Is your rug 'Vintage'or just old and shabby?

'Vintage' Rugs are often hyped up as the latest boho gem by fashionistas of Home Design and social media who are really interested in just the style aspect of these rugs rather that the substance of the rug itself.In many respects there is absolutely nothing wrong with that - after all, rugs are a beautiful addition to any home.


However this trend of labeling certain rugs as'Vintage' has seen some poorer quality older rugs being given a make-over by either 'overdying' the entire rug with bold contemporary colours;cutting up old rugs and kilims into ''Patchwork Rugs', or alternatively 'artifically distressing' rugs with acid bleaching to create the popular soft 'Vintage' look that graces the pages of many interior design mags and instagram feeds.


On the positive this new look celebrates textiles that are often badly worn, and softened in color, so rugs that were once unloved.are now able to be re-used and re-purposed which in itself is a major plus for sustainability.None of this 'reworking' is neccessarily wrong or bad practise as many rugs that were once rather sad are now beautiful, fashionable, and very affordable,but others have in reality had the real value stripped or chopped out of them leaving them in a purely 'shabby' or at best 'decorative' rug category.

Why am I splitting hairs on this subject ? - simply because true 'Vintage' rugs can in many cases be rather vaulable, not only monetarily, but most importantly from a historic perspective In past centuries rugs were often woven by woman whose superior skills represented a weaving culture that in so many countries has now disappeared and with it her complex range of weaving ,dyeing and designing skills have been lost. Rather than being bleached out, faded and/or distressed, true 'vintage' or antique rugs can be wonderfully vibrant with a complex range of nuanced colours and a full pile with many years of use still left in them.

So here is how to discern what is 'Vintage' and what is not and what you should be aware of when purchasing 'Vintage' rugs.

Here are 5 of my insights into the current trend of 'Vintage' Rugs and Kilims

1. Arificially Distressed and Overdyed Rugs are not Vintage.

When rugs have been artificially distressed.the substance of the original rug - the integrity of a time honoured weaving tradition, has been significantly altered. Depending on the desired look, the aging process of the rug is artificially accelerated by shearing the pile back to the base to even out the look and/or using hard metal scrapers to reduce the original lush pile to one that is worn and 'distressed' throughout. Harsh chemical washes are then used to neutralize and remove the original colors before they are 'overdyed' in a more contemporary color palette.This process damages and weakens the rug .This same process is much less harsh for kilims as these are often just saturated in a dye bath of color without harsh chemicals

With this amount of 'distressing'- a rug that was originally handmade to last generations has had the quality and integrity taken from it and will now last only a few years at most, making it a contemporary fashion item rather than a 'Vintage Rug'.

There is nothing wrong with this if it is sold on that basis rather than as a 'vintage gem, and if you love your distressed 'vintage' rug or kilim for its contemporary look, and for that reason alone, then read no further and enjoy this fun hip contemporary look in your home .

2. Do Patchwork Rugs have a Vintage value?

To create 'Patchwork' rugs and 'overdyed' patchworks a number of different original rug and kilim fragments (old and new) are cut into smaller shapes and stitched together..in a variety of 'patchwork' designs that are then backed with cloth to form a rug. Patchwork Rugs are often claimed to be a rug that carries 'fragments of weaving history and traditional design', and whilst this can be true, the process of cutting and stıtching these fragments together has generally rendered these rugs to ones that no longer have a historical or traditional value but only have a contemporary decorative value.It really is a lot like cutting up a Picasso and reworking it into a patchwork painting.

Again Patchwork rugs are a plus for recycling and of course they are fun and modern, but these rugs should be sold and enjoyed as that, with a low price that reflects the fact that they have been reconfigured and are no longer a genuine rug.

3. Are they really Vintage or just Boho fun ?

Old and shabby discarded rugs are sometimes sold as beautiful handmade 'vintage' gems (with names like Delilah and Tanya to personalise them ) when in fact many are just average rugs that are simply worn out, or frayed and damaged, with only a few decorative years on your floor left in them.Dont get me wrong - 'Worn out' can be truely beautiful in so many ways and I have had more than a few of these rugs pass through my shop over the years, but there is a big difference between a valuable fragment and a poor quality worn out rug that is being passed off as a 'vintage boho' gem.

My feelings on this issue - İf the shabby rug is being sold as an interior design item for a few hundred dollars and you love it, then buy it and enjoy your gorgeous piece of Boho chic, but it may be best to avoid badly worn or damaged rugs and fragments that sell for thousands of dollars unless you are buying them from a trusted antique rug dealer who can verify that they are truely 'vintage '.

4. Color is Valuable:

I have no issue with rugs and kilims that have naturally faded or develop a subtle patina over time, and I am at times not adverse to deliberate sun fading to tone down aggressive colors to make your rug or kilim look soft and more appealing. However many so called 'Vintage rugs' are often intentionally chemically stripped of their original colors to give them an on-trend pastel patina that makes them more in vogue and at home in today's minimalist rustic and neutral interiors.

So why then is this a problem ? -Traditionally the use of vibrant natural dyes in true vinatge rugs was not only an important hereditary skill, but quality color in a rug adds to the value; color also helps us identify the age; and rare or unusual color can increase the price of your rug significantly.The kilim below is easily 150-200 yrs old and just look at those gorgeous colors.

In times past nomadic and village woman used local plants,roots and flowers to produce their lasting and radient ranges of colors. More importantly each color woven into a rug had a symbolic meaning and told the 'story' of the weavers' hopes and wishes as well as indicating the tribal origin or region where the rug was made.

So I am so happy for those who embrace color in their rugs, as so often high quality natural dyes can be much more intrinsicly valuable in rugs than having colors that are so faded or artificially bleached that they are an ill defined blur.

5. Beware of all the machine made 'Vintage Rug' copies.

All my comments above have been for rugs and kilims that have been authentically hand knotted or handwoven,often by weavers in countries as diverse as Turkey, Morocco etc.However the sheer poularity of using beautiful rugs and kilims to individually style your home, coupled with the ease of purchasing online and through Instagram, has lead to an explosion of machine made rayon and viscose look--a-likes being sold in verrtually every homeware / department store and even in some very discerning interior design shops.

They may look good but they are clearly a cheap alternative with none of the durability or timeless quality of a good handmade rug. Always.look for the words 'Hand Knotted' (knots are usually visable on the back whereas the back og a machine made rug has no knots and can also feel platic like) or 'Handwoven', not Hand Tufted or Printed; and natural materials of wool,silk or cotton should be used rather than polyester, rayon or viscose as these are always used in machine made rugs.A good handmade rug is unique and has dimension and depth and clearly a personality, where as a machine made copy feels very superficial and one dimensional in comparison

Of course an authentic handmade rug may intially be more expensive but considering that a good rug can last a lifetime it will certainly be worth the extra cost.

In Conclusion - While the ancient patterns and colors of traditional handwoven rugs remain stunningly beautiful some people may find these time-honored styles may not fit into their contemporary interior designs. ...and in many ways there is nothing wrong with that. However a true 'Vintage Rug' of quality can add warmth and texture to you home - it can often increase in value; is a joy to live with, and can bring with it the energy and love of the weaver, as well as her secret motifs and symbolic colors.

All of this can define and personalise your 'vintage' style in the most beautiful way.

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