Color and Pattern in Vintage Oriental* Rugs: Designing a Room around It

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*Oriental Rugs: I’m sure in this day and age there is a far better, more acceptable term for describing handmade rugs from “The Rug Belt”, an area stretching from Morocco across North Africa, the Middle East, and into Central Asia and northern India. In fact, I love that term: “Rug Belt Rugs.” But to make the topic of this blog post clear to everyone, I’ve kept the more familiar term “Oriental rug” in the title (for now).

Do you feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under you?

Don’t be scared.

So you’re ready to redecorate a room? Our number one piece of advice: Start with the rug.

And you know what we’re going to say next, right? If at all possible, start with an interesting, beautiful, one-of-a-kind vintage rug.

We’ve heard from so many of you that jumping head first into vintage rug buying is intimidating. It’s a monetary investment for sure, and so often, vintage rugs are full of lots of color and pattern. It can seem like a lot of commitment to jump full throttle into all that color and pattern at the start of designing a room. You worry that once the rug is chosen, your room will be pigeon-holed into a very narrow type of look, with only certain colors and styles working in it. Add to it that most likely you’ll be sourcing your rug online, and you’re wary that the images online won’t look anything like what you end up with.

We understand. But, think of the flip side: These beautifully patterned rugs that so often have several colors in their palette give you so many jumping off points for adding color to a room. And, you’d be surprised at how versatile the patterns in these rugs can be with many design styles, from traditional to contemporary. As for the tricky business of online photos? We recommend always requesting additional photos from vendors (some will even send video footage of the rug which is a really helpful way to get up close and personal with it).

So, in this blog, we’re going to give you some tips for designing a room around a rug. If you find it helpful, but would like to see other rug examples used, please let us know with a comment and we’ll happily do more posts on the topic. Because if there’s one thing we love, it’s designing rooms with vintage rugs in them!

Khotan Rugs

For this blog, I’ve used one of my favorite types of rug: the Khotan. To me, it’s not at all surprising that I love Khotan rugs. When we design a rooms here at Trim, we love mixing elements from different cultures and time periods. Khotan rugs are just that. The ancient city of Khotan (Hotan) was located along the trading route of the Silk Road. The rugs made here show the influence of the many cultures and customs that came through this trading hub so long ago. You’ll find a mix of Chinese geometry and Middle Eastern motifs in the rugs. I’m drawn to the warmth of the color palettes as well. They’re a stunning way to add history, personality, color and warmth to any room.

Where To Buy

The venerable ABC Home & Carpet has a lovely inventory of vintage Khotan rugs. And I found several stunners in the Etsy shop of House of Seance (a new favorite vintage shop of mine!). The images above are of rugs from these two sites. You can also regularly check some of the other vintage rug resources we love to see what they have in stock: Blue Parakeet Rugs, The Southern Loom, Kennedy Rose Interiors, and of course, at the top of the list, our very own vintage shop: The Shophouse by Trim!

Sherwin Williams Color Snap App

Khotan Rug from  ABC Home .

Khotan Rug from ABC Home.

I talked a lot about the Sherwin Williams Color Snap App and how it works in this earlier blog about how to create a color scheme for a room. As I mentioned there, the Sherwin Williams app is not at all full-proof, but it is a good place to start to get a sense of what colors you’re working with. And it can be helpful when trying to suss out the colors in a vintage rug. You can do this a jumping off point for which colors you’d like to pull out from the rug and repeat in your room. BUT, please don’t feel obligated to be matchy-matchy (in fact, we encourage you to not be matchy-matchy and too add some unexpected colors into the mix!) Think of the app as a place to help you get started in your room design.

For my rug, the app pulled out all these warm, cozy earthy tones: coppers and terra cotta and ivory and an almost guava-like deep rose. I couldn’t wait to dig in and create a cozy, welcoming living room around these beautiful hues!

And here’s what I came up with:

Khotan Rug Mood Board

The Room Design

Because vintage rugs are so often irregularly sized and this one is no exception, I layered this Khotan over a larger sisal rug with a serged binding (I prefer this narrower binding to the wider, more common twill border). Don’t be put off by the fact that a vintage rug isn’t exactly the right size for your room. Annabel wrote a fantastic blog post recently all about how to work around the quirks in vintage rugs. Find it here.

My first design choices beyond the rug were the chairs. I wanted to bring in a really warm, rich burgundy English roll arm chair for added old-world coziness. I wanted to play up to the more rosy hues in the rug rather than adding too much spice and orange (there’s enough of that going on in the rug itself). Then I added the slightly more masculine-lined leather Nomad safari chair from CB2 as a counterpoint.

My new favorite source for pillows and fabric (and now wallpaper!): Australian based textile company Walter G. They’re the makers of these beautiful small-scale hand printed pillows (I’ve got my fingers crossed I can buy their fabric here in the States!). The smaller scale pattern on the pillows plays nicely to the larger scale design on the rug. I pulled out a bit of that guava-rose color with these pillows, but also added to the mix a couple that have a bit of mossy green added in. It’s nice to add a touch of color not seen at all in the rug.

All the warmth in the room called for a touch of black, so I added these ebonized vintage Chinese drink tables from Chairish. I also like the idea of a black painted brick fireplace in this room.

An ivory linen sofa from One Kings Lane has clean, contemporary lines. This keeps things modern and relaxed and very livable in this new living room. Plus, you can’t go wrong with an off-white sofa (be sure to spring for a sofa in Krypton performance fabric if you’ve got kids or pets!).

Lastly the walls are a warm white: Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball.

So, are you ready to move into this new living room? Or at least get yourself on the vintage rug hunt? We’ve got some beauties in stock in The Shophouse, so be sure to check them out!

Thanks for reading!

— Jen