats' low pile, which can be easily vacuumed or blotted if spills do occur.

The History of Turkish Rugs

Turkish kilims and rugs were originally designed to be worn and function similar to pelts in order to ward off cold. Over time they were adapted to also be used as floor coverings. Turkish carpets date back thousands of years and are among the earliest examples of hand-knotted rugs in the world. Although they bear the name “Turkish,” Turkish rugs are produced in multiple countries, including India and Pakistan. Generally speaking, rugs that are produced in Turkey are considered to be more valuable than those produced in other regions.

It is also common to see Turkish rugs referred to as Anatolian rugs. To clarify, Anatolian Turkish rugs date back to the 13th century. They’re rugs that were woven by tribes located in the part of Turkey that Asia now recognizes as Asia Minor. Primitive Anatolian rugs were primarily woven by the Seljuks, a nomadic tribe who migrated from central Asia to what is now modern day Turkey. Turkish rugs made their way to Europe during the Middle Ages as trade opened up between East and West. As a testament to their popularity, dozens of the era’s most eminent artists such as Velasquez and Vermeer incorporated Anatolian rugs into their paintings.

How are Turkish Rugs Made?

Turkish rugs are made of woven—or knotted—wool or silk thread. On a loom, vertical threads (also known as the warp) are bound with horizontal threads (the weft). This practice results in reversible rugs. There are two types of knots, known as the Gördes knot, (which wraps around two threads to create a durable textile) and the Sine knot (an asymmetrical knot which wraps around only one thread to allow more mobility with patterns). All Anatolian Turkish rugs are made with the Gördes knot (also known as the “Turkish knot”).

While it’s true that a rug with a higher density of knots indicates a higher level of craftsmanship, generally rugs with 150 to 250 knots per square inch are more than adequate for use on the floor. It’s also recommended that those looking for a Turkish kilim or rug to use on the floor avoid 100% silk construction. Silk kilims and rugs can slip on the floor, especially when used without a rug pad. Even partial wool construction helps to build traction. Traditionally, wool and silk threads were dyed with plant and insect-based dyes. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, that practice was phased out in favor of aniline dyes which were also soon replaced with chromium dyes due to aniline dyes’ propensity for running when wet or fading.

What are Common Turkish Rug Motifs?

Turkish kilim and rug designs vary a good deal depending on what kind of rug they are, but most pay homage to natural influences like florals and vines or geometrical and stylized motifs such as medallions, stars, or other architectural figures.

Turkish Prayer Rugs

Prayer rugs, used to cover the ground while Muslims pray, are frequently woven with a mihrab, which is an arched semicircular architectural detail in the wall of a mosque. It is intended that the mihrab on the rug be pointed towards Mecca when it is in use.

Oushak Turkish Rugs

Oushak Turkish rugs often showcase medallions or star motifs intercut with split-leaf symbols and floral vinery. They’re most often rendered in deep, saturated hues like navy, scarlet, rose, tangerine, chartreuse, and more. Their motifs are generally large in scale rather than delicate, making them impactful pieces that can function in a room similar to graphic art.