Are Antique Rugs Back?

Not that one could say an antique rug was ever truly “out” of style, but it does seem that fashion-driven cycles make them more or less popular.  While in the 1990s and 2000s, requests for antique rugs were sky high, often for specific types such as Heriz or Sultanabad, the last few years have been more challenging. The recession was a big part of it with rug budgets having shrunk almost overnight. Also at hand has been the trend away from boldly colored and patterned rugs—especially tribal—toward the neutral and “washed out” look.  Not to mention the enduring popularity of sisals. During this time, I almost had a double take when anyone did vaguely suggest that there might be some interest in an antique rug.

I’ve always said that things can change on a dime—one day you’re in, the next you’re out and vice versa. And so it goes with antique rugs. The last few weeks have indicated that the wind maybe shifting again favoring a return of beautiful antiques.  A sign that the economy is picking up some steam? For sure, people are feeling more confident and those antique rug buyers—repressed by the recession–are re-emerging on the scene.  Also, these buyers are often finding them more affordable as prices may have softened while new rugs have gone up with increasing production costs all over the globe.

When writing my book The Decorative Carpet, most of the 32 leading American designers I featured confessed a soft spot for antiques because they bestow an interior with a soul and a sense of history hard to replicate in a new rug.  One of these designers was Vicente Wolf who proclaims: “For me, the value is that it [an antique rug] has lived and its worn spots are its badges of courage. Also, there is no risk in buying a worn rug as nothing more can happen to it!” He is among those who cleverly integrate antique rugs in contemporary settings showing how even the most traditional antique rugs can take on a modern flair.

Conversely,  a more tribal-looking rug featuring a bold geometric pattern can a traditional room a contemporary twist as does Samuel Botero here with this beautiful Serapi.

Antique rugs are a work of art by their very nature scarce yet infinitely more reasonable when compared to paintings.  I always try to tell clients that, yes, they are looking at a floor covering but they should always keep in mind that that a good-quality antique rug is first and foremost a work of art.