The Real Reason High-Quality Rugs Are So Expensive

living room with rug and teal sofa

Katie Martinez Design

For some, rugs are simply a means of protecting a hardwood floor or providing comfort from a hard surface. For others, the textiles are the design anchor for a room basically serving as fine art for the floor. 

“Often my friends are thinking of buying one of our rugs and they ask me why they should spend a lot of money on something that gets walked on. I tell them that I have seen our rugs placed into hundreds of environments and to put it quite simply, they transform spaces,” explains James Tufenkian, founder of Tufenkian, a luxury, hand-knotted rug company featured on Perigold. “You can’t imagine what an amazing impact they will have on a space. Both visually, and from the tactile experience of touching them with feet or hands.”

That being said, you can pick up a rug at Ikea or Target for less than $100, which is considerably less than one of Tufenkian’s handmade masterpieces, or an authentic Persian rug sourced from a dealer, or one from a custom rug brand with prices ranging from the hundreds to several thousands of dollars. So, just what makes some rugs worth so much more money than others? According to Tufenkian, there are several factors involved, including materials, size, and production time. 

So, just what makes some rugs worth so much more money than others? According to Tufenkian, there are several factors involved, including materials, size, and production time.

First and foremost, a good rug can take a really long time to make—from several days to months to even years—and this generally has to do with how they are produced. “Rugs are an investment because of the incredible process it takes to create them and their awe-inspiring intricacy,” he explains. While the ancient art of oriental rug-knotting is a disappearing craft that few companies still practice, Tufenkian views it as his company’s duty to keep the practice alive, as do some of the other high-end rug companies currently dominating the market. 

All of his carpets are hand-knotted, which he explains is the “best” yet “hardest” and most time consuming way to make a carpet. “Knotting is a craft that is almost impossible to comprehend from the viewpoint of our frantic and impatient world,” he says. In case you are curious just how many knots it takes to make a 9'x12' carpet, Tufenkian explains that one of his is composed of up to 1.5 million individually hand-tied knots and takes about 1500 hours to make from start to finish. 

“It sometimes startles me when I am reminded that the complex design of a rug I am admiring is actually the accumulation of so many tiny, hand-tied points of color,” he explains. “Like approaching a pointillist painting and being amazed to discover that its perfectly detailed and coherent image is actually composed from so many meaningless dots artfully assembled.”

It sometimes startles me when I am reminded that the complex design of a rug I am admiring is actually the accumulation of so many tiny, hand-tied points of color.

Less expensive rugs, alternatively, are typically not made by hand. Hand-tufted rugs and other semi-handmade products are fast and easy according to Tufenkian. There are also machine-made rugs, which can be produced even faster. 

Obviously, the quality of materials used is also a big factor. An expensive rug will generally be made out of high-quality wool, silk, or other natural fibers. A more moderately priced rug, on the other hand, is often made out of synthetics like polyester, olefin, or nylon, or even a low quality wool or natural fiber such as jute. The problem with many of these less expensive materials is that they aren’t as sustainable due to the fact that they are more prone to shedding, pilling, fading, staining, and simply aren’t made to last very long. 

“Despite all the concern in the world for sustainability, there is a huge movement in the home furnishings market towards creating disposable products at cheap prices, meant to be used for a few years and discarded,” Tufenkian points out.

Another aspect of rug pricing that only people in the design trade are familiar with is whether a rug has been GoodWeave certified, Stefani Stein of Stefani Stein Inc. point out.

“Rugs with this label or certification ensure that no child, forced or bonded labor is used in the making of the product,” she explains. “Often times, bargain-priced rugs are so inexpensive because they aren’t necessarily produced in the most ethical fashion. I prefer to educate my clients about this when it comes to rug shopping.”

Obviously, not all of us have thousands of dollars to spend on a rug—even if it is a lifetime investment, but that doesn't mean you can't score a high-quality rug for less. Joyce Downing Pickens of JDP Interiors suggests checking Etsy for vintage rugs or rugs made in Turkey. “This is where you will find your deals,” she exclaims. 

And, while they aren’t brand new, she points out that there is an added charm that comes along with the wear-and-tear. “Personally, I look for a lot of wear in my vintage Turkish rugs. I like the white faded accents and the more muted colors they allow for. The second they look too new, I feel like they look machine-made."

Plus, it makes you feel better if you spill on them. “They are already hundreds of years old so if they have already lasted this long, they are bound to hold up to the test of time.” she says.

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