Antique and Vintage Turkish Rugs

LAST UPDATED: Sep 30, 2020 | PUBLISHED: Sep 30, 2020 | By: Julie Blanner

Discover all the details about vintage Turkish rugs! Learn the difference between Kilim rugs and others, how to layer your rug on carpet, where to find them, how they’re cleaned, dyed and more! 

A white kitchen with a kilim style antique turkish rug on the floor.

Ever since I purchased my first Turkish rug for the foyer bath, I have wondered how these incredible rugs age so beautifully. So much so, in fact, that every rug maker tries to duplicate the look of antique Turkish rugs with synthetics.  

While I’ve discussed rugs and carpet with you before, I love bringing you design information and tips and tricks you can use all throughout your homes.

I’ve written a lot about rugs, including the best easy to clean indoor/outdoor Stair Runner on Basement Steps, the Best Kid and Pet Friendly Rug, and Sisal Rugs you can Clean!

So, in the name of more research, I decided I should learn a little more about these gorgeous rugs and share with you!

Looking into a white guest bathroom with a kilim turkish rug on the floor.

Turkish Rugs

I love the traditional look and style of wool rugs, but they can be so expensive. Several years ago when we moved into this home, I started my searches for traditional rugs.

It was eye opening, to put it mildly. So many wool rugs are in the thousands, especially if you want anything sizable. 

I love Turkish rugs for their timelessness. They are almost always made of quality natural wool with intricate patterns in a wide array of colors. 

A white dining room with a farm table and a vintage kilim style Turkish rug.

Turkish rugs tend to be geometric or slightly floral patterns that can feel traditional or modern. Even more than a fully perfect and restored Turkish rug, I have realized that I love the thin, worn and faded look of distressing.

Because they have a less feminine, floral quality than many other Oriental rugs on the market, they work beautifully in our home! 

A white kitchen with a kilim style antique turkish rug on the floor.

Creating the Perfect Distressed Antique Rug

The faded, pastel effect of many of the vintage rugs in our home is actually created by updating old authentic rugs to give them a more distressed feel. In my opinion, the process used to make them look and feel more modern and updated adds another layer of interest. 

Rugs are collected, put into a spinner to remove dust and then carefully shaved. This is why the vintage Turkish rugs you see look somewhat bare and feel a touch “rough”.

After being washed, these vintage rugs are sunned to mute the colors, turning them into pastels.

A white upstairs hallway in a home with a Kilim rug on the floor.

Sometimes after discoloration, they are dyed to bring out their original pattern or to highlight certain elements of the design. You will also find overdyed rugs using this method, but I tend to prefer muted colors.

Then, the fringe is cut, any required repairs are made and they’re available for sale. Don’t worry, vintage / antique rugs are professionally cleaned when purchasing from reputable sellers.

How can you tell if a Turkish rug is real?

Real Turkish rugs have a few clear markers.
*They are made of wool.
*No plastic backing.
*Fringe is not sewn on or glued.
*Turkish rugs are hand knotted.
*They will not bleed colors.

Can you wash Kilim rugs?

Yes. As with all wool rugs, never soak them. Use a 100% natural soap meant specifically for wool carpets. Lay flat in the sun to dry.

Why are Turkish rugs so expensive?

Labor! Individual laborers will spin each rug by hand, dye, and then weave the wool. While the upfront investment can be significant, these quality rugs can easily last a lifetime and beyond.

antique traditional rug that's perfectly worn

Where to Buy Vintage Turkish Rugs

Vintage rugs not only add color, texture and warmth to a room, but blending old and new can add a lot of interest, too.

A couple years ago, I started searching for clean, used rugs on Craigslist and estate sales {and even perused a bit on eBay}. I set alerts and occasionally, something intriguing would pop up (learn how here), but I never seemed to find the right size and color scheme. 

A bedroom with wall to wall carpet and a vintage turkish rug on carpet.

So, I turned to Etsy. I started small – I ordered a traditional rug for our powder room and it exceeded expectations!

It arrived within a few days, clean and just as described. It was perfectly worn and nearly 100 years old, which was just what I was seeking.

Looking into a half bath with a kilim style vintage turkish rug on the floor.

