What We Look For When Buying Handmade Vintage Rugs

What We Look For When Buying Handmade Vintage Rugs

Posted by Kolina Cicero on

We recently took a trip out to New York to attend a trade show for high-end rugs, and what we saw dazzled us. The vibrant designs, classic neutrals, and buttery soft textures made us want to buy everything in sight. Which, of course, we did not do. We did buy a lot of rugs though, and this is how we decided what to purchase and what to pass on.


When looking for rugs, the first thing we verify is whether it is handmade. Machine-made rugs can be great, but that's not our business. Our business is handmade vintage rugs that serve as art for your floors. The way to determine whether a rug is handmade or not is quite simple: you turn the rug over and look at the back side. If the back design mirrors the front, it is more than likely handwoven or hand-knotted. Next, check the fringe or tassels. Are they sewn on or are they woven into the rug? If they are sewn on, it is not a handmade rug.


Surprising Accents

We typically lean toward rugs with overall muted rugs that feature surprising accents, motifs, or colors. This enables our customers to get really creative and have fun with their decorating while not going wild and getting way out of their comfort zone. Life is too short to have an all white and beige house! But we understand that a bold, bright rug isn't for everyone, so we are sure to source many options that have subtle pops of color and lots of personality.

Turkish or Persian

All of the rugs we source are either Turkish or Persian -- hand-knotted rugs made in Iran. Turkish rugs usually feature motifs like florals or birds (Oushaks) or tribal designs with lots of straight lines and angles (Anatolians). Persian rugs are quite intricate and have a higher knot count per square inch, which you can see by turning the rug over and checking out the back side. These rugs often have a medallion in the center, and their colors are typically vibrant (and some are even hand-died with vegetables!)

Here's a Turkish rug we just brought into the studio. As you can see, it's got an overall neutral color scheme, with its pale pink and oatmeal field and dusty blue and charcoal accents, plus it features some lovely floral motifs.

No. S-1929 | 10'8 x 7'

This is a Persian we just acquired and we love. Note the much more intricate designs and the slightly more punchy colors, both of which are hallmarks of a Persian rug.


Designer's W-1954 | 6'1 x 4'5

For a detailed post about the differences between Turkish and Persian rugs, click here

Standard Sizes

While we are fans of sourcing unique rugs, we also have a commitment to a certain level of reliability, which is a standard rectangular rug. While we have sourced the occasional square rug -- and we love them! -- the truth is that rectangular rugs are the best fit for most spaces in your home.


For the most part, we only purchase rugs from suppliers who we know sell authentic vintage. We have great relationships with our select vendors and we know what we're in for when we purchase rugs from them. That said, we did just recently go on a buying trip! When we're in a position where we can touch the rug and check it out ourselves, we always start by folding a corner to look at the root of the knots. If it truly is a vintage rug, the colors will be more vibrant right there at the root than they will be on the surface, and the color difference will be more of a fade (like an ombre look) rather than a blunt cutoff, which a machine-made rug colored to look vintage would have. 

We also look at the distress. Yes, machine-made rugs can have a distressed look, but real, natural distress you can feel in your hands. The rug will be slightly thinner and more pliable in places with natural wear. 

Identifying vintage is just one of those things that you learn when you're in the trade. It's something you can feel in your hands, because they just don't make rugs the way they used to! And that's why we're so taken by handmade vintage rugs: there's nothing quite like them. They are the perfect accent, a great conversation piece, and an investment that will last for decades.


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