Vintage turkish rugs add color, texture and a sense of old-world charm to a room. They’re also a valuable investment that will last a lifetime. These unique pieces can be found in a wide variety of styles and sizes, making them a versatile choice for any space. From kilims to Moroccan round rugs, there’s a rug out there for every style and budget. Many online stores specialize in selling only vintage rugs, so shoppers can easily find the perfect piece for their home.
As the name suggests, a vintage Turkish rug refers to any carpet that was woven in Turkey or the former Ottoman Empire using traditional methods and techniques. The region’s varied geography and weaving traditions produced a broad range of rugs, from flat-woven kilims to lushly knotted hali. As Milan-based antique rug dealer Alfredo Levi explains, the main types of Turkish rugs are kilim, distinguished by a plain slit tapestry weave that leaves gaps (or slits) between sections woven with different colors; sumak, made with weft wrapping for a sturdier flat-woven carpet; and cicim, which feature extra brocade techniques typical of villages and tribes throughout central Anatolia.
The late seventeenth century brought major aesthetic changes in Ottoman rug production. During this time, the popular holbein pattern—named for the European painter who used similar motifs in his portraits of wealthy Western nobility—appeared in many rugs. The Safavid rulers of Persia also influenced rug production, leading to the appearance of ornately detailed field designs and winding detail elements. It was also during this era that niched prayer designs began to appear in many carpets.
Some of the most well-known vintage turkish rugs come from this era, including the Memling Gul and Small Pattern Holbein patterns. These rugs were woven using the Ghiordes knot, which differs from other knots in that weft yarn wraps around two warp threads instead of just one.
In the nineteenth century, Turkish rug production experienced a significant upswing. In the west, a craze for Orientalist culture was in full swing, and even rustic tribal rugs became prized for their cultural verisimilitude.
By the end of this period, the kilims had gained in popularity, and the rug weaving industry had become incredibly sophisticated. The first-generation kilims, made with simple geometric motifs, were still being woven, but the artful, highly symmetrical rug forms of later generations had emerged.
Today’s vintage turkish rugs are often referred to as Kilims, although some may be called Oushak or other names, depending on the country of origin. The majority of these rugs are made with wool, but the fibers can be dyed a variety of colors to match the decor of a room. They can also be overdyed to bring back the original hues or to make the rug more contemporary.
Aside from online marketplaces, there are a few in-person places where you can find a vintage Turkish rug that fits your tastes and your budget. Emily, an interior designer and blogger at Fig House, says her three in-person go-to spots include Craigslist (she once scored a blue kilim for $75), estate sales, and flea markets. She also loves to shop at the Rug Source, which offers a wide selection of high-end rugs at affordable prices.