Medallion Rugs – A Crash Course

Medallion pattern area rugs may be trending right now, but these appealing designs have been around for centuries. Have you heard the term “Medallion Rug” being used by interior designers and wondered what it means? We’ve put together some background for you – there’s an interesting history behind these storied rugs.

What Is A Medallion Rug Design?

The term “medallion” actually means a decorative medal, or a shape that contains an image or patterned design. Historically you’ll find medallion decorations on jewelry, architecture, furniture, textiles, anywhere surface decorations are used. This is a thousand-year-old cobblestone medallion from the village of Frigiliana, Spain:

In the world of rugs, we find medallions in almost every shape and size – squares, hexagons, diamonds, octagons, stars, and rhomboids. Those trendy Moroccan trellis patterns are even based on a common medallion shape. If a rug design has distinctly-outlined shapes that contain some sort of decoration, it’s a medallion rug.

Phoenix Boho Vintage Medallion Rug

Phoenix Boho Vintage Medallion Rug

The History Of Medallion Rugs

Medallion elements were introduced into Oriental rug design when they were adapted from Persian manuscript covers in the 16th century. Classic Persian medallion carpets have beautiful large-scale medallions, often surrounded by vines and flowers. An ornate border frames the design.

Padua Persian Vintage Medallion Rug

 

The central medallion motif was exported about 500 years ago to India and Asia, so today we have rugs from all over the world that have central medallions. The patterns and colors are influenced by regional designs, or recreated by modern designers in fresh colors:

Padua Persian Vintage Medallion Rug

Geneva Boho Medallion Rug

Center Medallion Rugs

Medallion designs can be floral, abstract or geometric. Central medallions are timeless, with ancient designs still in production, and fresh, new versions appearing every season. Some versions are centered on a plain background (or empty field, as it’s called in the design industry).

Brisbane Boho Vintage Medallion Rug

Brisbane Boho Medallion Rug

 

Other rug designs have a background of ornate pattern surrounding the medallion. Our modern medallion rugs are thoughtful updates of these classics that keep color trends in mind:

Vienna Boho Vintage Medallion Rug

Vienna Boho Medallion Rug

Geometric Medallion Rugs

Geometric medallion designs are traditional to tribal cultures ranging from Central Asia to Morocco, as well as Native American peoples. Often the medallion is woven into the design as a repeating pattern.

There are many different geometric medallions, and in traditional cultures they usually represent plants, animals, or elements of nature. They can be difficult to recognize in a stylized rug pattern – but we’re design geeks, so we think it’s fun to learn about them. Guess what? Our Sparta rug has a diamond medallion along the border that offers protection from the evil eye! The largest medallions (the ones with the spikes) represent the spiky burdock plant:

Sparta Boho Vintage Medallion Rug

Sparta Boho Medallion Rug

 

In ancient times the burdock plant was believed to ward off curses, so it’s often woven into kilims for protection. Burdock is also edible, medicinal, and produces beautiful flowers. The burdock medallion appearing in a rug design represents abundance.

 

Smaller medallions are used to fill up the central field of a rug design. They might be repeated in rows, laid out in concentric circles or even incorporated into stripes.

Istanbul Boho Vintage Medallion Rug

Istanbul Geometric Rug

 

So the next time you’re admiring a medallion rug, or a geometric pattern, keep in mind that it has roots in an ancient culture. Medallion rugs might be trendy, colorful, and stylish, but they have a story behind them too.

 

April 15, 2019

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