10 Expert Tips For Buying A Vintage Rug
Comparing wine and vintage rugs may seem odd, but the expression “aging like a fine wine” couldn’t be more true for the latter. Just like a fine wine, rugs (and we’re talking about high-quality, handwoven rugs from world-class producers like Turkey and Persia) only get better, and in some cases more valuable with age. So since rugs are often quite an investment, we asked vintage rug expert Melissa Dilmaghani from Old New House for the lowdown on what everyone needs to think about before buying a vintage rug.
H&H: Do certain rug materials command higher prices? What kind of materials should people be looking for?
MD: Most of our rugs are wool and cotton — two natural materials that wear extremely well. Rugs that are 100 per cent wool or silk typically command higher prices than synthetic blends.
H&H: Are people likely to encounter issues importing rugs from foreign countries? Do duties tend to be quite expensive?
MD: Like buying clothing from an overseas country, you can expect to pay import duties on vintage rugs. Most sellers do not include import duties in their prices so be sure to factor in a buffer for unexpected costs. There are website that allow you to calculate estimated import costs, like Cross Border Shopping.
H&H: Rug colors are certainly a very personal choice, but are there some colors in particular that you think have a timeless quality?
MD: Yes. Traditional colors like red and blue, which you often find in Persian rugs, never go out of style. More neutral tones, like beige, ivory, and faded blush are also very popular and have a timeless decorative appeal.
H&H: Vintage runners continue to be popular in high-traffic areas like kitchens. Are certain rug colors and patterns better suited for kitchens?
MD: Having a vintage rug in the kitchen looks awesome, and often times vintage rugs are actually a lot more durable and easier to clean than a new rug. We often suggest darker shades of blue and red to hide dirt and spills, but we’ve seen people use rugs with neutral tones and they’ve looked amazing, too.
H&H: We’re seeing lots of vintage rugs popping up in bathrooms in the pages of House & Home. Are there any precautions people need to take before using a vintage rug in their bathroom?
MD: Like kitchens, using darker colored rugs can help disguise marks in the bathroom. Taking up your rug and letting it dry once in a while helps, too. Due to the nature of wet bathrooms I’d also suggest staying away from rugs that are too precious or expensive.
H&H: What are your thoughts on using rug mats? Do you recommend people get their vintage rugs professionally dry cleaned?
MD: It can be daunting to not know how best to care for your vintage rugs. For general maintenance I suggest vacuuming your vintage rugs once a week — as long as they’re not particularly fragile. I also highly suggest using a pad underneath that’s made of a natural materials like jute and rubber; some other rug pad materials can damage hardwood floors.
If at some point your rug gets stained or seems overly dirty, having it professionally cleaned by a rug cleaning company is ideal (not dry-cleaning). I also don’t recommend using over-the-counter stain removers as the chemicals can change the color of the rug and cause issues.
H&H: As with any decor items, vintage rugs come with their own terminology, like “hand-knotted” or “Beni Ourain.” Are there certain buzzwords that people should look out for when searching for rugs?
MD: You’ll notice some of the most popular buzzwords right now are “Oushak” and “Heriz.” When we started on Etsy we were one of the first rug sellers there — now there are countless options to scroll through and it can be so so overwhelming! Rather than buying into the buzzwords I highly recommend getting to know the individual seller or company you’re purchasing your rug from first. Don’t be afraid to ask questions prior to purchasing so you can have a great experience with the transaction and really know what you’re investing in. It can be fun to “hunt” for a rug and try to find the best deal but it can also lead you to getting burned.
H&H: When it comes to furniture, antique furniture with real age often commands higher prices. Can the same be said be said for vintage rugs?
MD: Almost all of the rugs we sell are vintage (pre-1960 and some as old as 1860s). Antiquity does not always mean more expensive, though. Some really old rugs may have tatter and wear, or not be considered collectibles. There are some antique rugs that are highly sought after because they are rare, while there are some antique and vintage where the main draw is purely decorative appeal.
H&H: Speaking of wear, have you also noticed that vintage rugs with some wear are very in right now?
MD: Yes! We’ve found that the heavily distressed rug look is very much in — especially rugs with an allover design and subtle colors of teal, indigo blue, or even charcoal. The contrast between the white of the wear/distress and the blue or black has such a natural but also edgy aesthetic.
Some people, myself included, love really worn-out and distressed rugs. Just like ripped jeans, there is a cool aesthetic that comes with distressed rugs. Plus, they also indicate the survival of an art piece.
H&H: Do certain countries demand higher rug prices, and if so what countries?
MD: Most of our rugs originate from Persia and Turkey, but the origin does not necessarily command a higher price. Certain types of weavings may command more, though.