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Tribal Rugs: Bring the World into Your Home

A rug is considered tribal if it is produced by a nomadic tribe of people who move from place to place, generally according to the seasons, in order to find shelter and sustenance. Sometimes nomads move in the search of greener pastures for their sheep; other times they move with seasonal work. Their lifestyle, journeys and the landscapes they encounter have great influence on the weavers who make these rugs, most often out of necessity. The material, colors, and design of their creations reflect their needs, dreams and desires as constrained by time and the availability of material and dyes. As such tribal rugs, more than any other type of rug, are inextricably intertwined with the humanity of their creators. 

Tribal rugs draw you into the uniquely intimate world of a global culture that survives and seemingly lives within the weave, knots, and design. Outwardly simple symbols that have ancient meaning are passed down for generations woven into the rustic design. The tribes that make these unique rugs put their people, rituals, beliefs, and secrets into these rugs. Berber, Turk, Azeri, Bakhtiari, Kurd, and Qashqai, are just a few of the countless tribes around the world that produce bold rugs that are practical and meaningful to their people. It is a privilege to have an opportunity to actually own one of these rugs and bring a part of the world into your home.

Tribal Moroccan Berber

Quite possibly the most iconic and recognizable tribal rug is the Moroccan Berber. It is ubiquitous in New York City design show rooms and in homes from California to Kansas, and for good reason. Moroccan rugs fit wonderfully into the decade long interior trend of minimalism. They can add unique character to sparse rooms by virtue of their traditional charm. Their minimal abstract design is what attracts western admirers, but in their country of origin these rugs are a way of life. They are used for floor coverings as well as blankets in the coldest regions of the Atlas Mountains. 

Almost all Moroccan rugs are handmade from start to finish. From shearing the wool, to washing and dying the wool, to weaving the rugs knot by knot, every step of the process is carried out manually. The techniques have evolved over the years, but derive from ancient knotting and weaving methods passed down over centuries from weaver to weaver. 

From the vintage Berber carpets knotted by hand in the Atlas Mountains, to the flat weave tribal rugs, Beni Ourain, Azilal, and Boucherouite rugs, they are all as unique as the country and people.

Tribal Rug from Morocco
Moroccan Handknotted Carpet

Bakhtiari Tribal Rugs

As one might expect, many of the sought after tribal rugs are woven in Iran. The most recognizable of these is probably the Bakhtiari rug.  Tribal rugs hand knotted by the Bakhtiari tribe come in a variety of designs, the most recognizable being the Garden Panel. The design of this rug consists of rows and columns of squares (occasionally diamonds, hexagons, or other repeated shapes). Within the squares one will find plants, animals, and all manner of inspiration from the natural world. 

Bakhtiari rugs tend to be very rich in color, skewing toward deep and dark reds and browns, but with bright touches of green, yellow, and ivory. They are constructed of sturdy wool and usually employ the symmetrical and sturdy Turkish knot. Their beauty and durability is a testament to the artistic sensibilities yet resilience of the Bakhtiar tribe. 

Persian Tribal Rug
Bakhtiar Carpet from Iran

Balouchi Rugs

Balouchi rugs are woven by tribes that roam and occupy eastern Iran and the western borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. The distinct repeated lozenge, and often used dominant blood red background color is the best way to spot a Balouchi rug. Balouchi weavers also use a lot of navy, black, dark brown, and ivory. Using wool and cotton, nomads from this region can take up to 10 months to hand knot one of these rugs. They tend to be smaller in size and are often made specifically for use as prayer rugs. That is why the second most common design in Balouchi rugs is the mehrab, which resembles an archway typically found in a mosque. The density of these rugs range from 90-200 knots per square inch. 

Nomadic Tribal Rugs
Balouch Persian Rug

Gabbeh Rugs

The Persian Gabbeh is a close cousin to the Moroccan Berber when it comes to popularity and use in contemporary interiors. Like the Moroccan, it generally consists of a very simple mostly solid color background and small design elements that resemble children’s drawings. They are so different from traditional Persian rugs. If you spot a Persian rug with a thick pile, a solid background, and brightly colored elemental designs such as stick figures, you’ve likely found a Gabbeh. One of the differences between a Gabbeh and a Moroccan is that the Persian rug has a much tighter weave and a more “groomed” look to the pile.

But don’t be fooled by the simplistic designs of the Gabbeh. The brightly colored small patterns in reds, oranges, maroons, and bright yellows are symbolic to the people who weave these captivating rugs. The romance of these rugs was expressed and immortalized on film by one of Iran’s most important filmmakers Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The film, entitled Gabbeh, was a favorite at the Cannes Film Festival and is a must see for anyone who is interested or owns a Gabbeh carpet. 

Nomad Tribal Rugs
Kashkuli Gabbeh rug.

Nomadic Qashqai (or Ghashqai) Tribal Rugs

Qashqai Persian tribal rugs were originally crafted by the nomadic tribe of the same name. The Qashqai people are Turkic and are believe to have arrived to the area in and around Shiraz in the 11th and 12th centuries. Originally nomadic pastoralists who traveled with their herds, they were encouraged to settle in the mid-20th century when the Iranian government built housing for them. They are well known for the beautifully crafted Qashqai rugs, which are woven with unusually soft wool that holds dye remarkably well. Qashqai rugs, sometimes labeled Shiraz because they are sold in the Shiraz marketplace, have brilliant blues and reds. Their designs have evolved from family traditions and tribal history. 

