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Trying to put a little zip in your living room? Revive a dreary-looking dining area, or just redecorating? Consider an age-old solution that's experiencing a resurgence in popularity -- Oriental rugs.

After some lean years fed by a shortage of these beauties, Oriental rugs are making a comeback, coinciding with the renaissance that wood floors are enjoying in homes across America.

"Ten or 20 years ago the supply was more limited," says Herb Gallagher, who owns and operates The Caravan Connection in Bowie with hiswife Barb.

The business, serving clients throughout the region, is the local representative of the New York-based Caravan Connection. It specializes in Oriental rugs and offers a variety of services for clients delving into the world of Oriental rugs for the first time.

Oriental rugs are in abundant supply and are more popular with economy-conscious homeowners who want longer-lasting value for their recession-strained dollars. According to Gallagher, people are willing tospend more for a more durable rug that will hold its value.

Thereare several factors to consider when purchasing an Oriental rug. Theeasiest way to pick a beautiful carpet is to choose one and redecorate the rest of the house to match its ambience and colors. Of course,this isn't always possible, so careful consideration is necessary inmaking a selection. The three main factors in rug selection are color, design and size.

"Probably the most important thing people think about is colors," says Gallagher. "Color is to Oriental rugs what location is to real estate."

Pigmentation in Oriental rugs range from deep burgundy to light pastels, and a variety of contrasting colorcombinations are available.

Rugs that contrast with the surrounding decor will become the focal point of the room, while complimentarycolors will make the rug blend in with other furnishings. Consider what you want to do with your rug, and then pick a color that suits that function.

The woven designs on a rug serve a function as well. They will, for example, help designate areas in the home as formal orcasual -- and anywhere in between. Different designs create different moods. As a rule of thumb, geometric designs give a room a casual look, while a floral rug will provide a formal, traditional ambience. An eclectic mood can be achieved by mixing designs.

The size of the rug you want also depends on the mood you want to achieve. In most rooms, you can select either one large rug or several smaller ones depending upon your tastes and needs. One large rug often will be more expensive than several smaller ones -- and sometimes not as attractive.

"You have a lot of flexibility with them," explains Gallagher. "You can put them into almost any setting, and accent different sitting areas."

However, in dining rooms you should make sure that the rug extends 30 inches beyond all sides of the table to keep chairs onthe rug and allow for their movement when the table is in use.

After a person decides on the aesthetics of the rug, he must consider the remaining inter-related factors -- what Gallagher calls the "decision points." These are country of origin, quality, age and price.

The primary manufacturers of Oriental rugs are China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran (Persia). In most cases, the designs and colors you want will be available from several countries, while other patterns will be unique to one region.

Several points determine the quality of a rug: the knot count, wool density and wool quality. The knot count is the main factor in comparing two rugs from the same region. Generally, the higher the knot count, the better the quality of a rug, but the buyer should be cautious when comparing rugs from different countries.

"A Pakistani rug with 200 knots per square inch is not necessarily better than an Indian rug with a knot count of 150 per square inch," says Gallagher.

The quality of a rug is also important to consider when locating a rug in a room. Higher-quality rugs should be placed in higher traffic areas, because they sustainless wear-damage and retain their beauty longer.

Age is another consideration in determining which rug is right for you. As a rug ages, the colors change. Older rugs create yet another mood and may be appropriate in certain rooms.

Also, rugs can appreciate significantly over the years. At 50 years, rugs are semi-antique; at 100 years, they are designated as antiques.

When selecting an older rug, carefully examine its condition. The price of a rug is determined by its quality, beauty and rarity. For example, Persian (Iranian) rugs are rare and the most expensive, but appreciate faster. Ignore the gimmicksand "discounts" offered by some dealers and concentrate on the bottom line price. According to Gallagher, prices on rugs range roughly between $15 to $60 per square foot.

Barb and Herb Gallagher will conduct a Fall Oriental Rug Show from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the St.Andrew's Swim and Tennis Clubhouse on Kinder Road, across from Kinder Park in Severna Park. Information: 262-6689.

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