How To Shop For Vintage Rugs

My home is filled with vintage rugs, mainly from Turkey, and a few from Morocco as well. They are one of my collections that I am pretty sure I will love forever (along with vintage scarves, brass objects and mid-century ceramics). I have learned a LOT from my rug shopping adventures! I’m excited to share some of my tips with you today!

Vintage rugs are unique. 
Similar to vintage clothing, there is an appeal to me that when I buy a vintage rug I probably will not see it in two of my friends’ homes as well. Maybe this kind of thing doesn’t bother you, and I am slightly embarrassed to say that it does bother me. But when I spend so much time and energy on a room I do want it to feel unique. Shopping vintage rugs helps a LOT with that because it’s pretty tough to find the exact same one twice.

Vintage rugs last.
The thing I love most about my vintage rugs is that they LAST. Most of my rugs have some wear (some of them a LOT of wear) when they arrive to my home. I like that they are already worn in and I love the idea that they have lived in many homes before us, and that they will live in many homes after us, too.

When I was younger and living in my first home with Jeremy we would buy a new $60 rug from Urban Outfitters a couple times a year because they didn’t last (we had puppies too—but they are just not made to last). Eventually, I began to realize that with all the money I was spending on disposable rugs I could buy better quality rugs and learn to clean them (in my experience, I prefer to clean my own rugs over taking them in to a rug cleaner).

I still buy an occasional rug from Target or a big box store, but for the most part I choose rugs made with materials that are meant to last and be cleaned over and over. And as a result, our rugs are lasting year, after year, after year.

Purchase thoughtfully.
I grew up loving vintage and buying most of my clothing and housewares from thrift shops. As I got older, I kept a place in my heart for vintage, but began to mix it with different styles. I also began to be more thoughtful with my purchases. I used to walk into a flea market and fill up a cart. At one point, Jeremy pointed out to me that the joy of thrifting was getting “a haul,” but that I wasn’t using and appreciating the things I was buying. It was a light bulb moment for me (I didn’t even realize that about myself!). After that, I took a couple years break from vintage shopping and when I got back into it I developed new habits. These days, I usually leave with just one item—or nothing. Being more selective has helped me to stay true to my style and collect things I will use and cherish, rather than hoarding.

Bottom line, I think that learning to be really picky about the vintage you buy is absolutely KEY if you want to curate a strong style in your home (or closet).

Buy for specific rooms.
This is pretty obvious. But don’t shop backwards. If you are browsing rugs on Etsy without considering the size and what room you are shopping for, you are not going to get as good a result as when you shop with a purpose. I have a lot of experience with this mistake, to be honest! I see a rug I can’t live without and I tell myself, “I’ll find a spot for it.” Well, that might work, but it might not. It’s much wiser to shop with a room in mind and measure in advance to know what size you need.

When I shop online, I always use search terms—first for size like “runner,” “area rug” or specific sizes like “2×3”. Then I also add color search terms because it’s VERY easy to stray from your color palette when shopping vintage.

Places I shop for vintage rugs.
If you happen to live in Nashville, my go-to store is Apple & Oak. I met Allison when we were working on Kacey’s dining room. The thing that is really special that she offers is that she will come to your home with a truck full of rugs and let you try them all in your space. It’s a DREAM come true because it is so incredibly helpful to see them in your space. I purchased quite a few rugs from her (like my bathroom vanity runner) that I honestly wouldn’t have selected online, but they just looked really good IN my space.

My office rug is from Coco Carpets, which is a great shop with a lot of larger options in really bright colors. If you haven’t shopped vintage rugs much, one of the tough things is finding rugs that are large enough. It’s easy to find bathmat size or runners, but larger area rugs can be tricky.

The Vintage Rug Shop is great if you are looking for more traditional style and more muted colors.

Etsy has a great selection and I shop there often. I prefer Etsy over eBay just because the photography tends to be higher quality and seeing true color is really important when shopping for rugs. I don’t have a favorite shop, I just use my search terms and pick a bunch of favorites, then narrow it down from there based on price and what is truly best for my room.

