Updated: Jul 11, 2019
It is hard to find the perfect vintage rug, am I right?! As someone who buys a lot of vintage rugs, I've boiled down finding "the one" to a five-step science to scale your search, and I'm sharing my tips and tricks with you today! So relax, grab a glass of wine, follow along with me to find your perfect vintage rug in no time!
STEP 1: WHAT'S MY BUDGET?
Trust me, it will be easier to find your forever rug if you know your budget ahead of time. If necessary, chat about it with your partner and agree upon the budget . I don't recommend starting your rug search until you have the money reserved. Don't feel like you need to purchase right away; save up, resist the FOMO - there will always be rugs!
Taking a step back to budget will help avoid accidentally overspending on a rug. Most vintage and antique shops don't have a return policy, so if you end up accidentally overspending on a rug, a lot of times you won't be able to send it back.
Pro tip: If you see your forever rug for sale and you don't have all the funding set aside yet, ask the shop owner if they offer layaway or would work with you on a custom payment plan. I received these requests often when I ran the rug shop and have worked out several payment plans with clients. Don't feel weird asking, it's a totally normal request!
STEP 2: VINTAGE OR ANTIQUE?
Once you have your budget set, you'll be able to determine whether to scale your search for a vintage or antique rug. So what's the difference?
Antique rugs are typically over 100 years old and are considered investments. You can expect them to appreciate in value over time, but they will be expensive (like thousands of dollars).
Vintage rugs are much younger than antiques (generally 20+ years old, woven before 1990). Vintage rugs are way more cost-effective so you can "get the look" without the high price tag.
Pro tip: if you're looking to invest in antique rug, I'd recommend hiring a professional to assist you in custom sourcing your rug. There are so many scams out there that classify an item as antique when it's really not!
STEP 3: FLAT-WEAVE OR TUFTED/KNOTTED?
There are essentially two main types of weaving styles you can choose from: 1) flat-weave, or 2) tufted/knotted. These reference the structure of the rug.
Tufted/knotted rugs are woven using a backing rather than a loom. This creates a very sturdy rug. The tufted/knotted rugs have piles. A "pile" refers to the density of the weave. A fluffier rug will have a high pile, and a coarse rug will have a low pile. Most rugs woven in the region of former Persia have this backing.
Flat-weave rugs are woven on a loom without the backing you'd find on knotted or tufted rugs. This is the most traditional weaving technique, and tends to be the most labor-intensive. They are much lighter and easier to store. When you receive the rug, you can expect it to be flat, rather than fluffy. Turkish rugs (i.e., Oushak and Kilim rugs) are almost always flat-woven.
Pro tip: If you use a Roomba vacuum machine, I'd recommend a tufted/knotted rug so it doesn't get caught in the machine.
STEP 4: SIZE?
I honestly think one of the biggest pain points in finding the perfect vintage rug is size. Since these rugs are handmade, they come in so many non-standard sizes.
To avoid any surprises, I'd recommend figuring out the largest rug you can get by with in the space, as well as the smallest rug. You can then scale your search for a size in-between. Use painter's tape to tape out where the rug will go on the floor so you can ensure you'll be satisfied with the size.
Pro tip: Find a rug that's perfect but too small? Consider layering a neutral rug (such as a jute rug) underneath the vintage rug. This way all the necessary floor space is still covered!
STEP 5: SHOP!
When steps one through four are prepped, it's time to shop! I always recommend going with small shops, because we really know our product and take care our clients. You also could start with your local vintage/antique shops, or if you'd like to order online I would recommend starting with Etsy.
Here are aspects I'd recommend considering while you're browsing for a rug to help your search:
US sanctions on Iran: As of Summer 2018, the US has made it illegal to import rugs directly from Iran (former Persia), as well as import Iranian rugs from other countries (even if those rugs have been out of Iran for decades). It is not illegal to purchase rugs with Iranian origin that are already in the United States.
Payment system: If you're moving off of a secure platform such as Etsy or Shopify to find your rug, make sure you're purchasing the rug on a secure payment system to avoid scams. For example, sometimes sellers on Instagram will post a rug and say "DM to purchase". Before you send any of your payment information, ask what system they use (Square, PayPal, and Venmo are all examples of secure systems). I don't recommend making any purchases through What's App. If you don't feel right about it, move on. There will always be more rugs!
Condition: Since you're looking for a vintage piece, you can expect there to be some wear and tear on the rug. Look for a rug that has already been cleaned. If the listing does not say the rug has been cleaned, it's fair to assume it needs to be cleaned professionally. Zoom in on the pictures to see if there are any major stains so you can figure out if the cleaning cost is worth it (as it can get expensive). Feel free to ask the owner for additional pictures to help make your decision!
Colors: Always go with rugs that are made with vegetable dyes over synthetic dyes, as sometimes those synthetic dyes could have harmful chemicals. Be open to different color palettes! If you're able to neutralize your space, finding your rug will be very easy. Some clients have a very specific color palette in mind, which sometimes creates a pain point in the process. Persian rugs are traditionally woven in red and navy blue colors, so these will be easy to find. Black, peach, olive...are all going to be more difficult to find. If you're purchasing a rug online, always assume the colors will be a shade darker in your space to account for screen resolution.
Design: Vintage rugs come in so many designs! You could go with a traditional design, which will look more floral/feminine; or you could go with a geometric/tribal design. If you see a design you're in love with, send it over to a seller to identify. Designs are typically endemic to a specific tribe, so we can let you know the name to help you scale your search!
Get notified: Most shops are getting new stock weekly, so instead of having to look them up, sign up for their e-mail lists! On Instagram, shops will often tell clients the date and time they post new stock. Set those alarms and post notifications to get first dibs!
Pro tip: Try to go with a seller who has either a return or exchange policy to protect your purchase!
That's it! Not too bad, right?! Hope these five steps help ease some of the pain points in searching for your perfect vintage rug! Comment below with your thoughts/questions!