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If you have been following me long, you probably know I am a bit obsessed with vintage rugs. I originally discovered the idea from a blog post by the beautiful Julie Blanner - check that out for an in depth article about the different types of antique rugs. These are a few of my lessons learned from buying several vintage rugs on Etsy from Turkish sellers - things to keep in mind and things to watch out for.
Study the photos!
The first lesson I learned was to study the listing photos - like really really study. Zoom in, then zoom in more. Look for imperfections - they are common, but you need to know what to expect. Most of my rugs have areas that have been repaired, which is great, but you need to make sure there are no holes or tears, or stains that you don't know about in advance.
Colors looks different on different viewing devices and will also vary depending on what kind of camera is used by the seller. Try to consider the location the photo was taken - is it in indoor light, outdoor shade, or direct sunlight? Each of these will change the way the rug looks in photos and if you are unsure - ASK FOR MORE PHOTOS! I always always ask for more image of the item - often with objects in the photo for reference. I have found sellers are very very used to this and can usually supply them very quickly.
I made the mistake of buying a rug without doing my due diligence. The rug arrived and looked nothing like the photos. In the photos it looked like a rust / coral-ish tone, but in person it was a dingy green. I think it was because of the lighting and camera the seller was using. I sent it back, but it cost me almost the entire cost of the rug to do it. Expensive learning experience.
Ask for a video
It is amazing what a difference there is when you view a rug through a video rather than just the image. Often I will see aspects of it that I did not notice before. For example, I have been searching for months for the perfect rug for my living room. I have had 3 potential options that I thought could work, but after seeing the videos, I realized that the color of the rug was not right, or there was too much going on with the pattern.
Know your size & be ready to compromise
Vintage rugs don't come in a standard size. They vary a lot from rug to rug and don't really match up with mass produced rugs you would find at Pottery Barn - or at least that has been my observation. So when I start searching for a rug for my space, I measure the maximum and the minimum size that would be acceptable for the space. As long as the rug I fall in love with fits that, then it is good to go. Another option to consider when looking at rug sizes is layering. It is very popular these days to layer a smaller vintage rug on top of a larger neutral fiber rug to cover the desired area.
Look at pile height and thickness
Vintage rugs are often rapidly faded and distressed by the sellers. The do this by leaving the rugs in the sun, dying them to mute or mask existing colors (overdying), and sand off the pile on the rug to give it a worn, old look. This is another one I learned through buying and returning. Look very closely at the photos! Some sellers remove almost all the yarn, leaving a pretty rigid, hard mat as the rug. Other sellers remove very little, or none at all, so you get the nice soft feel like you would expect. I personally prefer a medium pile - so the yard has been worn away, but is still very present so you don't see too much of the white cotton "grid" underneath.
Where to shop
I have shopped on both Ebay and Etsy and after some trial and error, now only shop on Etsy. My preference is also to shop for vintage Turkish rugs, so they are shipping from Turkey and only take a couple days to arrive, which is awesome. And the sellers are very responsive. When Etsy shopping, ALWAYS read reviews!!! If your gut says no, then steer clear. Keep in mind that english may be a second language for the sellers, so when using keywords to search, you may want to be more broad and just sift to find something you like.