Ask the Expert: David Martinous of Martinous Oriental Rug Co.

As David Martinous celebrates the incredible achievement of running a family-owned store that has operated continually for 95 years, Martinous Oriental Rug Co., we ask him for his expert advice on buying an artisanal rug.

What are the key elements to a good rug?

Quality of wool, cotton foundation, dyes, number of colors in a rug and the pattern. The more complex the pattern usually means the finer rug.

Which countries produce the finest rugs?

Iran, or Old Persia, was once considered where the best rugs came from. But India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Silk Hereke rug from Turkey are the best areas today. These countries all have very high-quality rugs and so much choice and variety.

How do you choose the right rug for your specific interior?

I always recommend that you start from the floor up. Pick the rug you really like, then it’s much easier to pull fabric colors and wall colors. It’s much easier that way!

Rugs are often produced in countries that employ child labor or unethical work practices. How can consumers be sure that they are not supporting such practices?

In India and Pakistan today a child cannot start working on looms until they are 12 years old — which is an improvement on what it used to be. The Oriental Rug Importers Association has helped these countries for several years now to put together a program in education for children. A lot of these families are farmers as well as weavers. Alongside going to school, the kids help with weaving to help support the family. But the families have been weaving for generations so it is a part of their custom. The U.S. helped build the new child labor laws in order to help keep children in school longer.

Credit: Alexis Hosticka

How do you maintain a rug to ensure that it will last for generations?

  • When a rug is purchased, you also need a proper pad if it’s on a hard surface floor.
  • In the home, vacuum frequently, but keep the vacuum off the fringe.
  • If a dog wets on the rug, blot it out with a rag and cold water, then with a solution of 1/3 white vinegar and 2/3 lukewarm water with a sponge. Let that solution sit for a few minutes before going back over with cold water and rag.
  • If you spill red wine, blot with cold water and a rag, then use club soda and saturate the area to dilute the red wine and keep blotting.
  • A rug should be cleaned at least every five years by a professional dry cleaner. (Never let a cleaner clean and dry a rug on your floor, especially if it’s on a hardwood floor.)

If you do all these things, a good rug should last two to three generations.

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