Antique Ghashghaei over 100 years old

Turkish Tribal Rugs

In Turkey, carpet weaving is thought to have been integrated into tribal life sometime in the 11th century. The Seljuk tribes located in what is today a portion of Kazakhtstan are the first Turkish nomads known to learn the art of rug making. Turkish tribes used carpet weaving techniques to make tents, floor coverings, and blankets to protect them in harsh cold winters. 

As in Iran, many of the traditionally nomadic tribes eventually adopted a sedentary lifestyle, but continue to weave rugs with the techniques and designs used by their ancestors. Turkish tribal rugs tend to look more primitive and are less sturdy and symmetrical than their Persian counterparts. The imperfections are part of their appeal. They sometimes use unusual materials like goat or camel hair in the pile. And because the natural dyes used are created in small batches, shade variations occur within the same color woven into one rug. This results in what is termed abrash. For example, a turquoise background can be lighter on one end of the carpet and gradually (or not-so-gradually) grow darker towards the opposite end of the rug. 

Hand Knotted Anatolian Oriental Wool Rug https://images.rugimg.com/2717016/2717016_main.jpg?width=2000&quality=55&height=2000&fit=bounds
Turkish Tribal Rug

Home Decor with Tribal Rugs

The tribal rug trend in home décor has endured since the mid-20th century when travelers began bringing exotic lands they visited home in the form of floor coverings. A tribal rug has the power to bring meaning and sophistication to interiors. These unique carpets can bring a sense of exploration and artistry to an otherwise neutral space. 

The global cultures they represent can add an exotic warmth to minimalist spaces that seem to be the norm everywhere. Homeowners and designers can easily make an ordinary space extraordinary with imperfect pieces from Morocco, Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey. Often woven with handspun wool and vegetable dyes, they are not only versatile but durable.

PERSIAN RUGS – Exceptional Quality


The history of the “Persian carpet” is rich and storied, dating back 2500 years. The dawn of carpet weaving in the Persian Empire is widely thought to have been during the reign of Cyrus the Great in the 6th Century BC. In fact, historians and folklorists alike have written about the ruler’s passion for rugs. Some even claim his tomb was strewn with countless priceless rugs. Yet it wasn’t until trade routes from European capitals to the Middle East became widely traveled in the 1500s that Persian rugs grew in popularity. The British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese expanded their power by colonizing less developed parts of the world and established trading posts across the Middle East. Iran began trading with the West and European elite began their obsession with Persian floor coverings they considered works of art. Persian rugs were eventually seen as a status symbol by European connoisseurs and their place in the world as a highly sought after asset was solidified. 

Persian Carpet Demand

 The growing popularity of Persian rugs in the 1700s led to foreign investment in what is now Iran’s second most lucrative export (after oil). In the Victorian era, the British penchant for vibrantly colored ornate floral patterns that mimicked their elaborate gardens led to foreign investment in Iran. Outsized European investment in the Persian rug industry led to increased production and demand. The demand for ever larger Persian carpets and the high value place on artistry helped expand the industry further until Persian carpets became the most coveted of all handmade rugs. 

Persian Rugs - Expensive
An antique Kerman over 100 years old, in very good condition valued at over $100,000.

For an idea of just how prestigious and valued Persian rugs are, consider that the most expensive rug ever sold was an antique Persian carpet sold by Sotheby’s in 2013 for $33 million. The astronomical sale astounded even those who have long been in the rug trade. Like works of art produced by the masters, Persian rugs are held in high regard because of the amount of work, artistry, and detail that goes into hand knotting just one rug. 


Persian rugs are not only floor covering but works of art known for their rich natural colors and fantastical designs. They are made with organic wool, silk, and cotton and are dyed with natural coloring. The work and importance placed on high quality at every step of the process is instrumental in adding to the beauty of these rugs. 

Persian rug Paisley Allover pattern
Paisley Allover pattern Persian Kerman rug – Oversized at 11 X 17 – Excellent condition – 250 KPSI

Intricate patterns that have evolved over centuries are a hallmark of Persian rug design. The majority of rugs made in Iran have floral detailing. Flowers and other botanical and natural elements make up the smallest details. However, the way to identify a rug’s town, city, or region of origin, which is how Persian rugs are identified, is to step back and look at the big picture. 

Persian Rug Designs

The center medallion is an uber present feature. Many Persian carpets incorporate a central ornate element, a sort of chandelier of floor covering. Isfahan, Nain, Kashan, Kerman Tabriz, Mashad, are all examples of Persian rugs that very often have a center medallion. Medallions can vary and one of the most discreet and tasteful versions, the Mahi (elongated lozenge), is popular in very fine rugs made in Tabriz. By contrast, the circular or hexagonal medallion with protruding floral points and elements are typical of fine Isfahan and Nain rugs. 

Persian Rug Kashan
A typical Kashan with a center medallion. These rugs are high quality, inexpensive and the choice for many middle class Persians.

The second most prevalent persian rug design is the Allover pattern, so called because a single flower or paisley shape (also called a Boteh) is repeated on the majority of the carpet and framed by a border that esthetically unifies the Allover design. Another common Allover pattern is the Herati, which consists of four leaves for four corners accentuated by other understated floral elements and then repeated all over the rug. 

