Persian and Oriental Rugs: Harmony And Contrast Of Colors


When it comes to choices of colors in weaving Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs, just like in any other work of art, colors need to resemble words that shape a poem. The way color combinations appear to consumers may be the most important factor when choosing a rug for their home. Compromises to the size, shape, origin, and price of a hand-knotted rug may be much easier to be made than it is to compromise the colors. Traditionally, colors on these floor coverings were selected, perhaps intentionally, of sharper colors with lots of contrast because the rug was used to cover an otherwise cold floor, providing more comfort in a home. The rug did not need to match everything else in the house and only had to look good on the floor. However, the ever-changing tastes of consumers today demands more and more revised coordination between colors. During the last couple of decades, with Western rug dealers being more actively involved in all phases of production, Oriental and Persian carpets are manufactured following specific orders. Weavers have moved into concentrated workshops and are increasingly responsive to the demands of Western markets. Handmade rugs are being produced in shapes, sizes, and colors that have been unheard of only thirty or forty years ago. Decorative pieces coming into the market today consist of very few colors, mostly in lighter shades, making them much easier to match with modern homes. This is not to imply that there is no demand for traditional rugs, but it only indicates the ability of consumers to avoid compromises on colors of their choice when buying rugs.

Low Color Contrast, Old Persian Kashan

Low Color Contrast, Old Persian Kashan

Sharp colors express emotion and a high level of energy. When pure and bright colors are used next to each other on a hand-knotted rug, they will not fight against one another no matter how many of them are used. By placing bright and pure colors within areas of low intensity, grayer colors, designers achieve an attractive contrast. As areas of different colors on a rug are viewed side by side rather than far apart, color shifts are perceived at their highest level. Rug designers often arrive at a great deal of harmony by using colors that come close in value or intensity, but not both at the same time. Sometimes colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are used next to each other. The result can be a magnificent complementary contrast. Some colors are considered as “warm” and some as “cool”, and when they are allowed to work together, a wonderful sense of movement emerges. A relatively large area of any specific color is capable of making a strong statement. A high level of movement and energy in handmade rugs can be displayed when many small areas of a specific color are surrounded by a large area containing colors of lower intensity. Small bits of color within this large, low intensity area appear much brighter than they actually are.

There are endless possibilities for color combinations. To achieve an attractive final product, designers of Persian carpets and Oriental rugs utilize their expertise in selecting the “right” colors for a rug, often collaborating with not only weavers but also expert dyers. The weaving of a rug is so labor-intensive that “surprises” need to be avoided at any cost. Any master weaver will testify that the designing phase of the rug production is where you should not try to save any resources on.

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