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Beginner’s Guide to Vintage Rug Buying

Beginner's Guide

Vintage rugs are one of my favorite accessories and are generally a hot commodity in design right now. Over the course of a few years we have collected several vintage handmade rugs that have become some of my most prized possessions, as well as a few new, vintage-style rugs. This guide is meant to offer tips for starting out in your rug search.

Why would I want a vintage rug?

Vintage rugs are very popular right now, and maybe you’re wondering what the big deal is. I think there are quite a few reasons that the vintage rug market has become so hot, but some of the fundamental factors are that old rugs are unique, beautiful, practical, and durable. Our dining room rug, for example, is probably at least 80 years old, and with reasonable care it should still look great in another 80 years.

Vintage Iranian rug
Our dining room rug, a handmade Iranian rug, is between about 80-100 years old and still very vibrant.

What should I look for in a vintage rug?

The most important thing to look for in a rug is simply a design and color palette that appeals to you. Secondly, keep condition in mind. Old rugs can vary a lot in condition, and what kind of imperfections you are willing to accept is mostly up to personal preference. You may want to be aware of missing fringe, unraveling selvedge (the non-fringed borders of the rug), areas of wear that expose the rug base, fading, and patching. These can impact the value of a rug, but unless you are a serious collector (in which case you probably don’t need my advice), they shouldn’t necessarily affect your ability to display and enjoy the rug in your home. Imperfections often enhance the character of a rug and add to the vintage appeal.

Vintage rug in kitchen
The left and right edges of our kitchen rug have begun to unravel. While we take care not to fray them further, the rug is still very functional.

How much should I pay for a vintage rug?

As with most vintage items, there are a lot of factors that go into the value of a particular piece. The condition, rarity, age, and the market in your area can all play a part in how much you should expect to pay. Legitimate vintage rugs in good condition can easily cost hundreds and thousands of dollars, depending on the size. While this may sound like a lot, keep in mind that these rugs will basically never wear out, and as long as they are taken care of will generally hold their value quite well. So as long as you are buying from a reputable seller and the cost is within your budget, you can consider your rug an investment piece.

If you are buying from a Craigslist seller or from somewhere else and you’re not sure if the item is legit, it pays to educate yourself a little bit about how to identify a true handmade (hand-tufted) rug versus a machine-made rug. There are quite a few short but educational videos on YouTube to help you do just that, but here and here are a couple quick ones that cover the basics.

There is nothing wrong with buying a machine-made rug (my living room rug is one of my favorites and it is machine-made), but naturally you want to be able to evaluate the claims a seller makes and know exactly what you’re getting. Handmade rugs are typically more valuable and therefore more costly.

Colorful living room with turkish rug
Our living room rug is machine-made, but I still love it for color palette and design. We bought it on Craigslist and knew that it is not handmade.

Where can I buy a vintage rug for cheap?

Flea markets, thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, Craigslist, and eBay are good places to find a deal on a vintage rug. However, don’t expect to walk into the first flea market you find and hit the jackpot. Finding a real score on a rug takes CONSTANT VIGILANCE (for you Harry Potter fans).

Where can I buy a vintage rug online?

There are a lot of great places to buy beautiful vintage rugs online. Here are a few sources you may want to check out:

Frances Loom

Semikah Textiles

The Woven Home

Greenbody+Greenhome

Canary Lane

Kaya Kilims

The Vintage Rug Shop

Homestead Seattle

If you are seriously in the market, I highly recommend following these and other textile dealers you’re interested in on Instagram. It’s a great place to see new inventory from multiple sources as soon as it’s available.

Where can I buy a new vintage-style rug?

Because of the popularity of vintage rugs, many rug manufacturers are offer products that mimic the design of vintage rugs. RugsUSA, Wayfair, Overstock, and Ikea are just a few places where you can buy new rugs with vintage-style designs. When buying a new rug, just be aware of the material the rug is made out of. Whereas most vintage rugs are wool (high-end rugs may also be silk), new vintage-style rugs can be made out of a variety of materials and may be synthetic, so you want to verify that the rug is 100% wool if having a natural fiber rug is important to you.

IMG_7259
I bought this rug on Craigslist, but it originally came from Overstock. It is a new 100% wool rug.

Other questions, tips, or suggestions from your own rug buying experience? I’d love to hear about them!