Heriz and Tribal rugs utilize designs that are more geometric or abstract and look very different from their cousins from other Iran provinces. Yet in fact their base elements evolved from the natural world just like the more ornate Persian designs. Over centuries the rug weaving artists melded the designs created by artisans of the royal court with the designs often seen in practical carpets woven by nomads. The geometric shapes we see in Bakhtiar, Hamadan, Nahavand, and especially Heriz rugs are the product of this progression.


Persian carpets are woven on looms. These frames hold two threads through which the knots are pulled and knotted. The threads held taut vertically are called the warp. The weft runs horizontally weaving in and out through the vertical warp threads. Persian rugs are exclusively made of wool, silk, and cotton. Occasionally, instead of sheep’s wool, camel or goat wool is used, but never synthetic material in hand knotted Persian rugs. The foundation can be made of cotton, sometimes silk. And the weave consists of wool or silk, sometimes both. The width of a Persian rug is determined by the width of the loom, unless two pieces are sewn together.

Persian Carpet Red medallion
A wide Persian rug requires a loom equally wide.

As each knot is made on the loom, the rug begins, ever so slowly to take shape. An image emerges and the feel and density of the rug is determined by the material, tightness (knots per square inch), and the height of the pile. High knot density often signals high quality. The origin of a Persian carpet identifies the rug. Experts and even connoisseurs can identify rugs by looking at the design, material, density, and colors. 

The Persian Knot

One of the unifying elements of Persian carpets is the Persian knot, or asymmetrical knot. Most Persian rugs utilize this knot in which the yarn goes full circle around one warp thread and then is slipped under the adjacent thread before being pulled through to form the pile. This knot can be tighter and is better for intricate design work. Other knots, such as the Turkish or the Jufti knots are tied around two or four warp threads making for larger knots and limited precision in design.

The fineness of a Persian rug is often measured by the number of knots per square inch. Handmade rugs can range anywhere from 16 up to 800 knots per square inch. The rarest and finest ever known have reached up to 3300 KPSI, a feat that can only be achieved with silk threads and a silk foundation. Once the weave of the rug is complete, it is often finished off by creating fringe with the warp end. 


Each Persian carpet is a unique work that takes skill, time, and quality material. The distinct designs also add value, all of which adds to the cost of acquiring handmade Persian decor floor coverings. With online options such as Handknotted.com, consumer prices have declined over the years and are fast challenging the idea that Persian rugs are expensive and out of reach for ordinary customers.

Persian carpet estimate - collectible asset
Persian rugs consistently rise in value making them a collectible asset and investment. This Persian Tabriz is valued around $30,000 and rising.

Yet because of the rare cases that make headlines when fine antique pieces are sold at auction for millions of dollars, some contemporary buyers believe all Persian rugs are expensive. Prices vary according to age, origin, and condition of the Persian rug, and if you’re looking to enhance your home or other interior, you don’t necessarily need to break the bank. In some cases a new or semi-antique Persian rug can seem like a bargain compared to some synthetic mass-manufactured rugs.


How can you tell if a rug is an authentic handmade Persian rug? There are several ways to differentiate between machine made rugs and handmade Persian rugs. The first step is to turn the rug over or flip a corner over and check the back. The back of a rug holds many secrets. Although machine made rugs can be beautiful additions to any space, if you’re looking for an authentic handmade piece, the back will hold the answer. Machine made rugs are generally woven on power looms that create uniform knots. The knots on the back of these rugs look like identical soldiers in an army. There are no variations in size, tightness, or color and everything is completely consistent and even. For authenticity, look for slight imperfections that characterize handmade pieces. Unless you are looking at an extremely fine silk rug with 700 knots or more, which will look remarkably uniform, there will alway be a slight imperfection. 

Authentic Silk Persian Rug
An authentic silk Qom rug with 420 knots per square inch

Another element to check on the back is the design. In authentic Persian rugs the design is just as apparent on the back side as on the front. Actually, the better the quality of the rug, the more beautiful the back is. The more knots per square inch the more delicate and apparent the design is not only on the front, but also on the back of a rug. 

Also, examine the fringe closely.  In handmade pieces, even if the fringe is braided or tied off as opposed to dangling, it will still be a region that extends from the carpet itself, from the warp. Machine made rugs generally use fringes that are completely separate pieces sewn onto the end of the carpet. 

Persian Carpets Shine With Use

In wool rugs, another way to discern authenticity, particularly in vintage and antique rugs, is to look for patina. Over time, the high fatty lanolin content of fine wool will give the rug a lovely patina, or shine. It’s not the shine of silk but an understated glow that develops over time with use.

Persian Rug from Farahan with patina
A large semi-antique Farahan Persian rug with Patina

If you’re still not sure, go with your gut and remember to look for defining features. Machine made rugs are made from so many different materials. Some use wool and cotton, natural fibers, but other materials such as nylon, polyester, and olefin synthetic fibers are more common. Synthetic uniformity suggests machine made. Natural imperfections convey authenticity. 

Related to the question of authenticity is the common phrase “the Persian flaw.” When Iranians use the phrase, the flaw in question is implied to be deliberate. The phrase is believed to originate from the intentional mistakes some weavers incorporated into their rugs. Fusing folklore with religion, the idea was that only God’s creations could be perfect, and so to weave a perfect rug would be an insult to God. Sounds a bit egotistical though—that these weavers believed they were capable of perfection.


