It’s common consensus at this point that an area rug is key for tying almost any room together. But when it comes time to buy said area rug, the rules of what to buy (and how to know what to buy) are a little befuddling. Throw in the idea of buying an antique rug, and the entire endeavor can get completely overwhelming, fast.
If you’ve ruled out buying an antique rug because the finer details of finding the right one for you sound too complicated, we can help. We turned to Joanna Mahserdjian, founder of Upstate Rug Supply, to discuss all the misconceptions we’re clinging to when it comes to buying antique rugs.
Meet the Expert
Joanna Mahserdjian is the founder of Upstate Rug Supply, an antique rug retailer in Hudson, New York.
Myth: Vintage Rugs and Antique Rugs Are Interchangeable
Truth: Vintage Rugs and Antique Rugs Are Actually Very Different
As the first order of business, Mahserdjian explains that antique rugs and vintage rugs are different. “Antique rugs date from the 1920s and before,” she says. “Antique rugs are naturally dyed, versus the synthetically dyed vintage rugs that were made for western preferences.”
So, how can you tell the difference? “There are a lot of artificially worn rugs in the market,” says Mahserdjian. “If a rug has an even, all-over distressing, it might be artificially distressed. If the colors are totally washed out and natural, the chances are it was antique washed. [This is] a process of stripping the original color to make the rug more ‘neutral.’ Some antique rugs are washed for a soft appearance, but some dealers are using new rugs, washing and distressing them, and calling them antique, so make sure to ask questions before you buy!”
Myth: Antique Rugs Are Delicate
Truth: Antique Rugs Are Made to Last
While the word antique can instantly conjure up images of fragile furniture better looked at than touched, antique rugs defy the stereotype.
“Antique rugs are user-friendly!” Mahserdjian assures us. “Handwoven rugs can prove more durable than machine-made rugs. For those unavoidable spills, spot clean with distilled vinegar and vacuum both sides of your rug. The color and pattern hide an array of spills."
This means that you don’t have to set your antique rugs off in the formal living room that no one uses. “Antique rugs can be used in high-traffic areas—even spaces with kids and pets,” Mahserdjian says. “They were handwoven generations ago and have stood the test of time. They are easy to clean and quite durable.”
Myth: Antique Rugs Come in Standard Sizes
Truth: Antique Rugs Come in a Huge Variety of Sizes and Dimensions
“Certain rug designs were made in their respective weaving regions,” Mahserdjian says. This means that, unlike modern rugs, you might not be able to find something in the exact size and shape that you want.
“The popular Heriz rug, for example, comes from Northwest Iran," Mahserdjian says. "They were made in room-size rugs, so if you find a small size, it is quite rare. Typically, based on the size that my customers need, I direct them to certain types of rugs. For a small-sized geometric rug, Caucasian Kazaks are a great option.”
Myth: Antique Rugs Are Always Expensive
Truth: Antique Rugs Come at a Variety of Price Points
The variety of sizes points to a variety of options, leading Mahserdjian to her next point: One of the biggest misconceptions about antique rugs is that they must come with hefty price points, and that’s not always the case. “There is a range of price points," she says. "Most often, you can find one that fits your budget!”
Even so, if you need a large rug or want something particularly ornate, antique rugs can be priced accordingly. “Because of their quality and value, antique rugs [can be] more of an investment than vintage rugs,” Mahserdjian says, adding: “[But they] are totally worth it!”
Myth: Antique Rugs Have to Stay Dirty
Truth: Antique Rugs Are Easy to Clean
Depending on where and how you’re sourcing your rugs, they might need a decent wash before you put it on the floor. But don’t stress—it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
“A reputable rug shop should be selling rugs to you professionally washed,” Mahserdjian says. “If you’ve found one from an estate, you can use a mild soap and water and clean the rug outside. Rinse it thoroughly, dry it in the sun, and finish it by vacuuming both sides.”
Go Shopping Prepared
While you might not be able to control the exact colors or dimensions of your antique rug, you can still shop with specific points in mind. “Think ahead of what space you want to use an antique rug [in],” advises Mahserdjian. “A good dealer should be able to direct you to wise investments for durability and your budget. Some types of rugs are more durable, and some are more expensive, so ask questions!”
While antique rug shopping might be more time-intensive than opting for a machine-made option straight off the floor, there's no denying that the pay-off is much greater.
“Antique rugs are pieces of art that can be considered heirloom pieces,” Mahserdjian says. “They hold value, the quality of a handwoven rug stands the test of time, and they are one-of-a-kind. You will have a century-old piece that no one else has, which is pretty special!"