1,001 Magical Nights – The Enduring Appeal of Area Rugs

In 1949, the excavation of a Scythian nobleman’s grave in the Siberian Mountains revealed a rather startling discovery:

A 72 by 79 inch red carpet of highly intricate detail, two animal frieze borders and guard stripes meticulously stitched from refined horse’s hair.

Known as the Pazyryk carpet, radiocarbon testing determined it likely to have been woven by then contemporary Achaemenids. Whether or not the rug itself was indigenous to the region in which it was later discovered, or perhaps imported by the wealthily deceased to adorn his family home, is rather a moot point. The real revelation comes from the year of its manufacture: 1000 BC, attesting to a level or craftsmanship and artistry that, until 1949 was previously unknown in the history of carpet-weaving.

The modern area rug derives its inspiration from this ancient ancestry. It also has the ability to transform virtually any room into an oasis of sheer, exotic escapism. While many today remain uber-conservative in their preferences for simple, clean lines when choosing home furniture, an area rug is decidedly the one instance where many people feel they can cut loose from their own tethered inhibitions and simply let their thirst for an eye-popping and spectacular array of color, and, intricately woven fabrics run wild.

Since 3000 BC, rugs have possessed a rather magical property, particularly in Middle Eastern culture; fabulous tales spun from Scheherazade’s imaginative loom: remember Aladdin and his flying carpet? Nomads began weaving rugs to add warmth to their bare earthen floors around this time. But these crude tapestries employing hair from camels, sheep and goats, whatever animal was handy, were decidedly far more functional than decorative.

First in the Orient, and then beyond, carpets began to inspire literature, art and music.  The Greek classic, Agamemnon, written somewhere around 500 BC, references a rug. Later, the nomads in Turkey and Mongolia would transform common rug-making into a finite art. By the 8th century, carpet-making in the Middle East, coinciding with the rise of Islam, transformed not only the local culture but also its economy into a thriving concern. With the Arab invasion of the Caucasus, the popularity of rug-weaving became a national past time and, in the 13th and 14th century, it was introduced into western European culture as a spoil brought back from the Crusades. Much later, rugs would become a favorite of France’s King Louis IX.

By the 15th century, the ability to own a Turkish rug in Europe distinctly meant you had arrived, with noblemen and wealthy merchants having their rugs, as well as themselves immortalized in portraitures. The design of carpets changed dramatically around this same epoch, the balanced look of small ‘kufic’ intricate patterns replaced by large-format medallions with elaborate curvilinear designs, augmented by large spirals, tendrils, arabesques and floral ornamentation to achieve both harmony and rhythm.  Unlike rectilinear lines, these new patterns required artists ably to convey their designs to equally as gifted weavers. Exactly how early Sasanian manufacturers achieved such symbiosis in their creativity remains a mystery.

The zenith in Oriental rug-making would arrive a hundred years later during the reign of the Manchus (Qing) Dynasty. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the Safavid Dynasty was giving the Chinese a real run for their money; the race on to produce more intricate patterns and styles; finally, elevated to rather absurd levels with the jewel-encrusted (and highly impractical) Ardebil carpets. Blood-feuds and war nearly wiped out rug-weaving in Persia in 1722; the industry resurrected and relocated to India by Akbar, the Mongul emperor who brought Persian weavers from Kashan, Isfahan and Kerman to begin anew.  Since then, rugs have held on to our common thread of fascination and respect for the love and affection poured into their meticulous designs, bringing our cultures a little closer together.

The functional purpose of a rug has gone through many transitions since; becoming too precious to be trampled underfoot and quite often displayed on tables, hall chests and walls to showcase its artistry to its fullest potential. I suppose we have Henry IV to thank for that, his 1608 palace production house inside Paris’ Louvre introducing more floral motifs, coats of arms and Christian symbols into the popular design; a trend later followed in India under Great Britain’s colonial influences. The Europeanization of carpet-manufacturing, where workers were paid by the hour rather than the rug, eventually led to a more streamlined and industrialized approach to rug-making craftsmanship; the introduction of synthetic wool dyes in 1870 slowly retiring the ‘handmade’ carpet in favor of machine-woven and mass-produced carpets in all regions of the Orient.  Today, the world-wide availability of rugs has made them virtually commonplace and affordable to all demographics in society, not just the uber-wealthy.


One of the most prolific manufacturers of stylish rugs today is Surya; a company founded in 1976 after a chance encounter in North India between a buyer from the Federated Group (now, Macy’s) and Surya Tiwari. The brand Surya endures, thanks to its founder’s son, Satya who in 2015 was selected as a finalist in the Family Business Category for Entrepreneur Of The Year; his second consecutive nomination for this prestigious honor. Indeed, the company as well as its CEO have much to take personal pride in: an organic fiscal groundswell in profits from $2.7 million in 2004 to $100 million last year; marking Surya as one of America’s meteoric rug-making super stars; the fastest growing privately held company for four consecutive years, with a newly inaugurated corporate headquarters and distribution center in North Georgia.

Surya’s mantra has always been to provide beautiful, quality hand-crafted rugs at an attractive price point. But since 2004, the company has also made it a tradition to stand apart from their competition with ambitious investments in marketing, technology and innovative new merchandising programs to generate best-in-class service and solutions that cater to independent furniture retailers and designers alike, competing effectively in the ever-evolving home accessories marketplace. In a very short period of time, Surya Rugs has been transformed from a relatively small supplier of hand-knotted rugs to a world-class leader and go-to resource for coordinating fashion-forward home accessories; pushing artistic boundaries while never losing sight of a more personal investment in its people; both those who work for the company, and vendors and clientele they have increasingly come to rely upon.

Surya is an all-inclusive resource for decorous and functional carpets and rugs to add class, elegance, style and bling to any home/work living space.  Merging form with function, Surya, has grown their line of products to include rugs, pillows, throws, wall decor, lighting, accent furniture, decorative accessories and bedding, in the process, bringing on board celebrity designers like Candice Olson and Bobby Berk along with design houses DwellStudio and Australian style icon, Florence Broadhurst, to name but a handful. The result: a new era in the manufacture of the ancient and time-honored tradition in rug-weaving; stylistically spanning virtually every taste, be it traditional or contemporary, with a staggering 30,000 options, many of them ‘in-stock’ from which to select and create a perfect balance for your home or office.

Put in its proper historical context, Surya’s tenure in rug manufacturing is brief at best. They are a ‘young’ company. But that heritage and its ability to remain ever-present and contemporary with leading trends in our post-modern times ensures Surya a place of acknowledgement in the annals of history. Several hundred centuries later, rug-making is alive and well and thriving at Surya and likely to remain so for many good years yet to come.

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