Persian rugs are categorized by their city or region of origin. Tabriz rugs hail from Iran’s historic Azerbaijan region nestled in the Quru River valley. It is Iran’s closest hub to Europe and major rug producing region. Isfahan rugs likewise are produced in Isfahan and are known for their beauty and quality. Shah Abbas the Great was an inspired King and a patron of the arts. He moved Iran’s capital to Isfahan and launched an artistic renaissance in the 16th century which gave rise to “The Golden Age of Persian Weaving.”

Kerman rugs  (also spelled Kirman) are generally made in the south central part of Iran known by the same name. It is the name of a city and a province. In the 18th century, rugs made in the Kerman province were renowned as the best in Persia. Likewise Bakhtiar rugs are made by the Bakhtiari tribespeople who roam the Zagros Mountain region. They are famed for their treks through dangerous terrain as well as their earth toned carpets. Their rich-hued works often depict the four seasons the Bakhtiari people have come to respect and mark their migrations.


Largest Persian Rug

The largest rug ever made in the world was made in Iran by the Iran Carpet Company for the Abu Dhabi mosque. It is over 60,000 square feet (5,630 square meters) and was made in nine sections that were then assembled together inside the mosque in 2007.

Largest rug in the world
Assembling the largest Persian rug ever made

Most Expensive Persian Carpet

The most expensive rug ever sold was an antique 17th century Persian rug. According to Sotheby’s the rug is a “sickle-leaf, vine scroll and palette vase-technique carpet” that most likely was made in Kerman. In 2013, it sold for $33 million at auction in London. 

The most expensive carpet ever sold
Most expensive rug ever sold – Sotheby’s $33 million

Magic Carpet

The so-called “Carpet of Wonder” located in Muscat, Oman in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is renowned for size and quality. It took 600 workers four years to construct. A total of 12 million human hours of work went into this wondrous piece.

The Magic Carpet
The Carpet of Wonder

The Finest Persian Rug

The most famous and important rug is considered to be the Ardabil Carpet, which is actually two rugs. The larger rug resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was  restored and reconstructed in the 19th century and is the better preserved of the two. The original date of completion is inscribed on the London rug and the Hijra date corresponds to the years 1539-40. The second smaller rug is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The nearly identical rugs have a gorgeous Tabriz design with a central medallion and intricate unifying floral designs which surround it. 

The finest Persian Rug
The Ardabil Carpet

The truth is you don’t need to be a connoisseur, have $33 million dollars, live in a palace to own and enjoy a beautiful Persian rug. All you need is a sense of appreciation and good taste.

Mashad Rugs: Embodiment of Persian Tradition


Mashad rugs are woven in northeastern Iran in the large Khorasan province which borders Turkmenistan. Mashad has transformed from a small village to the second most populous city in Iran, and a popular tourist destination. The Shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam in Shiite Islam, is located in the city of Mashad and each year over 12 million visitors make the religious pilgrimage to pray at his burial site and to see the gold-domed floodlit buildings at night. Since before the 1500s inhabitants of Mashad have produced beautiful large traditional Persian rugs. 

History of Mashad Rugs

Weaving rugs in the Khorasan region of Iran began in the time of the Timurid Empire, named for its founder Timur. He is known in the west as Tamerlane. In the late 1300s through the 1400s, rug weaving started to take hold in the region. Because the province lies across a desert, it is isolated from the rest of Iran. This is precisely why Mashad carpet designs remained rooted in tradition throughout the centuries. They were not influenced by foreign trends, patterns, and tastes. Other Persian cities, most notably Isfahan and Kerman (which was on the Silk Road), made rugs with designs that became more sophisticated and worldly over time.

Extraordinary examples of antique Mashad rugs with traditional Persian designs and high quality weave can be found in museums. Other high value Mashad rugs include 100 year old Amoghli Mashad carpets. The Amoghli Brothers were giants in the business who operated between 1900 and 1920. Their master workshop was renowned throughout the world and rugs with the Amoghli signature can fetch at least six figures at auction.

Structure & Weave

The agricultural heritage in the Khorasan province provides vital nutrition for sheep which in turn helps produce soft and supple wool. This lustrous wool sourced locally makes for a high quality rug that is also an affordable choice for many Iranians. As with most traditional Persian rugs, the knots are formed on a cotton foundation for a sturdy base. The medium-thick wool is tightly woven and the pile also kept at a medium length. 

The knot count for Mashad rugs generally come in at 100 to 500 knots per square inch. The weavers of Mashad rugs use a typical Persian asymmetrical knot. However, the knots are made over four warps as opposed to the typical two warps. This creates a two-level foundation consisting of one straight weft and one curved weft which alternate. As a result, Mashad rugs tend to be some of the sturdiest and most durable rugs. 

Color & Design

More than any other type of Persian rug, Mashad rugs tend to strictly use red and blue as the dominant colors. Ivory, khaki and other colors are utilized only accents in the pattern. Perhaps it is because the region has perfected the art of cultivating beautiful colors from natural vegetation. Some of the vegetation used in this process is unique to the Khorasan province, as such the specific red and blue hues are unique to Mashad rugs. 

As with most traditional Persian patterns, Mashad rugs have a curvilinear design often dominated by a central medallion. The central rectangular region is then enclosed by a wide border containing a region of heavier floral design. The heavier florals create a frame of sorts of the rug. The Mashad pattern has remained very traditional over the years. The evolution of its design has been minimal and arose mostly from the architectural influence of the city’s religious buildings. The patterns and shapes found in tile mosaics and elegant minarets and domes have made their way into some rug designs.