You can find an array of vintage and antique Turkish rugs on eBay, Etsy, 1st Dibs, One Kings Lane, and Chairish.

I have purchased mine on Etsy and have always had a great experience. I have found them to be most affordable there!

A white kitchen with a vintage turkish rug on the floor.

I usually receive my rug in just a few days even when they are shipping internationally, which is far more impressive than most new rugs!

When I was seeking a rug for the living room in December, most were on backorder until February or even as late as April, so Turkish rugs can also be a great last minute fix.

A white bedroom with a Kilim style rug on carpet.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional Turkish Rugs and Kilim Rugs?

There are many different kinds of Turkish rugs. Most are created with hand knotting techniques. However, Kilim rugs are in a class all their own, as you’ll read below.

Distressed and aged Turkish rugs are perfect for my home because I love that thin, faded style they bring with their cut pile, but I also love the look of a Kilim rug!

The definition of kilim is of Turkish origin and simply refers to a pileless textile. Kilims are a flatweave that are produced on a loom instead of hand knotting.

A white upstairs hallway in a home with a turkish rug on the floor.

Why You’ll Love a Turkish Kilim Rug

  • Kilim rugs are still handmade, but they are not knotted by hand.
  • Because they take slightly less time than hand knotted rugs, they can be less expensive. Something to keep in mind when you are searching for the perfect vintage kilim rug!
  • While Kilim rugs are true handwoven wool rugs in the same tradition as others, they have no pile because they are a flat weave. 
  • By contrast, traditional rugs do have a pile. Kilims are not as thick, luxurious and heavy as traditionally piled rugs. This means they can remain cooler underfoot in the summer months.
  • Kilim rugs often have the same range of deep vivid colors and geometric patterns. However, because of their lighter weight, they are often used for walls, upholstery, and even fashion accessories.
A white bedroom with a vintage turkish rug on carpet for a layered effect.

Why You’ll Love a Turkish Oushak Rug

Most of the vintage Turkish rugs we have purchased for our home have been labeled as distressed or vintage oushak rugs. This can be helpful terminology during your online shopping experience.

  • Oushak rugs are produced in a traditional method in a certain area of Turkey.
  • They lean towards the distinctive Persian rug style in pattern, weaving technique and craftsmanship.
  • Oushak rugs are generally created of wool, cotton or silk or a combination.
  • They are generally geometric or floral motifs which can work with a variety of home decor.
A white bedroom with a wood dresser and a vintage turkish rug on carpet.

Layering Rugs on Carpet

This vintage Turkish rug adds a lot of character to our master bedroom and makes me resent the old wall to wall carpet slightly less. 

I’m anxious to have wood floors installed after we renovate our adjoining master bathroom and reconfigure the floor plan. Until then, this beauty will add a pop of color in our room and minimize the old carpeted floors. 

I can just continue to dream about how she’ll beautifully grace our wood floors one day.

Depending on the style of carpet in your room, layering rugs on top might be a great option for giving your space a whole new feel! 

A traditional turkish rug on carpet in a bedroom.

A few things to consider when layering carpet and rugs:

  • Yes, you can add an area rug over broadloom carpet! *almost any would include the lower-medium pile carpets.
  • The one exception to that rule? If you have a higher carpet pile (like a deep shag rug style) layering a vintage Turkish rug might not work aesthetically. Thick pile carpet + thick pile rugs would probably be a little too much.
  • Put an area rug over carpet on its own, or consider a rug pad between the layers. This can help ensure that your Turkish rug is properly anchored against your carpet fibers, preventing slippage. You can even find a rug pad specifically made for carpet-over-carpet.
A traditional blue and cream turkish rug close up.
A white upstairs hallway in a home with a turkish rug on the floor.

While all of my rugs are traditional Turkish rugs with a thinned out pile, they have the same effect as a Kilim, just in a more faded color range. The choice is up to you!

A white upstairs hallway in a home with a turkish rug on the floor.

Because both of these options are so thin and lightweight, this can make them a perfect option for layering over traditional carpet in your home! 

What are your thoughts? Would you buy a used rug? Which do you prefer, a more vibrant Kilim? Or a faded, distressed Turkish rug?

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