Vintage Rugs

Definition of Vintage Rugs

Vintage rugs are decorative heavy textiles that were created at least 30 years ago. This general category is very diverse and includes floor coverings from all over the world, the Orient and Occident alike. The most recognizable styles of these rugs are Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian, Arts&Crafts, Moroccan, Chinese Deco, and Art Deco.

In contrast to antique rugs, vintage rugs usually have ‘lighter’, more contemporary designs. They reflect the socio-cultural changes of the 20th century, echoing the new way of perceiving art, craft, design and their role in everyday life. Instead of opulent, intricate patterns, vintage rugs often have experimental forms, simpler motifs, and a very different message behind, depending on the country and particular movement from which they originate.  Thanks to their modernized appearance, combining tradition and progress, they easily match both classic and modern interiors. 

The Difference Between Antique and Vintage Rugs

The very term “vintage” introduces a bit of confusion. Although nowadays the word is used quite frequently, the very essence of what exactly is vintage and what should be called antique often remains a mystery. To place vintage rugs on the timeline, we may assume they were made after the year 1920. Antique carpets, on the other hand, were made before that date. There is a general rule saying that antique rugs are those that are at least 80 years old, making age the major factor distinguishing them from vintage carpets. This division is somehow contractual, cause the line between an antique rug and a vintage rug is rather fluent and changes as we move forward in time. One day, all vintage carpets will become antique. Another way of categorizing vintage rugs, probably more accurate, is linking them to the birth of Modernism.

Vintage Rugs and Modernism

The modernist movement that has emerged at the beginning of the 20th century marked a major transition from the era of Victorian salons, full of conventions and social distinctions, to the age of café society, concentrated on fixing all of the ill-fitted aspects of the world. The strive for change resounded strongly in design, introducing many innovations unthinkable in the old days. People discovered the brilliance of simplicity, the excellence of geometric elegance and the power of properly applied, daring colors. They experimented not only with patterns but also with forms and textures of objects. The pomp and excess were left behind to make way for the new concept of beauty.

 It all transferred to vintage rugs – every trend in architecture and art was reflected also in textiles. One might ask, why exactly carpets? Where this fascination for weaving masterpieces, beginning from the earliest antique rugs, comes from? The answer is simple – a rug is the heart of every room. Vintage rugs showcase immense diversity in terms of design, ranging from geometric, abstract patterns to native floral or folk motifs with mesmerizing use of color and form.

Vintage Rugs and Art Deco 

Art Deco, also known as ‘Style Moderne’, appeared in France in the 1920s’ and for a long time in was synonymous with high fashion and luxury. Design studios known for creating Art Deco interiors were those of Emile Jacques Ruhlmann, Jules Leleu, Paul Follot, and Maurice Dufrene, among others. The world of Art Deco vintage rugs was ruled by Ivan Da Silva Bruhns  Paule Leleu (the daughter of J. Leleu) or Suzanne Guiguichon, who was designing vintage carpets for, inter alia, Maurice Dufrene. Other tycoons of carpet design, such as Marion Dorn, Jules Coudyser, Rene Crevel, and Vladimir Boberman should be mentioned without a question. Thanks to the imagination of those artists, the textile industry entered the world of abstraction, advance graphics, bold, colorful floral patterns and geometric minimalism.

Vintage Rugs and Bauhaus

Simultaneously, the famous Bauhaus school was founded in Germany. The philosophy and a major attempt behind the creation of this school, which transformed into a design movement, was to combine fine arts with craftsmanship. The assumption was that utilitarian and architectural objects can be both beautiful and practical and that sublime taste can be instilled in willing students. It proved to be true. The most widely known Bauhaus weavers include Johannes Iten, Gunta Stolz, and Anni Albers. This style is largely geometric, organized but not deprived of artistry and certainty not predictable. Bauhaus aesthetics had an unsurpassed influence on Art Deco vintage rugs, and are clearly visible in Scandinavian vintage rug design.

Different Types of Vintage Rugs

Although generally vintage rugs from all places in the world share certain common features and are rather easy to distinguish from antique carpets, they differ quite significantly from one another depending on the exact place of their origin. While a Persian antique rug from Tabriz may be easily confused with a similar creation coming from a different weaving center, or even a different country, like Turkey, vintage rugs, especially those from the first half of the 20th century, are much more diverse in terms of style and applied patterns. Inspired by new trends back then yet still deeply rooted in tradition (and sometimes folklore) of a given country, vintage carpets exhibit an immense array of designs and aesthetics characteristic to nations that produced them. We would like to present some major categories of vintage rug designs and show which way of thinking and historical background influenced particular weaving styles.