Contemporary Use of Mashad Rugs

Mashad rugs are known for their outsized proportions. They are large. A 9 x 12 Mashad is just average. That’s not to say you can’t find smaller Mashads carpets, but in general they tend to be enormous. Comparatively, Ghom and Isfahan Persian rugs which are much smaller. Of course, you don’t need to live in a palace to have a large space. Many homes and apartments built in the last three decades have been designed to suit the open space trends. The uptick in the loft market has also added to the large spaces available. Mashad rugs have deep rich colors and can add a tremendous amount of sophistication and wow to large modern spaces. 

In modern spaces, Mashad rugs provide an eye-catching contrast. Their popularity has grown as interior decorators find new and interesting ways to punch up a room with these one-of-a-kind hand knotted rugs. Of course, the traditional Persian design also works well with more traditional spaces and furniture. Mashad rugs help create balance and harmony with dark woods or heavier furniture. And the worn antique or vintage Mashad rugs work brilliantly in practically any space. 

Kerman Rugs: Flights of Fancy

Kerman rugs come in a wide range of color and design, but they all have something in common. Almost invariably, Kerman carpets evoke a sense of wonder. They weave together whimsical floral patterns in such inventive ways that they were once considered the best of Persian rugs. Ranging from the most eye-popping reds and pinks to subdued chocolate and amber hues, Kerman rugs look like they belong in palaces. And yet anyone can buy a Kerman carpet and make a palace of even the smallest apartment or house.


Kerman rugs  (also spelled Kirman) are generally made in the south central part of Iran known by the same name. It is the name of a city and a province. In the 18th century, rugs made in the Kerman province were renowned as the best in Persia. Unfortunately in 1794 the desert city was destroyed in a military siege carried out by Agha Mohamad Khan. He became the first ruler of the Qajar dynasty after defeating the Safavids. Although Iranians lament that Kerman was never the same after that, the region remained a center for the production of quality rugs.

History of Kerman Rugs

Kerman Persian rugs have been exported to the west since the early 17th century. Yet, we know that evidence, namely depictions, indicate rug production in the region from as far back as 2500 years. In the 3rd century Kerman was established as a military outpost for the Sassanid Empire (Neo-Persian Empire). Throughout the centuries the region has been called Kermania, Karmania, and even Zhermanya, in addition to Kerman rugs. All of these names hold a meaning related to the military or combat. 

As a defense base, the region saw heavy traffic by troops, travelers, and merchants who frequented the Silk Road. Kerman flourished as a trade outpost attracting merchandise from India, China, Anatolia, and Europe. In 1271 Marco Polo is known to have traveled through Kerman as evidenced by his writings. He writes of a rock called turquoise mined in the mountains of the region, silk tapestries embroidered by women, and other items harder to translate. Historians believe these items are a reference to rugs. 

Celebrated Color and Quality

Kerman rugs almost always are woven on a cotton foundation with exceptional quality sheep’s wool. The knot density for Kerman rugs varies but generally falls in the range of 100 to 500 knots per square inch. This is in the mid-range for Persian carpets. The weave is not as tight as Isfahan or Nain rugs, but that is because Kerman rugs are made slightly thicker for a more plush and sumptuous feel. 

Colors used frequently in Kerman rugs are brilliant to muted reds, golds, ambers, greens, all shades of blue. Whites range from eggshell and ivory to antiqued beige. Rarer colors found in Kerman carpets are olive khaki and light orange. Connoisseurs of color gravitate toward Kermans because, of all the Persian carpets, they have the most brilliant assortment. Kerman’s weavers may be esteemed for using the most varied and imaginative palette, but the wool dyers deserve much credit as well. The wool is dyed before it is spun, allowing for more uniform color. Kerman dye specialists are sought after for their skill in producing delicately vivid lighter shades as well as dramatic prime colors and darker hues. 

Style & Design

The overarching characteristic of Kerman rugs is ornate curvilinear florals. The signature flower of almost every Kerman rug is the Damask Rose, which also provides the pervasive pink-red color used in many Kerman rugs. One of the most common Kerman designs has a central medallion set apart by a buffer of solid bright red before spanning out to more florals around the border. Of the Kermans that have an all over design pattern, the most recognizable is the repeated vase pattern. Other designs incorporate lattices or wildly inventive florals. Pictorial Kerman rugs are rarer but do exist, sometimes depicting portraits or even reproductions of classical paintings. 

Contemporary Use of Kerman Rugs

Rugs from Kerman are a dream for collectors and designers. Their range of color allow decorators a wide array of options. And their whimsical designs bring a sense of joy and wonder to interiors. Kerman carpets are so versatile that they can evoke opulence and grandeur in the dining room, plush warmth in the living room, or turn a little girl’s room into a reverie fit for a princess. 

Kerman rugs are also thicker and denser so they endure through the ages and can handle high traffic areas. Because of their durability, these rugs retain their structure and color for years, even hundreds of years. As such they also hold their value well and can be passed down through generations. 

Nain Cover

Sophisticated and Understated Nain Rugs

History of Nain Rugs

Nain is a small town of only some 25,000 people and their initiation into rug weaving came later than in most other parts of Iran. However Isfahan, which has a long and rich history of rug design and weaving is only 85 miles away. When some artists in Nain realized how lucrative weaving had become, they began weaving Isfahan rugs in Nain in the 1920s. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s, after the decline of cloth weaving in the town, that Nain developed its own style and brand, so to speak. Suddenly, Nain rugs became very popular exports. 

