As the first wave of Oriental antique rugs to arrive in Europe, Turkish rugs were prized commodities and artistically influential. Their distinctive design motifs—guls, prayer rugs and small repeating patterns—worked their way into iconic paintings by the great European masters including Memling, Holbein, Lotto and Bellini.
As one of the most important rug weaving centers in the world, Turkey offers a vast array of styles influenced by both its local culture and its Eastern neighbors. From opulently rich, oxidized colors to luminous pastels and whimsical botanical designs, Turkish rugs are the essential designer carpets for rustic spaces or palatial drawing rooms.
Historically, wool was the primary pile material used in Turkish rugs. Sheep’s lustrous, soft, durable yarn readily accepts dyes and is a good insulator against both heat and cold. Woven together, it also creates a dense, stable fabric that resists wear and tear. The art of rugs began in ancient times when nomadic tribes needed hand-woven textiles to cover their tent floors and sleep on. In addition to carpets, these roving tribes also wove kilims (flat weaves), felts and coverings for bags, hats and sacks.
Nomadic rugs were originally woven to be portable and easily transportable, utilizing simple geometric motifs in a range of sizes and colors—the most common being reds, blues, greens and browns. As the Turks continued to migrate across Central Asia, they brought this rug weaving tradition along with them. Eventually, the migratory tribes developed a more refined style of Turkish town rugs and town kilims in an area size format.
The best surviving examples of this earlier 19th century tribal weavings exhibit a strong sense of asymmetry and vivid, evocative natural dyes. In particular, the best Turkish Ladik rugs from this period feature a striking rose to burgundy tone that has been created using rare cochineal dye from Kerkes beetles imported from the West Indies.
Today, many Turkish rugs are reworked to give them a vintage look and feel. They are washed to remove excess dye and sunned to mute their colors—a process that is often used in antique rugs to give them a faded, pastel effect.
While shopping for vintage turkish rugs can be a bit of a hunt, finding the right pieces doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the easiest and most affordable place to shop is online, where you can filter by “VINTAGE TURKISH RUGS” and choose from an endless selection of options at any price point. For in-person shopping, Emily’s three go-to places for scoring vintage rugs are Craigslist, estate sales and thrift stores.