Scandinavian Vintage Rugs

Scandinavian rugs – Swedish vintage rugs in particular – are crème de la crème of vintage rugs. They are widely desired for intricate weaving techniques, exceptional color palettes and most importantly – their compatibility with both modern and contemporary interiors. Their greatest strength is the unique Scandinavian aesthetics which were born out of history, philosophy and breathtaking landscapes of the northern countries. It is a style full of symbolism referring to nature where the exact representation of plants, animals or landforms was substituted by geometric, simple motifs.

The main idea behind this philosophy of design lies in the dream of social equality. Scandinavian society, compatible and unified, assumed that anyone, not only the rich and wealthy but all citizens, should be able to afford a beautiful and practical interior. It shows clearly in Swedish vintage rugs which were by the artists of the finest sort. Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom can be lightly called a Grand Dame of Swedish vintage carpets. She established her own company in 1919 which, after her death in 1942, was taken over by Barbro Nilsson, who became the director and chief designer of the weaving workshop. Other important designers of Swedish rugs in the mid-20th century include Ingrid Dessau, Marin Hemmingson, Sigvard Bernadotte, Brita Grahn, Edna Martin, and Viola Grasten. All of them have contributed to the absolute success of Scandinavian rug design, which is nowadays desired more than ever.

Scandinavian vintage rugs are praised by contemporary interior designers for unobtrusive, muted color palettes, heavily relying on a large spectrum of pastel shades, combined with the patterns largely inspired by folklore and geometry.

Chinese Deco Vintage Rugs

Carpet production in China during the first half of the 20th century was greatly influenced by fine Art Deco vintage rugs originating from France. This was due to the purely economic approach of the Chinese who, seeing a huge market demand, wanted to sell their carpets to Western consumers. Two largest exporters of rugs from China were America’s expatriates – Helen Fette and Walter Nichols. Both manufacturers produced handmade wool pile rugs that adapted Chinese designs to western tastes. Some of the rugs from their factories are so similar that they can only be identified by labels or stenciling. Sadly, Nichols’ original vintage rugs are often unidentifiable now as his records were almost destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and also because the white cotton fringe where he had stenciled has worn away.

Chinese Deco rugs tend to be more floral than geometric and they showcase an exceptional diversity. Chinese wool vintage rugs are permeated with an Asian influence, absent in the vintage carpets produced in the West, which gives them an intriguing twist. Brave, imaginative use of colors and traditional Eastern motifs such as bamboos, lotus flowers, Chinese calligraphy or the iconic phoenix and dragon figures are among the most characteristic features of Chinese rug art. Chinese Deco rugs should not be confused with antique Chinese rugs. Mid-20th-century carpets imported from China were produced mainly to cater for the European and American taste. They have a rather spare and modern appeal in contrast to antique rugs. Nonetheless, their quality is marvelous and an effort of finding a genuine Chinese Deco vintage rug is worth the candle.

Moroccan Vintage Rugs

Moroccan rugs deserve a place in the pantheon of the most sought-after vintage rugs. They are distinguished by simplicity and honesty of expression and strong tribal references. Typically adorned with ethnic patterns, they constitute an authentic book on the culture of the Middle-East. Each of them tells a story but instead of letters, there are symbols, ready to reveal their substance to an attentive reader. Everything matters, from the use of color to the smallest fret motif – everything bears a distinguished meaning. The message is usually supposed to be a good omen, a blessing to a person or a household. It was also the means of expression for the female tribal weavers, who could transfer their fears, stories, and dreams to the looms.

 The Modernists in the mid-20th century fell in love with Moroccan vintage rugs, employing them in the modern interior design, however, their apple of the eye appeared to be Moroccan Beni Ourain rugs. Their appearance varies from what we know as typical Moroccan rugs. Beni Ourains are dichromatic, with toned beige background and a simple, seemingly reckless pattern, maintained in a light brown shade. Moroccan vintage rugs influenced designers such as Ivan Da Silva Bruhn and Vladimir Boberman. American Interior Designer Francis Elkins used them in some of her most notable interiors in the 1930s and 1940s.

Arts&Crafts Vintage Rugs

The Arts and Crafts movement in England was co-founded by William Morris – a famous painter, architect, and textile designer – during the 1870s. Morris’ designs had a great impact on the art world in general. They spread rapidly throughout Europe and North America and played a major role in shaping the creative life of Great Britain. The proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement sought to re-establish the link between the artist and the craftsman, and art and industry, in a way as a form of rebellion against their rigid Victorian backgrounds and the dehumanizing mechanization of the Industrial Age. The distinctive style of  Arts and Crafts vintage rugs and carpets is defined and characterized by serpentine curvilinear and naturalistic floral patterns executed in a rich, dense palette.

