Rug Anatomy – What Are The Different Parts Of The Area Rug?

Exploring the anatomy and different parts of the area rug

An area rug will typically consists of several parts that work together to create a functional and decorative piece.

Let’s delve into the different sections that together create the look of a rug:

  • Field: The field, also known as the central field or main body, is the large, central area of the rug. It encompasses the majority of the rug’s surface and is where the main design or pattern is displayed. The field can feature various motifs, such as geometric patterns, floral designs, medallions, or pictorial rug scenes.
  • Border: The border surrounds the field and acts as a frame for the central design. It is usually a distinct band or series of bands that run along the edges of the rug. Borders can be wide or narrow, and their patterns and motifs often complement or contrast with those in the field. Borders may feature geometric rug designs and shapes, intricate floral rug patterns, or simple stripes.
  • Medallion: Many area rug types, particularly Oriental and Persian rugs, feature a medallion design within the field. The medallion is a prominent, symmetrical motif that often serves as the focal point of the rug. It can be circular, oval, diamond-shaped, or hexagonal. Medallions can be intricately detailed or simplified, and they may showcase geometric, floral, or other decorative elements.
  • Corner Brackets: Some area rugs include corner brackets or spandrels in the corners of the field. These are decorative elements that help balance the design and create a cohesive look. Corner brackets often feature motifs that correspond with the border or field design, enhancing the overall aesthetic of the rug.
  • Main Border: Is the primary wider band that surrounds the rug and frames it.
  • Guard borders: Guard stripes, also known as guard borders or minor borders, are narrow bands that tend to appear between the main border and the field and the main border and the edge of the rug. These guard borders add visual interest and contribute to the overall symmetry and balance of the rug’s design. Guard stripes may feature simplified geometric patterns, small motifs, or complementary colors.
  • Field Patterns and Motifs: Within the field, various motifs, elements, or motifs can be present. These details can include intricate floral patterns, geometric shapes, animal designs, intricate medallions and human figures as examples. The specific rug patterns and motifs will vary based on the rug’s origin, style and cultural influences.
  • Rug Fringe: The fringe of a rug refers to the loose, tasseled or knotted edge that extends beyond the main body of the rug. It is often found at both ends of the rug as they are usually the actual warps of the rugs (which extend from one end though to the other). That said, some area rug styles and types may have fringe on all four sides.
Rug Anatomy and Exploring The Different Parts of the Area Rug by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Rug Anatomy

By combining these different sections – the field, main border, medallion, corner brackets, guard borders and field motifs – an area rug achieves its distinctive and captivating appearance. The interaction between these different sections and components of the rug, will determine the overall style, visual impact and even cultural significance of the rug.

You may want to review our: Medallion Rugs | Area Rug Patterns And Motifs Explained | How Rugs Are Made

Let’s explore a visual reference of the specific sections that make up the area rug

As noted above, each and every area rug consists of several parts, that, together, create the rug itself. While not all area rug styles, especially the new modern area rug productions and of course some of the custom made area rugs, will incorporate each of the sections mentioned in this article, the vast majorly will follow this general approach.

Area rug parts and the anatomy of area rugs by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Area rug parts and the anatomy of area rugs

From ancient times, carpets and rugs tended to follow the similar deign path where the rugs were divided into a field (central design) and borders. As time went on, these simple elements became more complex and eventually evolved into the traditional designs that are known today.

The Field Of The Rug:

World Of Rugs - Rug Field by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in NYC

Picture Of What Makes Up The Field Of A Rug

The field of the rug is the portion inside the borders. They can be an open or solid color area, a medallion design, a repeated motif, an allover pattern, panel, or contain a pictorial element.

The Rug Medallion:

Central Medallion Of A Rug by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in NYC

Picture Of What Makes Up The Central Medallion Of A Rug

Medallion rugs also have other formal elements. Spandrels, sometimes called formal corners or quarter panels, are found in the four corners of the field. Elements known as pendants can sometimes be found on either one or both ends of the medallion.

The Rug Borders:

Rug Borders by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in NYC

Picture Of What Makes Up The Encompassing Rug Borders

The borders of the rug frame the field. Carpets can have as many as ten or more even more bands surrounding it. There is often a main border and a series of narrow borders, called guard borders to “protect” the main border.

The Corner Brackets Of A Rug:

Picture Showing The Corner Brackets Of An Area Rug by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Picture Of What Makes Up The Corner Brackets Of An Area Rug

The corner bracket design in a rug are located in the corners of the field and not the rug itself. These sections are sometimes representative of 1/4 of the deign of the medallion (as if the center medallion were broken up into 4 quarters and those quarters were placed in the corners of the field)

The Mihrab In A Rug:

Mihrab Design Islamic Antique Muslim Prayer Rugs Nazmiyal

Picture Of A Mihrab Design in an Islamic Muslim antique Prayer rug

Prayer rugs are a separate class and have a design element that is unique to them –  meant to mimic a Mosque payer niche, the design is called a Mihrab.

