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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 rugs from all over the world. The most recognizable styles of these rugs are Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian, Arts&Crafts, Moroccan, Chinese Deco, and Art Deco.

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

The Difference Between Antique and Vintage Rugs

What is the difference between antique and vintage rugs? There are many, especially regarding appearance, however, what really distinguishes vintage rugs from the antique ones is age. There is a general rule saying that a rug qualifies as vintage if it’s at least 30 years old and as antique if its age is over 80. If we wanted to place vintage rugs on a timeline, we could say that they come from around the mid-20th century, while antique rugs date back to at least the early 20th century. This division is somehow arbitrary because the line between an antique rug and vintage rug is fluid and changes as time passes. One day, all vintage carpets will become antique. Another way of categorizing vintage rugs, probably more accurate and strictly related to their external features, is linking them to the birth of Modernism.

Vintage Rugs and Modernism

The Modernist movement that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century marked a major transition from the era of Victorian salons, full of conventions and social divisions, to the age of café society, concentrated on fixing all the ill-fitted aspects of the world. The strive for change resounded strongly in design, introducing many innovations unthinkable in the old days. Artists focused on simplicity, geometry, and color – they experimented not only with patterns but also with shapes and textures. The pomp and excess were left behind to make way for a new concept of beauty.

This shift was also reflected in textiles. Vintage rugs are immensely diverse in terms of appearance, and their designs range from austere geometric or abstract to native floral or folkish with mesmerizing colors.

Vintage Rugs and Art Deco

Art Deco, also known as ‘Style Moderne’, appeared in France in the 1920s, and for a long time, was synonymous with high fashion and luxury. Design studios with names such as Emile Jacques Ruhlmann, Jules Leleu, Paul Follot, and Maurice Dufrene, among others, specialized in creating Art Deco interiors. The world of Art Deco vintage rugs was ruled by Ivan Da Silva Bruhns, Paule Leleu (the daughter of J. Leleu) and Suzanne Guiguichon, who designed vintage carpets for, among others, Maurice Dufrene. Let’s not forget about other tycoons of vintage carpet design, like Marion Dorn, Jules Coudyser, Rene Crevel, and Vladimir Boberman. Thanks to the imagination of these artists, the textile industry entered the world of abstraction, advanced graphics, bold, colorful floral patterns and geometric minimalism.

Vintage Rugs and Bauhaus

Simultaneously, the famous Bauhaus school was founded in Germany. The philosophy and major effort behind the creation of this school, which later 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. Their style is largely geometric, organized, but not deprived of artistry and certainly 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 easily be confused with a similar creation coming from a different weaving center or even from a different country, like Turkey, vintage rugs, especially these from the first half of the 20th century, are much more diverse in terms of style and applied patterns.

Inspired by the new trends of their time yet still deeply rooted in the tradition and folklore of a given country, vintage carpets exhibit an immense array of designs and aesthetics characteristic to the nations that produced them. We would like to present some major categories of vintage rug designs and show how national and historical background influenced particular weaving styles.

Vintage Scandinavian Rugs

Scandinavian rugs – Swedish vintage rugs in particular – are the crème de la crème of vintage rugs. They are widely desired for their intricate weaves, exceptional color palettes and most importantly – compatibility with both modern and contemporary interiors. Their greatest strength lies in the unique Scandinavian design, which was born out of necessity, empathy, and reason. It is a very practical style, full of symbolism referring to nature, where figurative representations of plants, animals or landscapes are substituted by simple geometric motifs.

Scandinavian design philosophy is a dream of social equality. Scandinavian society, compatible and homogeneous as it was, decided that everyone, not just the rich and wealthy, but all citizens, should be able to afford a beautiful and livable interior. Therefore, every utilitarian object had to be aesthetically pleasing, functional and affordable. Vintage Swedish rugs, designed by artists and made by the finest weavers of the highest-quality materials, are the embodiment of this way of thinking.

