First published October 16, 2017
Vintage rugs are key to my signature look and one of the main things my clients gravitate to. Truth be told, I may be a rug slut - I constantly crush on new designs and not exactly tire of my old conquests, but run out of floor space to show them all off. Enter my design projects, through which I can buy rugs vicariously to my heart's content.
One of the comments or direct messages I get the most is "rug source please". The problem is that almost all of the rugs I source are vintage and unique so I they can't be bought again. And the second problem is if I revealed my one of a kind rug sources, they would get bought out and I would be left with no good options for my own designs. I can't help you on those two fronts, but I can help you with a personal guide of what I look for. Disclaimer - I am no rug expert by any stretch. I know what I like and has worked for me from trial and error. What I like may not work for you or suit your needs.
I will break it down into the categories I typically assign to a room. Whatever I think is appropriate depending on the size, style of furniture, and function of said room. The thing that all the rugs I gravitate to have in common is that the patterns are less frilly and illustrative, more graphic and geometric. A rule of thumb is that I stick to 100% natural fiber woven rugs. Wool - cotton - silk - jute - etc. They feel higher quality to me, will wear better in time, and I know how to clean them. If I see polyester or viscose as a percentage of the composition, I reject them right away.
I will have to do this over a series of posts since there is a lot of ground to cover. Too many types out there and I focus on a few types for my design needs. Starting with kilim rugs.
There are so may vendors selling good kilim rugs on Ebay and Etsy now. I look for actual rug vendors from Turkey. They seem to have the best wares. I like kilim rugs because they are extremely durable and cost effective for large areas.
They are flat woven and reversible which helps too. They all run thin so they will need a rug pad underneath. Or to be layered over a larger neutral jute or sisal rug for non-slip padding. I don't do newly fabricated ones because they look and feel lame to me and the colors are off. They feel more faux Southwestern than authentically global. I only use vintage kilims for their faded vegetable dyes that feel more muted and the worn look that adds personality to a room.
They come in an endless array of colors and patterns that run fairly broadly which make them feel modern. If you want to get more intricate and take your kilims to the next level, search for cicim embroidered kilims which have an extra layer of hand stitching added to the kilim background.
A cool thing about kilims is that because they are so thin, they work together well as two or more smaller rugs layered together to create a bigger whole, as long as the colors are similar.
The downside of kilims is that it can be rough to the touch and the thinness makes it not ideal for floor time with kids. Its really good for dining areas and entries. Softened with a sheepskin layered on top, they are nice for playrooms or nurseries.
Don't forget, kilims make awesome accent pillows. If you can't decide on one pattern or color way, you can combine a family of them for a laid back combination.
BENI OURAIN RUGS
On the opposite end of the spectrum from kilim rugs are Beni Ourain rugs from Morocco. These bad boys are thickly shagged rugs that have significant heft and weight. Super delicious for bedrooms where there will be minimal traffic. With their mostly white background and abstracted black brown line patterns, they offer monochromatic and high end style to a room. They run large and are expensive, especially original ones from the Atlas mountains of Morocco. The vintage variety can incorporate some small patches of yellows, reds, and greens but remain neutral with a mostly cream colored background.
Personally, I think these have been overdone lately by designers, especially the cheaper knock off versions. But I do still covet one for myself very very much. These are the one type of global origin rug where I make an exception for buying new as long as its done by hand and in high quality. They do provide extra luxurious and precious addition to a room.
The downside of these rugs is that authentic ones come in widths no longer than 6' but length of 10-12' which make for an odd size to work with. If they are authentic they will smell strange and need airing out upon initial receipt. I can't explain it but its the smell of a goat farm, like tangy clay (??). And they shed so so much. Eventually it will air out and be perfect, but be prepared. Or buy newly crafted versions from Restoration Hardware or William Sonoma Home to avoid the smell. As well as get standard sizing.
Up next, Persians.....