EBTH – I found an amazing rug at a steal on EBTH. It is bidding based, so if you get lucky and no one else bids you can get crazy low prices. The main struggle is just remembering to check back because new auctions are listed every week and they can vary quite a bit. Since it’s estate sale-based, maybe one week there is someone’s things on there that really resonate with you and other weeks there isn’t.

eBay – I have definitely found some steals on eBay. Like I said above, the photography can be a little hit or miss, but I would say it’s the lowest prices I have found anywhere on the Internet. When I was working on collecting runners for my hallway, I checked eBay quite a bit.

Thanks so much for reading! If you have any questions, just leave them for me in the comments and I will respond! xx – Elsie

Credits/Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • What are some good tips for cleaning vintage rugs? My great-aunt gave me one and it’s a bit stained and reeks of smoke! I want it to be salvageable.

    • I would try anything you can do by hand first. My experiences with professional cleaners have all be bad.

      The only thing I typically do is spot clean my rugs. Not wearing shoes in the house helps A LOT for the longevity of rugs (especially rugs with a white base).

      For smoke I would suggest soaking it in soapy water with a bunch of essential oils, rinse it and then let it air dry outside. Then spray it with a TON of essential oils… that’s what I would do!

  • I would love love love a post about how you clean your vintage rugs. I have a 13′ x 6′ amazeballs vintage killim in pinks and oranges and black that I got for $100 (!!!) that is my All Time Greatest Thrift Find of All Time Ever. Pretty sure I’ll never top that one. We used it in our wedding and got married on it! It’s dying for a full cleaning, but I don’t even know where to begin!

  • So happy to see this post as I’m rug shopping at the moment! I was wondering how you learn how much rugs *should* cost. I see such a huge range of prices online and I haven’t taken the plunge yet because I don’t know if I’m getting ripped off or not!

    • For vintage rugs I feel like it’s normal for them to be about the same as a rug from a nice shop like Anthropologie or West Elm- although I have definitely found steals every once in a while.

      To feel good about your purchase I would just price compare! Small shops tend to have higher prices, but they also allow returns or exchanges sometimes and have a more curated selection with less surprises than say- eBay.

      xx

  • Thanks for the tips! My parents have always collected amazing rugs and I can’t wait to start filling my home with them too. I also prefer to hand wash delicates and would love a post on how you clean your vintage rugs 🙂

  • I love vintage rugs but always be sure to SMELL them before you buy any! Of course this isn’t an issue from bigger, reputable sellers, but I bought a rug in a vintage shop in New Mexico and we called it the A$$ rug because it smelled so bad. Lesson learned.

    There’s also some great vintage places in Paris, where I’ve picked up a few rugs. I particularly
    like La Maison du Kilim!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • I haven’t bought a vintage rug yet, but I do have one my mom passed down to me that I feel like I hit the jackpot on! Enjoyed reading this post!

  • Your rugs are stunning! Thank you for this post. What materials do you look for when buying vintage rugs, I’m assuming wool, but have never bought anything but Ikea and Kmart rugs here in Australia.

    • Most vintage rugs are made of natural fibers like wool or silk. They are easier to clean than new, synthetic materials and they were made to stand the test of time.

      I used to buy rugs from places like that too and they never lasted. You’ll be shocked what a difference it makes! xx

  • I have two vintage rugs. I have started asking for them for my birthday or Valentine’s Day gifts. I spot clean them with Resolve and a damp cloth. They brighten up even though I do not find them to be very dirty.

  • In terms of cleaning, a water/white vinegar mix with plenty of time to air dry (preferably outside) works well too. I would do this before the essential oils, so you’re left with those smells once done. Certain animal smells can really linger, so it might be a process, but I have had good luck with smoke and moth odor.

  • Do you have any advise for rug placement in rooms? Is there a rule for how rugs should fit under dining table, in your living room, or under a bed?

  • Thank you for all the information and for the amazing blog! I have a huge passion of vintage rugs as well! Feel free to check my shop. Greetings from Cappadocia!

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