With all of the things that I love about home decor, a constant obsession of mine is vintage rugs. I just love the warmth and coziness they can bring to a room. Their worn to perfection essence really shares a history that few other items can provide.
I was privileged enough to visit Turkey in 2013 and ended up spending hours upon hours in a rug shop. They were so kind, offered so much help and perspective, and really educated Nate and I about handmade carpets. There is so much that goes into buying vintage or hand made rugs, I thought I would share what I know.
First off, there is a time difference between vintage rugs (25-50 years old) and antique rugs (50+ years old). Many of these are one of a kind, which both makes them fantastic and difficult at the same time. NEVER get your heart set on a certain image because there is a high likelihood that you will never be able to find that exact rug. I suggest starting with a color palette that you like. Browse images looking for colors that would go well with your decor. From there, narrow it down further to the vibe such as traditional, floral, geometric, tribal, etc. Before you start your search, you should know the round about size you are looking for.
There are a few different types of oriental rugs: flat woven and hand knotted. Flat woven are made by crossing vertical and horizontal threads and are often called kilims, sumacs, or durrhies. Pile carpets are more common and are made by hand knotting strings together to form designs and trimming the ends to an even height.
What to look for:
An important thing to know is that vintage rugs have been used. What to look for is that the wear is consistent throughout the rug. If you find a rug that catches your eye, make sure you look for the following things to make sure you are getting a quality piece.
- THE EDGES: this is the most expensive things to fix on a rug and it will literally unravel if the edges are not intact.
- LOOK AT THE BACK: vintage or handmade rugs will never have a backing on it. You should always see the same design on the front and back of the rug.
- LOOK PAST IMPERFECTIONS: a quality executed repair is one thing, a patch is another. Avoid rugs that have been patched because they will not wear the same and as time goes on the patch will become more and more visible.
- LISTEN FOR CRACKS: this may sound silly, but as a rug begins to rot and breakdown (from poor upkeep) the fibers will crack when folded. If you move the rug by folding or turning you should not hear any sharp cracking… if you do, I personally would skip the purchase. ALWAYS ask before testing a rug for cracks.
Caring for vintage, antique, and hand made rugs is a little different than machine made. Generally, vacuums are too harsh on older rugs and can severely damage them. If in a high traffic area, start by sweeping the rug with a straw broom and then shake it out (size permitting). I use the wood floor setting on my vacuum on my vintage rugs to ensure I am not damaging them while sweeping. When it comes to shampooing, a rug should be washed every 2-5 years and spot cleaned as needed in between. To spot clean mix 1 part white vinegar to six parts water and blot. You can also hire a professional rug cleaner if that is something you are interested in. Whichever method you prefer, never let a rug dry while laying flat because the fibers will rot. Always drape over a chair or bannister, or if the rug is large, put something under the rug to prop up the section being cleaned. Its also good practice to rotate the rug every 6-8 months to promote continued even wear.
Where to look:
Flea markets. Antique stores. Estate sales. You can stumble upon a great rug anywhere. Funny story: my boyfriend Nate actually found the green rug pictured above in the walls of a construction job he was overseeing. His company bought a warehouse and were removing a wall where he found this rug. I absolutely loved it and worked on it a bit myself. Its edges are frayed, but I plan to get them repaired soon. When purchasing a rug I would never look at one with as much repair as this one needs (the edges fraying is a sure fire steer clear sign) but with a great story and a price tag of zero dollars, I feel like it needs a second chance at life.
A few of my very favorite instagram accounts are rug dealers. @TheSouthernLoom is hands down my favorite. I adore her collections and am always browsing her inventory. Although I have not purchased from The Southern Loom, when I purchase my home this year I plan to buy from her. (Follow up post will definitely be happen) you can visit her instagrams with the link above, or her websites here. VISIT! You won’t be disappointed.
There are also many Etsy and eBay dealers for rugs. Make sure that you read descriptions, have good quality photos of the ENTIRE rug before purchasing, and ask questions (like to see the back of the rug, etc.) before you buy.