Although born in an entirely different reality, Arts and Crafts vintage rugs can be easily implemented in contemporary interior arrangements. It is due to their balanced, utterly tasteful and appealing designs. An arts and crafts vintage rug is a perfect choice for your house décor, no matter the style. Floral, meandering yet not overcomplicated patterns combined with soothing and toned color palettes create a serene combination, irresistible to all lovers of timeless beauty. An arts and crafts vintage rug design may be matched with a wide variety of décors, from classic, like Victorian, Modern Farmhouse, Hollywood Regency or Neoclassical, through minimalistic, including Vintage Scandinavian or Cali-Cool, to futuristic and miscellaneous, such as Mid-Century Modern or Shabby Chic.

Most of Arts&Crafts vintage carpets are permeated with magic and mystery of Celtic references. Born in England but based on ancient oriental craft, these floor coverings constitute a merger of excellent quality and elegant designs reflecting the wonders of English nature and the old beliefs of the Islanders.

American Vintage Rugs

At the same time, the Modernist movement arrived at the United States and was warmly welcomed, most likely as a result of major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. These exhibitions presented the movement to the wider audience and ensured its success in all forms of arts. It inspired some of the most notable textile and rug designers working in the United States, such as Donald Desky, Stanislav V’Soske, Eliel Saarinen, Loja Saarinen (the mother of Eero Saarinen) and Ruth Reeves. After the closing of the Bauhaus school, many of the architects and designers associated with the school immigrated to the United States, including Josef and Anni Albers. Numerous brilliant wool vintage rugs for sale were created thanks to the emergence of the movement in America.

Hooked Vintage Rugs

Rug hooking might have been born in Europe, nonetheless, hooked vintage rugs in their most popular version probably originated in North America. Rug hooking, as many respected crafts, like tying of rag rugs, has humble origins. It was a way of reusing old fabric scraps to transform them into practical floor coverings by the less affluent part of the society. Made of whatever was available, hooked vintage rugs usually exhibit an astounding variety of colors, textures, and patterns, depending on the creativity of the weaver and the region of making in equal measure. The represented motifs included fallen leaves, seashells, animals, pictorial scenes, plants, and abstract concepts.

First hooked rugs made of hand-torn scraps were much more primitive than today’s intricate and well-thought-out creations. The commercialization of rug hooking came with the rapid rise in their popularity. Today, the craft is well and about, exploring new techniques, materials, and aesthetic concepts. The innovations and experimentation, along with the deep memory of the humble origins and respect for tradition, will allow rug hooking to evolve and grow in the 21st century.

Hooked vintage rugs are widely sought-after by interior designers and art aficionados for their unique appeal, introducing an unobtrusive and tasteful folkloristic vibe into the décor. There is nothing better to create a feel of homeliness and warmth than a hooked vintage rug design.  

Dhurrie Vintage Rugs

Flat-woven and similar to kilims in texture and construction, Dhurrie vintage rugs originated in India and the surrounding areas. Created for practical reasons such as floor covering, bedding, and dowry (in certain regions), dhurries are nowadays recognized as an ancient art form. From the very beginning, dhurrie carpets were used by the wealthy and poor alike – they were above social divisions, serving everyone in equal measure. Their primary designs were simple and uncomplicated as the practical function of dhurries was decisively above the decorative one. Nonetheless, in the first half of the 20th century, these fabulous textiles became highly desired around the globe and experienced a major boom in popularity which also influenced their development.

Designs of vintage carpets of dhurrie type vary enormously, from coarse to meticulously woven, plain to incredibly detailed.  Their color palette very often consists of subtle tones of ivory and indigo – the most famous Indian dye. Dhurries are usually made of cotton or wool (although there are instances of silk or jute ones) in a special weaving technique which allows them to be resistant to Silverfish and other insects responsible for destroying rugs. They are easily portable as their cotton-based construction is lighter in comparison to the traditional, thick weave.

A dhurrie vintage rug is a marvelous addition to any home décor in the modern era. The exotic charm and upmost practicality of dhurries make them an excellent choice to introduce the warmth and beauty of the orient into the interior.

