As thrown around as the word “vintage” is in design, there’ll always be an allure to it. The word hints at a treasure from the past, of course, but it also winks at a certain insider knowledge—the idea that the owner of a purportedly vintage piece has the scoop on tips not found readily or easily. And that, no matter how often the word gets passed around, is the definition of cool.
“Using vintage pieces is guaranteed to add that one-of-a-kind sparkle to a room,” Decorist designer Megan Wright says. “Having elements in your home—that no one else has—adds a sense of achievement to your decoration. I absolutely love pieces that tell a story and that, as a bonus, are showstoppers.”
One of home decor’s most challenging yet important items, a rug, is one of those pieces that is definitely elevated by a vintage tag. Designers and decor enthusiasts who use a throwback piece know that it has the power to create an impressive backdrop to the rest of a room. But following in their footsteps doesn’t require running with the right crowd or even repeating a special password at a hidden door.
“There are many factors to consider when choosing a vintage rug, like how much wear it has, the price, and simply narrowing down the shape and size you need,” fellow Decorist designer Sarah Ramirez adds. “It can be intimidating.”
To keep the process from feeling overwhelming, we asked Wright and Ramirez to let us in on their intel for buying a vintage rug. Here's what they said:
Before You Start Your Search
As fun as it is to spend time searching for furnishings, if you’re set on finding and purchasing a vintage rug in particular, it’s best to have some details in place for doing so. Ramirez recommends either starting or ending a design plan with a rug, which will either come in handy as overall inspiration or as a way to tie together the big furniture items in the space. Make a list of the colors you want to search for based on your existing or dream palette, too.
Wright’s advice is to measure the room for the right-size rug—twice! The rug should act as a frame for your furniture, where all of the pieces can fit comfortably. “You can always lay it out in your space with painters tape if you need to visualize it,” she notes.
Finally, set a budget. Vintage rugs can be expensive, and only you can decide what you’re comfortable spending. For those on a budget, Ramirez says that local vendors can potentially help you source pieces to match your budget. But on the chance that you spot something special that’s a bit of a splurge, weigh it up as a potential investment. “If it's one of a kind and the only one you like, then it's going to be hard to find something exactly like it,” Wright says. “It will also last you years if it's still in good shape, so it's something you can keep and cherish forever.”
Go Ahead and Be Particular
Part of the challenge of searching for a vintage rug includes the vast number of rugs passing as, well, old. “There are so many manufactured rugs out there that are meant to look vintage, and if it's your first time buying a rug, you could easily be tricked into thinking they are,” Wright says. To stay in the clear, be sure to do your research—both designers stress this. Read up on where the collector sources their rugs, and pay particular attention to regions where artisanal rug-making is common.
“The more research you do on your rug’s history, the more you’ll appreciate it,” Wright says. “It will also make for a better story when someone asks you where your rug is from, because that's going to happen.”
When you’ve found a contender, ask to see images of the rug from all angles, including close-up shots of the material. “Make sure the material is sturdy. You’ll want a rug made of wool, cotton, or silk,” Wright says. A good-to-high quality rug will have touches of the artisan’s handiwork, like an even pattern or tightly woven knots. It will also have even coloring throughout, with little fading and few stains. “Check for imperfections, like maybe a curved edge, an irregular size, or double stitching. All the things that add character to the rug,” Wright adds.
Where to Shop
To help your hunt, these are the places Ramirez frequents most:
June and Blue: “Becca has an incredible variety of shaggy Moroccan rugs that she hand-picks,” Ramirez says. “She frequently travels to Morocco, and through the incredible relationships she’s fostered over the years, has direct access to local makers and artisans. She shares so much about the history of the styles, patterns, and people that you truly feel connected to your rug.”
Heirlooms: “Nicki curates a collection of high-quality, hand-knotted, or woven Turkish and Persian rugs, making this an exceptional source if you’re looking for a lower-pile option,” Ramirez continues. “These types of rugs can be more of the traditional idea we typically have of a Persian rug, but can include fun prints and colors, too.”
Drift Home Collection: “Nataliya is incredibly passionate about travel and design, which you can see in her new and vintage offerings from around the world,” Ramirez says. “She hand-picks each rug with an exceptional eye for color and design.”
Zartiques: “You’ll find a really fun collection of mostly Persian rugs here,” Ramirez adds. “The best part is that if you’re not ready to commit to a large rug or you just need a fun accent, there’s always a bounty of runners, minis—perfect for an entryway, bathroom, or the side of the bed—and even pillows made from vintage rugs.”
You can also look for your one-of-a-kind rug at an (outdoor) flea market, an online marketplace, or local design stores; just be sure to trust your eye and follow these tips—and your heart.