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom can easily be called the 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 from the mid-20th century include Ingrid Dessau, Marin Hemmingson, Sigvard Bernadotte, Brita Grahn, Edna Martin, and Viola Grasten. All of these names have contributed to the immense success of Scandinavian rug design, which is desired nowadays more than ever.

Scandinavian vintage rugs are praised by contemporary interior designers for unobtrusive and muted pastel color palettes combined with patterns largely inspired by folklore and geometry.

Vintage Chinese Deco 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. The Chinese, seeing a huge market demand, decided to transform their traditional designs to sell their rugs to Western consumers.

The two largest exporters of rugs from China were American 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 now often unidentifiable as his records and documents were almost entirely destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and also because the white cotton fringe where he had stenciled was fragile and prone to wear.

Mid-20th century carpets imported from China were produced mainly to cater to European and American tastes which made them very different from antique Chinese rugs – they retained some traditional features but were less complex and symbolic. Chinese Deco rugs tend to be more floral than geometric, yet their variety is immense. They are permeated with Asian aesthetics, absent in the vintage rugs produced in the West, which makes them quite distinguishable. Brave, imaginative use of colors and traditional Eastern motifs such as bamboos, lotus flowers, Chinese calligraphy or the iconic phoenix and dragon figures is among the most characteristic features of Chinese rug art.

Vintage Moroccan Rugs

Moroccan rugs definitely deserve a place in the pantheon of the most sought-after vintage rugs. They are distinguished by simplicity, honesty of expression and strong tribal influence. 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 meaning to an attentive reader. Everything matters, from the use of color to the smallest motif. These vintage rugs are believed to be a good-luck charm, a blessing to a person or a household. They were also a means of expression for female tribal weavers, who could transfer their fears, stories and dreams through the looms onto fabric.

The Modernists of the mid-20th century fell in love with Moroccan vintage rugs, making them an indispensable feature of modern interior design. Moroccan Beni Ourain rugs turned out to be their favorite. Their appearance varies from that of typical colorful Moroccan rugs. Beni Ourains are usually dichromatic, with toned beige backgrounds and simple, seemingly flawed patterns executed in light brown or black. Vintage Moroccan rugs inspired 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 1940’s.

Vintage Arts&Crafts Rugs

The Arts and Crafts movement was co-founded in England 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 artistic life of Great Britain. Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement sought to re-establish the link between artists and craftsmen as well as between art and industry. In a way, it was a form of rebellion against the rigid Victorian backgrounds and dehumanizing mechanization of the Industrial Age. The distinctive style of vintage Arts and Crafts rugs and carpets is defined and characterized by serpentine, curvilinear and naturalistic floral patterns executed in rich color palettes.

Although born in an entirely different reality, vintage Arts and Crafts rugs can easily be used in contemporary interior arrangements. This is due to their balanced, tasteful and charming designs. A vintage arts and crafts rug is the perfect choice for your house décor, regardless of 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. A vintage arts and crafts rug design can 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 Arts&Crafts vintage carpets carry references to the culture of the Celts. Born in England but derived from ancient oriental craft, these floor coverings constitute a merger of excellent quality and elegant designs reflecting the wonders of English nature and the Islanders’ old beliefs.

Vintage American Rugs

Modernism also arrived in the United States and was warmly welcomed, most likely as a result of major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. These exhibitions presented the movement to a 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 Bauhaus school closed, 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.

Vintage Hooked Rugs

Rug-hooking was most likely born in Europe, but vintage hooked rugs in their most popular version originated in North America. Like many respected crafts, rug-hooking has humble origins. It was a way of reusing old scraps of fabric in order to transform them into practical floor coverings used by the less affluent part of the society. Made of whatever was available, vintage hooked rugs usually exhibit an astounding variety of colors, textures and patterns, depending in equal measure on the creativity of the weaver and region of production. Represented motifs included fallen leaves, seashells, animals, pictorial scenes, plants and abstraction.

