Vintage Turkish Rugs – A History of Natural Beauty and Historical Significance


Whether they’re an anchoring focal point, a room-defining defining feature or the rug that completes the room’s overall look, rugs have the power to dramatically impact how we experience our spaces. Their sculptural shapes and expressive patterns captivate our imaginations and are often a designer’s go-to for creating a refined and pulled together look. Vintage turkish rugs, in particular, offer the unique opportunity to incorporate both natural beauty and historical significance. From kilim to handknotted, the rug styles that originated in Turkey and later influenced the wider world of woven textiles are legendary for their artisanal craftsmanship and rich artistic expression.

Originally designed as functional garments to ward off cold and provide comfort, they quickly evolved into an integral part of the culture of their weavers. These rugs incorporated wool and cotton to create an elegant, tight weave that’s both durable and versatile. The patterns of these rugs – including floral, geometric, tribal and more – were inspired by the culture, landscapes and mythology of the Anatolian region as well as the weavers’ ancestral homelands.

From the 13th century, when Marco Polo first praised their artistry and exotic beauty, antique Turkish rugs have become coveted works of art by rug collectors around the globe. Known for their exquisite oxidized colors, sultry pastels and intricate botanical designs, these Turkish carpets bring an elegant, earthy and sophisticated feel to any space.

Tribal weavings incorporating asymmetry and elemental, open designs showcase the weavers’ heritage while offering an elegant yet relaxed appeal. The silky luster of the best hand-spun, naturally dyed wool is a testament to their weavers’ exceptional skill. The early Ottoman era saw a shift towards more ornately detailed field designs and the emergence of more complex medallions. These rugs also incorporated the popular Memling Gul pattern, named after the European painter who used them in his portraits of European nobility, as well as the Ghirlandaio and Crivelli Star motifs.

By the 16th century, Ushak became a premier rug production center and a hub for master weavers. These masters produced exceptional rugs featuring a variety of geometrical motifs, most notably the octagonal “Gol” pattern, which was an important innovation in rug design. This was a symbol of eternity, and the octagonal shape was interpreted as an all-seeing eye.

Today, there are a myriad of rug styles originating from Turkey and beyond, including modern Turkish and Persian rugs. Newer Turkish rugs often include a blend of natural and synthetic yarns. They use a mixture of vegetable and chemical dyes and sometimes even incorporate silk, especially in Kayseri rugs.

Another on-trend rug style originating from Turkey is the overdyed vintage rug. This is a process that gives older rugs a makeover, allowing them to fit into the current style of a room while acknowledging the craftsmanship and care put into their creation in the first place. The first step in the over-dying process involves shearing the rugs to even out their pile and help “distress” them, after which they’re washed, washed again and laid under the sun for a period of time to achieve the desired color.

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