Characterized by natural ivory color backgrounds paired with often subdued blue accents, they were popular even in the United States, especially in the 60s and 70s. Fathollah Habibian, who died in 1995, is the generally considered the father of Nain rugs. He began weaving with his brother Mohammad when they were school children. Their workshop is renowned for consistently creating Nain carpets of the highest quality to this day.

Weave and Design

Nain rugs are hand woven on traditional looms using the typical Persian asymmetric knot. The finest tightly woven pieces often use delicate silk for the stationary longitudinal warp threads. This allows for smaller knots. High quality wool is also used. The transverse weft is generally exceptional wool accented with silk. In these rugs, the pile is always clipped short. The knot density can reach up to 700 KPSI (knots per square inch), which is extremely fine quality. 

Nain rug design is intricately delicate, not unlike Isfahan rugs, but with thinner curvilinear details. Repeated patterns of symmetrical florals feature an arrangement of scrolling and interlacing foliage. The foliage sometimes encompasses a central medallion. The arabesque designs are often integrated with other repeated details such as birds, forest animals, and exotic fruits. In addition to Habibian Nain rugs, another rare Nain are the Tuteshk, which are also made with exceptional craftsmanship. 

One of the characteristics of Nain rugs that sets them apart from other village rugs, other than their exceptional quality, is their color. The background is more often than not a very natural ivory or cream. This base color is accented with various muted tans and browns and minimal highlights of color, the most common being blue. Occasionally the highlight color paired with the cream is deep cranberry red, and even rarer green or yellow. The understated colors allow the design to break through.

Nain Quality Classification

Nain rugs have a quality classification system specific to rugs woven in Nain. They are separated into three categories of quality referred to in Persian as “la,” which translates to “layer.” It indicates the number of threads used in each warp layer in weaving the carpet. The lower the number the smaller the knots and the higher the density and quality. 

The categories are 4-La, 6-La, and 9-La. It’s fairly simple to determine the number of layers by inspecting the fringe and counting the number of threads in each grouping. The finest Nain rugs are 4-La and are considered exclusive quality. They have a knot density of up to 700 KPSI and are extremely difficult to find today. 6-La is considered extra fine quality and 9-La is considered good quality because even the least densely woven Nain, is still much finer than village Persian rugs. 

Interior Decorating with Nain Rugs


In addition to gaining a following in Europe, beginning about 50 to 60 years ago Nain carpets became very popular in the United States. This was not the case for other types of Persian rugs such as Kerman, Hamadan, Kashan, or Tabriz. The popularity of the Nain the world over is due to its understated colors combined with delicate yet complicated floral patterns. Nain rugs always bring a classy touch to any room, without bringing too much attention to themselves like their flashier bright red and blue Persian cousins. 

As part of dining room decor, an all-over Shah Abbas design Nain rug instantly adds sophistication and elegance under even a basic dining table. Living rooms accented with a slightly warmer hued Islimi design Nain, maintain a focal point without overpowering other elements in the room. 

Contemporary Nain Rugs

Many Nain rugs found today were made after 1945. Although the caliber has diminished slightly, Nain carpets are still very high quality specimens. Even if the major weavers have lowered their standards some, out of necessity. When you start at the highest level, you can afford to drop down a notch or two and still remain exceptional.

Isfahan Rugs: Celebrated Works of Art

Isfahan rugs are quite possibly the finest rugs in the world, in terms of both beauty and quality. They are woven tightly with the highest quality soft “kork” wool and adorned with silk details. It’s no surprise they are so beautiful and fine considering where the carpets originate.

Born of Unparalleled Culture

Isfahan, or Esfahan as Persians call it, is the most culturally important city in Iran. Imam Square is the focal point of the city. Formed on each side by a mosque, a palace, a bazaar, and a school, it brings four necessary elements of society (government, worship, work, and education) together in harmony. 

Tradition is alive and interwoven with contemporary life in this city. Tourists and locals gather daily, walking the immense square, passing by traditional artisans hard at work. These artists work in plain sight on miniature paintings, copper molding, traditional printed tablecloths. This is, of course, one of the best places to see Isfahan rugs being made in person. The culture and beauty of the city gave rise to the well known phrase: Esfahan—nesfeh jahan. Isfahan—it’s half the world.

History of Isfahan Rugs

Shah Abbas the Great was an inspired King of the Safavid dynasty, and a great patron of the arts. He moved the capital of Persia from Qazvin to Isfahan and launched an artistic renaissance in the 16th century which gave rise to “The Golden Age of Persian Weaving.”

Shah Abbas commissioned extraordinarily fine large rugs, incredible works of art that allowed carpet weaving to flourish. During this golden age, designers of Shah Abbas the Great’s court introduced more curvilinear floral patterns, along with arabesque, scroll, vines, vase, and hunting motifs. Designs inspired by nature, architecture and artisanal works flourished in the city at this time. The trade diminished during the Afghan invasion in the 1700s, but re-emerged later and became celebrated once again.

Famous Antique Rugs

The world famous Polonaise (or Polish) rugs which incorporate real silver and gold thread were woven in Isfahan. Despite their moniker, they are not Polish. A Polonaise Safavid era Isfahan measuring only 5ft3in x 3ft6in sold for a whopping $4.3 million at Sotheby’s in 2009. Some of the world’s most coveted rugs hail from Isfahan and date back to the 17th century. 