The first hooked rugs, made of hand-torn scraps, were much more primitive than today’s intricate and well-thought-out masterpieces. The commercialization of rug hooking caused its popularity to increase rapidly. Today, the craft is doing well – weavers explore new techniques, materials and aesthetic concepts. These innovations allow rug hooking to evolve and grow in the 21st century.

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

Vintage Dhurrie Rugs

Flat-woven and similar to kilims in texture and construction, vintage oriental Dhurrie rugs originated in India and surrounding areas. Originally created for practical reasons such as floor covering, bedding, and dowry (in certain regions), dhurries are nowadays perceived as an ancient art form. From the very beginning, dhurrie carpets were used by the wealthy and poor alike. Their primary designs were simple and uncomplicated, as the practical function of dhurries was more important than 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 the dhurrie type vary enormously, from coarse to meticulously woven, from plain to incredibly detailed. Their color palette usually consists of subtle tones of ivory and indigo – the most famous Indian dye. Dhurries are typically made of cotton or wool (although there are instances of silk or jute ones) in a special weaving technique which makes them resistant to silverfish and other insects responsible for destroying rugs. Their cotton-based construction is lighter in comparison to the traditional, thick weave, which means you can transport them easily.

A dhurrie vintage rug is a marvelous addition to any home décor in the modern era. The exotic charm and practicality of dhurries makes them ideal for introducing the warmth and beauty of the orient into an interior.

Vintage Blue 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. The turn of the 20th century made an entirely new option available to carpet manufacturers – artificial dyes. However, all artisans faithful to traditional, centuries-old ways of weaving abstained from applying them to their blue vintage rugs.

In medieval Europe, the most commonly used blue dye was obtained from the woad plant. It gave a slightly whitened and washed out shade which today we would describe as pastel blue (in fact, ‘pastel’ was the actual name of the woad plant blue). ‘Woad blue’ was considered a dye for commoners and low social strata – it was widely accessible yet not very saturated or lasting.

Everything 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 – the former Persian Empire), it only came to Europe in the Middle Ages to quickly become the most favorite of all dyes.

Vintage Blue Rugs in Interiors

Today, artists and designers still remain under the spellbinding influence of the color blue. A naturally dyed blue vintage rug is a rare treat. A blue vintage rug, especially a navy-blue vintage rug, is going to enrich any contemporary interior décor. Blue is the shade associated with peace, intelligence, tranquility, and reliability. It creates a sense of security, curbs appetite, and stimulates productivity –it is the best color for raising concentration. A blue vintage rug is an excellent way to add depth to an interior arrangement in an unobtrusive, classy, tasteful and absolutely timeless way.

Large Vintage 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 every 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 this 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 type most frequently chosen 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 it 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 any space, avoiding excess yet adding colors and patterns in a visible way. A small vintage rug is simply ideal for the super-trendy tea-table arrangement. It is absolutely 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 in New York City and other parts of the globe.

DLB as a Trusted Purveyor of Vintage Rugs in NYC

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. 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 large vintage area rugs, there is a vintage rug design in our stock to suit your taste.

At Doris Leslie Blau, we approach the subject of carpets with passion and devotion, as we are all 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 knowledge about magnificent vintage rugs in order to make people appreciate, but most importantly – understand – all of the complexities and stories woven into the intertwining warp and weft of each and every awe-inspiring vintage rug design.

We have vintage rugs in all shapes and sizes – square and round, large and small. Faded and distresses vintage rugs may become chic décor elements bringing a breath of history. Vintage silk rugs are the synonym of luxury. Wait no longer and pick yours!

An Exceptional Collection of Vintage rugs for Sale

Doris Leslie Blau is proud of its incredibly vast collection of vintage rugs and vintage style area rugs for sale online. Our stock will please the eyes of even the most demanding connoisseurs. Authentic vintage rugs may not be cheap, but they are definitely worth their price. Visit our New York City Gallery and experience the magic and mystery of weaving masterpieces yourself. You will not be disappointed.