Blue Vintage Rugs – The History of Blue Dye

Although decorative carpets come in a plethora of styles, colors, and patterns, the story of blue vintage rugs is somewhat special. There are not many things in nature that can be turned into a long-lasting, durable and saturated blue dye for textiles. Therefore, this shade has always caused the biggest commotion and evoked the strongest emotions. Certainly, the turn of the 20th century has brought about an entirely new option for carpet manufacturers – artificial dyes. However, all artisans faithful to traditional, centuries-old ways of weaving floor coverings have abstained from applying them to their blue vintage rugs.

History tells us that in medieval Europe, the most commonly used blue dye was obtained from a woad plant. It resulted in a slightly whitened and washed out shade which today we would describe as pastel blue – in fact, ‘pastel’ was the name given to this very color!. ‘Woad blue’ was considered a dye for commoners and low social strata, as it was widely accessible yet not very impressive or lasting. Everything has changed around the 15th century with the arrival of indigo – the most precious Indian blue dye. Obtained from the plant known as “Indigofera tinctoria”, indigo was distinguished by the depth of saturation, durability, and extremely appealing shade. Despite the fact it had been used by the inhabitants of India for millennia ( it was even known to ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Peru, Egypt, Africa, and Iran – a former Persian Empire), it only came to Europe in the Middle Ages to quickly become the most favorite of all dyes.

Blue Vintage Rugs in Interiors

Today, artists and designers remain under the spellbinding influence of the color blue. A naturally dyed blue vintage rug is a rare treat to them, not to mention collectors or art aficionados. A blue vintage rug, especially a navy blue vintage rug, is going to enrich any contemporary interior décor. Blue is a shade associated with peace, intelligence, tranquility, and reliability. It provides a sense of security, curbs appetite, and stimulates productivity as it is the best color for concentration. A blue vintage rug is an excellent way to add depth to the arrangement in an unobtrusive, classy, tasteful and timeless way.

Large Vintage Rugs

Although younger than antique rugs, large vintage rugs are still one of the most sought-after kinds of woven goods. They can be found in any color, size, and pattern. From European elegance to subtle Chinese beauty, the richness of authentic vintage pieces is simply astonishing. Numerous collectors consider big vintage rugs to be a great investment for the future, as they tend to be durable and their worth increases with each passing day.

Medium Vintage Rugs

Not too big, not too small – medium vintage rugs were produced in every country dealing with carpet production. Due to that fact, their variety is immense and you may find a medium authentic vintage rug for sale in NYC in almost every existing weaving style, pile length, and design. This freedom of choice, as well as practical aspects like the fact that they easily fit into contemporary apartments, make medium vintage carpets the most frequently picked type by customers around the world. Whether it is a Scandinavian vintage rug, a Chinese Deco or European Deco vintage rug, a Dhurrie rug, an Arts&Crafts rug, a Moroccan vintage rug, a hooked rug, a Spanish rug or a Samarkand vintage rug in New York City that you’re seeking, you’ll most definitely find in in medium size.

Small Vintage Rugs

Handy and charming, small vintage rugs are the apple of the eye of tastemakers and designers around the world. They are the proverbial “icing on the cake” of every design, as they unobtrusively complement the space, avoiding excess yet visibly adding colors and patterns. A small vintage rug is simply ideal for the super trendy tea-table arrangement. It is irreplaceable in the bathroom, a kitchen or a vestibule as a subtle touch, bringing in warmth and a homely atmosphere. At Doris Leslie Blau we take pride in purveying first-rate vintage rugs for sale to New York City, and other parts of the globe.

DLB as a Trusted Purveyor of Vintage Rugs

No matter your preference for color, texture or style, Doris Leslie Blau offers the widest selection of authentic vintage rugs for sale in NYC and other parts of the world to fulfill your dreams. Vintage carpets are notable for the wide variety of styles in which they are available, and the marvelous effect they have on every interior arrangement. Whether you are looking for small, room-size or area rugs, there is a vintage rug design in our stocks to suit your taste.

At Doris Leslie Blau, we approach the subject of carpets with passion and devotion as we all are under the spellbinding influence of intricate, hand-woven floor coverings from every corner of the world. Bearing this deep love for eternal beauty in our hearts, we are dedicated to spreading the knowledge about magnificent vintage rugs to make people appreciate, but most importantly – understand – all complexities and stories woven into an intertwining warp and weft of each awe-inspiring vintage rug design.

An Exceptional Collection of Vintage rugs for Sale

Doris Leslie Blau is proud to own an incredibly vast collection of vintage rugs for sale which will please the eyes and the hands of even the most demanding connoisseurs. Visit our New York City Gallery and experience the magic and mystery of weaving masterpieces for yourself. And if by any chance you are visiting the capital, step into The Washington Design Center, 1099 14th Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20005, to see our showroom. You will not be disappointed.

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