When it comes to fine Isfahan rugs though, they don’t have to be antiques to fetch a pretty penny. Even new Isfahan rugs by contemporary masters can cost anywhere from $7000 for a small rug to hundreds of thousands. It all depends on the size and knots per square inch. These works of art are so precious that some collectors refuse to put them under foot. They prefer to hang them on their walls. 

Structure and Weave of Isfahan Rugs

Isfahan carpet weavers use exceptional quality “kork” lamb’s wool for the pile. The pile is then clipped low, creating a dense, thin rug. Isfahan rugs are also among the few Persian rugs which consistently use silk in the weave for accent details.

The density of the weave is also much greater than tribal and other regional rugs. While other rugs star at a minimum of 120 knots per square inch (kpsi), the average knot density of an Isfahan rug is 500 to 700 kpsi. The finest Isfahan rugs can reach a density of up to 25,000 kpsi! This high-density weave is made possible because most Isfahan rugs are woven on a silk foundation, rather than the more common cotton foundation of other rugs. Silk is more delicate than cotton, allowing weavers to tie thinner, tighter knots. The density, quality, and the additional draw of jewel-toned natural dyes create one of a kind collectible pieces. Famous weavers of the city are led by the Seirafian family and their workshops.

Design and Color of Isfahan Rugs

At the outset of Isfahan’s re-emergence as the carpet center for upmarket quality Persian rugs, most rugs incorporated traditional motifs. These designs were inspired by the architectural compositions and tile patterns that decorated the historical buildings in the city. Designers were also inspired by nature, evident in the curvilinear floral patterns, vines and pastoral scenes. They were particularly fond of scenes depicting fauna. Less tangible inspiration came from intellectual and spiritual sources such as the great poets of Persia. Sometimes carpets were even inscribed with well known stanzas of the poets Hafez, Rumi, and Attar. Of course they were also inspired by religious or spiritual motifs that are deeply ingrained in the culture, most often applied to the artistry of prayer rugs. 

Classical and contemporary Isfahan carpets are extremely attractive. The recent shift towards a more subdued palette, through the elimination of strong reds, makes these rugs more compatible with Western decorative schemes. In contemporary pieces the color combinations now favor either more pastels, or dark, subdued autumnal tones. Common designs include Shah Abbas, Vases, Tree of Life patterns, and pictorial scenes. Still, traditionalists continue to produce the popular composition of a circular central medallion set against a field of intricately intertwined floral and vine designs.

It is hard for other rug producing regions to outdo Isfahan in the realms of design, quality, luminosity or creativity. Most don’t even try.

Contemporary Use

Thanks to their beautiful craftsmanship, Isfahan rugs never go out of style. As expected, they pair well with furnishings in classic homes with traditional interiors. They can serve as a focal point in understated rooms or in harmony with richly designed opulent spaces filled with antiques and other patterns. An Isfahan can add a touch of theatricality to otherwise low-key rooms like a monochromatic bathroom or a simple office. While the subdued pastels of more contemporary Isfahan rugs can provide a gorgeous counterpoint to spaces with stark minimalist design. If the piece in question is particularly fine, possibly depicting a pictorial of forest animals and foliage, some collectors prefer to hang the rug on the wall. An Isfahan rug is a work of art, after all.

Ardabil Persian Rugs: Beautiful Works from the Caspian Coast

In the historic Azerbaijan province, not far from the Caspian Sea lies the city of Ardabil. It is the capital of Ardabil Province, which derives its name from the sacred Zoroastrian book. In the sacred Avesta, Ardabil means high holy place. It is fitting that such a region would give rise to works as prized as Ardabil Persian rugs are.

Origins of Ardabil Persian Rugs

The provenance of a Persian rug does not merely identify the city in which it was made. It characterizes the culture, environment, and people of the region that gave rise to that particular rug.

Ardabil (sometimes written Ardebil) sits near the western edges of the Caspian Sea. The region is known for its lush surroundings, cool climate and the beautiful Sabalan mountains in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range. People from all over the world travel to the region for its natural beauty and to benefit from its countless therapeutic mineral and hot springs. 

The most culturally important site in Ardabil is the Sheikh Safi al-Din Shrine, registered by the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2010. Sheikh Safi al-Din established the Safaviyya, an Islamic Sufi order which, over the course of almost 200 years, grew in prominence. The Safaviyya order gained military and political power and eventually gave rise to the Safavid Dynasty. Once in power, the Safavid rulers established the shrine as a place of pilgrimage. The two most famous carpets in the world were woven for the express purpose of enhancing the shrine in the 1600s.

Famous Ardabil Carpets

Two of the the oldest known rugs in the world are Ardabil Persian rugs. The largest of the two measures 34 by 17 feet and is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It likely took a team of 10 skilled weavers several years to produce a handmade rug so large. The densely woven wool pile of this magnificent carpet contains roughly 330 knots per square inch. The Ardabil Carpet’s carefully laid motifs include gorgeous scrolled patterns with swirling leaves and flowers. A golden 16-point medallion is the focal point in the center of the rug. The design incorporates more than 10 colors made of natural dyes from ingredients such as turmeric, pomegranate, indigo, and tea. 

