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Refinement under foot at Old World Rugs

An example of a Gabbeh rug from Iran. The simple designs and rich colors of the textiles have recently gained popularity with followers of modern style.
Old World Rugs
Photo by Rebecca Juretic
Design Notebook 9-15-10
An example of a Gabbeh rug from Iran. The simple designs and rich colors of the textiles have recently gained popularity with followers of modern style. Old World Rugs Photo by Rebecca Juretic Design Notebook 9-15-10

Old World Rugs may be showing its trendier side these days – but there’s nothing novel about it.

The San Luis Obispo store has been around for 25 years, and in that time has become known for its traditional Oriental and Persian rugs that are hand knotted in India, Turkey, Pakistan, China, Nepal and Iran. Nearly all pieces at Old World Rugs are brand new, but made with traditional techniques, often in ancient patterns.

Today, alongside rich, jewel-toned carpets in traditional, intricate designs, you’ll also see muted earth-tone rugs in simple patterns that could pass for contemporary – even though they aren’t.

Some are Gabbeh rugs from Iran. Made by a nomadic tribal group, they were traditionally made for everyday home use, hence their simple appearance. They appeal to modern sensibilities, but this was not always the case.

“Until recently, they were not valued because people wanted something more sophisticated,” said Old World Rugs owner Harold Lossing.

Nepalese rugs are more designer-oriented with straightforward, contemporary patterns. Although the patterns might not be traditional, the technique and materials are. According to Lossing, sheep raised at high altitudes have more lanolin, resulting in wool with a very luxurious feel.

Even traditional rugs are getting a contemporary lift with the use of vegetable dyes that create softer hues and an antique look.

With the slowdown in retail, Old World Rugs has taken up the slack with its rug cleaning service. It is one of a few businesses that offer hand washing, a process gentle enough for wool rugs. According to Lossing, the high heat and alkaline detergents commonly used in steam cleaning can cause damage. Dry cleaning solvents can remove natural oils from the wool fibers, causing them to become brittle.

The Old World Rugs method begins with submersion in cold water and gentle hand-washing with natural soap. They are rinsed, treated with a pH balancing solution, then left to dry on racks. Spots and pet stains are addressed before the cleaning process begins.

Lossing recommends professional washing for wool or silk/wool blend rugs every few years. Meanwhile, regular vacuuming is usually sufficient. Just be careful with beater bars, which can damage fringe. If you need to spot clean, use cold soft water and a natural soap like Woolite or Ivory – a little goes a long way. Then rinse the soap residue out with a 10 percent white vinegar solution. Pet stains can often be treated with the same white vinegar solution and a rinse of club soda.

If washing a valuable rug gives you pause, Lossing assures rug owners that proper washing won’t hurt the rug – it removes the soil that can damage fibers, restores moisture, and can actually prolong its life.

Old World Rugs is located at 1021 Broad Street in San Luis Obispo, 546-9198.

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