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One of the reasons area rugs are so popular today is the tremendous variety of styles, colors, sizes, shapes and materials available. In addition, redecorating a room with a new area rug is far easier and more economical than painting, re-wallpapering, buying new furniture or even replacing the window treatments.
But some people want to go even further in their quest to put their own personal stamp on their homes. It is for these people that the world of “one-of-a-kind” area rugs exists!
For economic reasons – and a few practical ones as well – most large retailers can’t offer their customers a product of which only one exists in the entire world. A big-box retailer or chain functions in the realm of mass merchandising. They buy vast quantities of items, which are then mass produced, and sell them at the lowest margin possible. Profits are only possible when selling in volume. This is as true for area rugs at these stores as it is for toothpaste, nails, canned corn and kitty litter. But shouldn’t an item like an area rug that is used to personalize a living space and coordinate home-design elements exist in a slightly different, more “artistic” retail world?
Randy Kremer, the president of online retailer, Rugs Direct, thinks so. “Rugs ARE art,” he says. “Everyone wants to place the best-quality, most beautiful rug she can find on her living room floor. It’s only natural, just as it’s natural to want to be unique. Because of the wide variety in personal tastes, and the huge number of rug collections available, it’s highly unlikely you are going to see the rug you purchase on someone else’s floor. But it DOES happen,” he cautions.
The solution, of course, is to buy a “one-of-a-kind” rug. This means exactly what it says – a hand-made rug, designed and woven by an artist who is applying a particular design and color scheme to this one rug – and ONLY this rug! The true definition of unique!
But super expensive, right? Like millions and millions – OK, like tens of thousands of dollars?
“Sure, you can spend a lot of money on a top-quality, one-of-a-kind rug,” says David Craig, CEO of Rugs Direct. “Some of these rugs take years to make and will last several lifetimes. In many ways they represent more of an investment than a practical design solution – especially if you have kids or pets! But a one-of-a-kind rug isn’t automatically priced beyond most people’s budgets. In fact, if you visit our online store, you’ll see there are many, many machine-made rugs that cost more than some of our new one-of-a-kinds. There are many factors that influence the cost of a beautiful rug. Exclusivity doesn’t always translate to expensive,” says Craig.
One-of-a-kind rugs are almost all made of 100% wool. This is the traditional material that has been used for thousands of years to create the best-quality, most durable rugs, and it remains the fiber greatly preferred by modern craftsmen. Once in a while you’ll see a little silk woven in for contrast or to add a sheen, but this usually represents no more than about 3-5% of the rug’s fiber content.
A wide variety of knots and techniques for tying them are used, often based upon the country in which the rug is being woven. These highly perfected skills have been handed down generation after generation, along with much of the equipment that is still in use today.
Iran, Pakistan, China, India and Afghanistan are where most of the modern rug-makers work, often employing a great many family members and neighbors when producing a large rug or long runner. As would be expected, the majority of the rugs they create would be classified as “traditional” or perhaps “Oriental,” although to some true rug aficionados the latter term has a somewhat different meaning. Colors tend to be in the red-burgundy-beige families, with brighter colors used for emphasis rather than as an overall motif.
However, when it comes to medallions, patterns and borders, the sky’s the limit. Some have fringe, some do not. And in some cases, even symmetry is optional. Remember, this is the work of a skilled artist who is attempting to express himself using a very specialized type of canvas and medium. What he sees in his mind is what translates to the loom, and often it is only the weaver himself who has a vision of the finished project.
On a bit of a technical note, one of the difficulties that online retailers have in selling any sort of one-of-a-kind product, is that once the item is sold, it has to quickly be taken offline so later customers won’t be disappointed. In a traditional store, this is relatively easy. Either the product physically leaves the premises, or you can put a big “SOLD” sign on it. You will see some websites that do a version of this by putting text over the sold item, but this is generally not considered to be a good merchandising practice. Why show people what they CAN’T buy? The good news is, Rugs Direct has come up with a way to accomplish this through some rather sophisticated computer programming. Once one of the company’s one-of-a-kind rugs is sold, it is immediately removed from the online display and the gap is filled with other product that remains available for sale.
“The last thing we ever want to do is disappoint a customer,” says Kremer. “Especially when he or she is taking the time and effort to carefully select a one-of-a-kind rug from us,” he concludes.
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