For many people shopping for an area rug, about the only thing that matters is color. And why not? The rug might be the main focal point of the entire room, and if its color isn't right, then nothing else is going to matter. Plus, rightly so, many people consider area rugs not to be just pieces of fabric that you place on the floor, but true works of art. Few artists create their works without detailed considerations of color; the same is true of the great artisans who design and weave area rugs.
In esoteric circles where they discuss such things, there are some area-rug experts who argue that color is even more important than the overall design of the rug. Their position is that even an outstanding, intricate and appealing design can be ruined with the wrong combination of colors. However, a weak design can be made appealing through the application of a unique color scheme. Plus there are many people who find a solid color area rug useful and attractive in certain situations. This is an example of a rug with NO design, but only color. I think those experts might have a valid point.
In simplest terms, area rugs have a background color and a border color. As noted above, sometimes a rug is made of only a background color. But the vast majority have more than one.
Probably a better term for background color would be dominant color. If you were asked to describe the color of a rug and could only use one word, this would be the color name you choose. Although you can find area rugs with just about any background color imaginable, the most popular are red, blue, yellow and tones of brown or beige. Burgundy, which is a hue of these colors, is probably the single most popular background color used in area rugs - especially traditional, Oriental and Persian ones.
Border colors are often not as easy to identify as the background color. The design and pattern of the rug might be so intricate that you really can't isolate the colors used to create it very well. That's OK, because the goal is to create an impression with color rather than display unique shades. Often a tint or hue in the border of a rug serves as inspiration for the other colors used in a room. Painting your walls the same color as part of the rug's border can create an extremely attractive, coordinated look to the room where everything simply "comes together" in the way professional designers work.
So where do the colors in area rugs come from?
Some rugs are made of natural fibers and often that's were the color originates. Typically these aren't the most vibrant colors and the design possibilities are somewhat limited. So to take wool and infuse it with a rainbow of colors, rug-makers use a variety of dyes.
For the first several thousand years of rug-making only natural dyes were available to color the fibers woven into rugs. The sources for these were a wide variety of plants, animals and minerals. Mixing and blending these components to create just the right color was an impressive skill in and of itself. Often the artisans would work hard to create a collection of primary colors, and then combine these in various ways to come up with just about every perceptible color. It worked a lot like the way we mix paint using a neutral base today.
In the middle of the 1800s, as rugs started to become more and more popular, European rug-makers worked on ways to come up with cheaper and easier-to-manufacturer dyes. The result was synthetic dyes made from coal tar. There were some problems. They were easy to use, but they faded rapidly when exposed to light or water and had a rather unpleasant order. Nobody realized it at the time, but the fumes are also highly toxic. Nevertheless, these dyes were imported in great quantities by Persia (Iran), Anatolia (Turkey) and other rug-making centers throughout the Middle East. The difficulties in using them came to a head in 1903 when the King of Persia officially banned their use in his country!
Fortunately a new type of synthetic dye, chrome dyes, were developed in the early years of the 20th century. Chrome dyes hold their colors perfectly in most all situations and have absolutely no limitations when it comes to blending a specific color or shade.
Rugs Direct carries over 60,000 area rugs in every combination of color and hue you can imagine. You may easily shop by color using our proprietary area-rug search tool, the Rugs Directory. Click here to visit on online showroom.