The rug is so significant and valuable not only because of the quality weave and artful design, but also for the precise date emblazoned in a cartouche at the bottom of the carpet. It is the Persian Calendar equivalent of the year 1539. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, “the carpet was still in the shrine of Shaykh Safi al-Din in 1843, where it was seen by British visitors. An earthquake severely damaged the shrine about 30 years later. That is when the carpet was sold to a Manchester carpet firm, who in turn put it up for sale in 1892.” The museum acquired the piece in 1893. The second, almost identical rug, was gifted to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1953 by J. Paul Getty. 

Contemporary Ardabil Persian Rug Design & Color

The traditional Mahi (fish) design is perhaps the most common and popular. However, more modern hybrid Ardabil rugs are a close second. Persian macro designs and geometric Caucasian motifs are blended together in these hybrids. They are sometimes referred to as Persian Kazak rugs. 

Another common Ardabil layout is one of numerous linked diamond-shaped medallions or all-over octagonal shapes. The hooked medallion Ardabil is different from the traditional Mahi design in that the north and south tips of the medallion form a hook. Floral lattice, Konagkend, Herati, Meshkin, and Shahsavan are some of the other popular Ardabil designs.

Traditional Ardabil rugs tend to have either a red, blue, or rust colored field complemented with accent colors like ivory and brown. Modern designers and weavers have contributed to the evolution of traditional designs by adding eye-catching bold non-traditional colors such as green, purple, orange, and turquoise to the mix.

Weaving Method

Ardabil weavers start with a cotton warp to ensure a durable foundation. They use high quality thick wool to weave original pieces using Azerbaijani knots. Occasionally Ardabil rugs incorporate silk into the wool pile to highlight or create focal points in the rug’s design. The average knots per square inch (KPSI) for an Ardabil rug is 120, but borders tend to be slightly denser to prevent fraying edges.

Styling Ardabil Rugs Today

Geometric patterns and saturated tones make Ardabil rugs a perfect fit for just about any space. Many designers love creating a cynosure using these antique carpets in modern, minimal spaces. The brown and cream tones of the Caucasian patterns provide a gorgeous contrast to neutral spaces. The more traditional Mahi design Ardabils seamlessly pull together rooms in more traditional homes. These rugs work well in homes with wooden elements.

The perfect spot for a vintage Ardabil carpet is quite possibly in front of a stone fireplace. A stone house is suddenly unified with the addition of an Ardabil rug. The geometric patterns and deeper tones found in provincial designs of hybrid Persian Kazaks also work well in natural surroundings.

Top-quality materials give these carpets durability and longevity. Wool is naturally dirt-resistant which makes Ardabil rugs highly resistant to wear and tear. Meshkin runners with their geometric all over patterns and heavy wool piles are quite durable. That makes them a very popular choice in high traffic areas. However, Ardabils also hold value far beyond their usefulness and long-lasting quality. Some rug connoisseurs buy these sumptuous rugs as collectibles and create a legacy by passing them down for generations. 

Ardabil carpets, with their primitive symmetrical patterns and deep set color range, are perfect for anyone who seeks beauty and depth without pretension.


Moroccan Rugs

Imagine hopping out of a taxi in Marrakech’s famous central Jemaa el-Fna square and immediately joining throngs of people, all headed toward the legendary souks of this vibrant city’s famous Bazaar. Just as your nose entices you toward the warm aromas of North African and Middle Eastern spices, you are joined by a fast-talking snake charmer who wants to sling his long thin water snake around your neck. “What?! No thanks,” you politely refuse. But “no” does not mean “no” in a far off bazaar where the sellers of wares and scares have more time than you can imagine ever possessing in a day, more time to convince you that the fastest way to get to the varied souks you seek is to just allow the harmless snake to rest around your neck for a few seconds and a few Dirhams. Despite the fact that snakes give you the heebie-jeebies, even harmless ones, you decide to suck it up and in the process snap an awesome picture to post on Instagram later. Done. That wasn’t so bad! In fact, now you can’t wait to post it to social media. Is there public wifi in the bazaar? 

Shopping for Moroccan Rugs


Stop it. You’re not here for snake pictures. You’re here for the Marrakech markets, for the handicrafts, love potions, leather, spice, and everything nice, and at the top of that list is an authentic vintage Moroccan carpet. So the sooner you get to the rug souks, the sooner you can find the ultimate Moroccan souvenir, the one all your friends will gush over when you invite them over for drinks. The ultimate Moroccan rug is a dreamy plush rug that can cost an arm and a leg back home, but you’re determined to snag a deal, even if you’re not exactly the world’s greatest negotiator. Far from it. But you’re desperate to have this coveted carpet because a Moroccan rug has an impossibly cozy sophistication. It’s a rug that evokes adventure and home at once. It’s a rug that will give you enjoyment daily, for years to come. 

Types of Moroccan Rugs

How will you fit it into your luggage? Do you ship it? How to navigate that process in a foreign land? Do they have Fedex, or do you have to use DHL? As you wonder about the details another snake charmer trails just behind, urging you to meet his creepy thin snake, and suddenly you wish you could escape the sensory overload, the chaos and the throngs of people. You wish you could be relaxing in your living room with a nice glass of wine, feet propped up on a coffee table that sits on a gorgeous Moroccan Berber rug already!

Relax. It’s 2020 and no one’s going anywhere for a long time. Lucky for you there is a way you can have a Moroccan Berber in your living room in less than a week at a price you never thought possible.