Historically speaking, it was the Turkish people who first introduced the knotted pile carpet to the Islamic world. As such, vintage turkish rugs are some of the oldest and most valuable hand-woven pieces in existence. Their larger scale design patterns set against softer colors are what makes them so highly sought after by interior decorators.
Like their Persian counterparts, vintage turkish rugs can be found in both nomadic and village settings, as well as the palaces of royalty. Their beauty and versatility make them a go-to option for designers who want to tie together multiple rooms with coordinating motifs. They’re also known for their durability and lush, enduring construction, making them ideal for both modern and traditional homes alike.
The first vintage turkish rugs to reach Europe in the sixteenth century were prized commodities and artistically influential pieces, with their distinctive geometric patterns and motifs working their way into the paintings of European masters such as Memling, Lotto, Bellini and Holbein. These same motifs are still seen today on contemporary Turkish rugs that continue to be woven in the region’s unique weaving traditions.
As the Turkish rug industry evolved over time, so did its weaving techniques and styles. These influences came from Turkey’s many neighbors and its own enduring tradition of rug weaving. The resulting designs and color palettes are often a combination of these cultures, forming a uniquely Turkish blend of tradition and innovation.
According to Milan-based carpet dealer Alfredo Levi, there are three basic types of Turkish rugs: the flat-woven kilims characterized by a plain slit tapestry weave that leaves a gap or slit between sections woven with different yarns in contrasting colors; sumaks made with weft wrapping, for a sturdier flat-woven floor covering; and cicims, which utilize extra brocade techniques for a more luxurious, thick-piled carpet. Within these categories, however, there are countless regional variations, each with its own distinct style.
For example, the famous Bergama rugs from the early to mid-1700s were noted for their dramatic multi-medallion compositions, while the best Hereke pieces boast stunning light and medium tone greens. Turkish town rugs such as the Mudjur are typically more refined, with clearly rendered and strongly geometric designs. And, the rugs of the Karada area were made with both floral and geometric motifs in madder reds that are highly desirable by collectors.
The defining characteristics of all Turkish rugs, however, are their quality and heritage. As one of the most ancient and renowned weaving regions in the world, Turkey has a legacy of craftsmanship that is unmatched in the field. Its rugs have served as both the canvas for local traditions and the natural go-between between the cultures of Asia and Europe, as the many empires that have ruled the region have passed through the gates of its cities, villages and courtrooms.
Today, a vintage Turkish rug is an inspired choice for any space. Its rich history and enduring quality ensure that these pieces will remain stylish and versatile for years to come, whether you’re looking to add an opulent touch to your formal living room or bring bohemian flair to your child’s bedroom. With their vibrant hues and textured designs, Turkish rugs are the perfect addition to any space.