What is the difference between the main border and guard border?

The main border and guard border in a rug are two distinct components that contribute to the overall design and look of the area rug.

Here’s the difference between the main and guard borders:

A Rug’s Main Border:

  • The main border, also referred to as the primary border, is the prominent and wider band that surrounds the field of the rug.
  • It serves as a frame for the central design and helps define the boundaries of the rug.
  • The main border often features elaborate patterns, intricate motifs, or detailed designs that are visually distinct from the field.
  • It is typically more prominent and visually striking than the guard borders.
  • The main border can incorporate a variety of motifs, such as floral patterns, geometric shapes, vines, or symbolic elements.

A Rug’s Guard Border:

  • The guard border, also known as minor border or guard stripe, is a narrower band that appears between the main border and the field.
  • It acts as a transition between the main border and the field, enhancing the visual appeal and balance of the rug.
  • Guard borders are typically narrower in width compared to the main border.
  • They often feature simpler designs or repetitive patterns that complement or echo elements found in the main border or field.
  • Guard borders may consist of geometric shapes, small motifs, or complementary color combinations.
  • The purpose of guard borders is to create visual interest, add depth to the rug’s design, and maintain a harmonious transition between different sections of the rug.
Image Showing The Main Border Of A Rug Vs. The Guards Borders By Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Picture Of What Makes Up The Main Border Of A Rug Vs. The Smaller Guards Borders

In summary, the main border is a wider band that surrounds the field and has more intricate designs, while the guard border is a narrower band that separates the main border from the field and typically features simpler motifs to create a balanced transition. Together, these borders contribute to the overall aesthetic and design coherence of the rug.

What about the rug fringe?

You might notice that some rugs have fringe on the ends, while others do not. Whether you prefer to have it or not is a matter of personal preference. On antique rugs, sometimes the fringe is short, not because it was intended that way, but because it has been worn away over the years. Some newer rugs have fringe that can be as much as five or 6-inches long.

Picture of 2 rugs with fringes - one rug with fringe on all 4 sides and one rug with fringe on 2 ends by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

The Rug On The Left Has Fringe On All 4 Sides While The Rug On The Right Has Fringe On The Two Ends Only

Long fringe can give the rug a tribal or Boho chic look, but it also tends to show dirt more quickly than the rest of the rug, too. It is difficult to clean and often gets caught up in the vacuum. Fringe is a functional part of the rug that is necessary for the weaving process.

The fringe or tassels are the remnants of the warp threads that form the foundation upon which the knots or weaving are placed. They originally run from one end of the carpet weaving loom to the other and are tied to the loom at the end. There are two basic ways to end the weaving so that it does not unravel once the work is complete. You can use a technique called hemstitching or overcast stitch or tie the fringe. However, hemstitching is not a technique used in Persian and other types of Oriental rugs. Knotted fringe is used almost exclusively.

Whether the rug has fringe or not does not have an impact on the value of the rug, but if the knots become untied, or you cut them off, the ends of the rug will begin to unravel, and this will devalue the rug. On a hand-knotted rug, the fringe is an important part of the foundation of the rug.

Swedish Rug Fringe - picture of Maayan Lev Schwartz by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Fringe on a Swedish rug.

Sometimes, the fringe will be ultra-white when you first purchase the rug. Often, this means that it has been bleached, especially if it is a cotton fringe. This can break off over time, and the rug can begin to unravel on the ends. Unfortunately, this makes cleaning them even more difficult.

Some choose to cut the fringe shorter, but you need to be careful and not cut them so short that the knots begin to slide off the ends and unravel. If you have a rug that has begun to unravel, you can take it to a rug repair service who can do a weaver’s hemstitch on the ends to prevent the unraveling from continuing. If done properly, this should only have to be done once, and it should hold for the lifetime of the rug.

Love it, or hate it, fringe is a necessary part of the rug to help preserve it. The idea is to save as many of the original knots as possible. An improperly executed overcast stitch can cause more problems than it prevents. If you have a rug that needs to have the ends secured, it is best to take it to an expert.

Closing Rug Anatomy Thoughts

Now that you understand the rug basics, the different parts that make up the rug, you can appreciate them even more. The different area rug styles are the culmination of thousands of years of tradition and cultural heritage. Rugs and carpets are both utilitarian and symbolic. When it comes to antique rugs and better examples, each one is unique and represents the choices of the rug’s designers, rug weavers and local traditions. A tremendous amount of effort and thought goes into creating these unique works of textile / fiber arts and each one of the different area rugs reflects the heart and soul of the weaver.

Enjoy them as you stroll around our website and search our rugs to find that beautiful one that speaks to you in a special way.

This rug blog post about rug anatomy that explains the different parts of the area rug was published by Nazmiyal Rugs.

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