We live and work near Boston and it is the Boston and New York markets for antique Oriental rugs we are most familiar with. That said, we have a national clientele for antique rugs from Washington, D.C. and Florida to Los Angeles and San Francisco and try here to offer a basic review of national and regional trends for antique Oriental rugs, arranged alphabetically by major city.
The broadest trend in antique Oriental rugs seems to be the return of the use of color, not only in antique carpets but in broader interior design. For far too long, a series of anemic and sometimes down right depressing shades have dominated the interior design landscape. Beige and white appear to have waned in popularity and grey (does anyone really want to live in a grey room?) seems on its way out. We have never followed trends, preferring to always focus on quality and beauty, but there is no question that trends impact the perceptions of many consumers and interior designers. We are delighted to see color and classic forms returning to popularity, not only because that aesthetic plays to our strong suit but because we genuinely believe in quality and think color is an important factor in one’s life.
Antique Oriental rugs come in a very wide range of not only sizes and qualities but of styles themselves. From heavy weight and deeply saturated antique Bidjar and Sarouk rugs from Persia to pliable and softly colored antique Oushak carpets from Turkey to yellow field antique Ningxia rugs from China, there is an antique Oriental rug suitable for individuals with a wide range of aesthetic sensibilities, budgets and requirements.
After a fairly lengthy national trend away from Oriental rugs, where sisal and other plain carpets were in vogue, the market seems to have recently taken a strong turn back toward color and ornamentation and antique Oriental rugs are being featured prominently in magazine articles and on magazine covers themselves.
Various areas within the United States reflect regional tastes. At the risk of painting things with too broad a brush, here is a cursory overview that reflects our perception of some important regional preferences for antique rugs and carpets and some broad antique Oriental rug trends in the United States.
Antique Persian Heriz Serapi carpet with Mina Hani design. Atlanta is a city where antique Serapi carpets have long been popular
Atlanta is a city I have not visited in person, so my perception of the antique Oriental rug market there is a step removed. Traditionally, Atlanta has been known as a market with a strong preference for antique Heriz and antique Serapi carpets, along with antique Oushak carpets. In general, the South seems to be more accepting of thinner pile condition than New England or perhaps the Midwest. This might be a product of the warmer climate, where thinner Oriental rugs are often favored. An interesting alternate theory, advanced by close friends of ours both of whom grew up in the South and lived in Atlanta, is that less concern regarding the condition of antique carpets might reflect the lower housing prices in the South, which means many new homes are larger and budgets need to cover more square footage. Thinner condition is often a factor in the price of an antique Oriental carpet, so their theory is certainly plausible.
An important antique Persian Mohtashem Kashan carpet. Boston, and the general New England region, is still an area where classic, high end antique Persian carpets are appreciated, in spite of trends that come and go.
Antique Persian Fereghan Sarouk carpet with Cypress trees, the type of classic antique Oriental carpet that continues to reflect traditional interior design in the Boston area and New England in general.
While we have a nation wide antique rug clientele, with a high concentration of clients in the New York City, Connecticut and Westchester County areas, our home antique rug market is Boston. The Boston area, and New England in general, is one of the regions in America where colorful, traditional antique Persian carpets and antique Caucasian tribal rugs are still highly prized. Antique Oriental rug trends in Boston, as in most areas, of course reflect a variety of styles. We have many clients in the Boston area who favor antique Serapi and Heriz rugs and carpets, antique Bidjar rugs, antique Fereghan Sarouk rugs and antique Caucasian Kazak, Shirvan and Kuba rugs, with their bold geometry and saturated palettes. New England also tends to be more focused on the condition of antique Oriental rugs than many other regions, perhaps because the cold climate lends itself to carpets with thicker pile. The new, natural dye Oriental rugs that we carry are also popular in New England, since they are largely hand woven reproductions of classic Persian rug formats.
Boston has evolved as an Oriental rug market in the last thirty years or so. Boston, and much of New England, traditionally tended to favor heavier weight antique carpets, such as antique Bidjar, Heriz and Sarouk carpets. Strong, clearly defined colors were an important part of the equation. As mid century modern furnishings have captured a larger percentage of the market in recent years, there has been a partial switch toward lighter colors and more contemporary patterns. That said, the Boston area and New England in general remains a region where traditional antique Persian and Caucasian rugs have strong appeal. The preference for antique Mohtashem Kashan rugs and carpets, the very top of the 19th century Persian rug hierarchy, is a bit of an anomaly in the Boston area. Nearly all of the great Mohtashem Kashan rugs and carpets we have sold over the years have remained in the greater Boston area. These are both among the finest and most expensive 19th century Persian rug types and can be, but are not always, somewhat more formal than more typical Boston tastes might suggest.
Connecticut seems to split the difference between the Boston and New York markets for antique Oriental rugs. As is the case with Rhode Island, the upper coast of Connecticut and much of Fairfield County have traditionally appreciated antique Heriz, Fereghan Sarouk, Bidjar, Serapi and Caucasian rugs. Greenwich, as it is the closest Connecticut town to Manhattan and one of the more cosmopolitan areas in New England, is a market with a wide range of preferences. Antique Bakshaish rugs from the Heriz district in northwest Persia’s Azerbaijan Province, along with the classic antique “Serapi” carpets woven in the Heriz area, have long been prized in Greenwich, CT, as have antique Persian Bidjar and Fereghan Sarouk rugs, and antique Caucasian rugs. Greenwich CT also has a market for lighter color antique carpets, and for contemporary Oriental rugs. Other Fairfield County towns, including Westport, Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield, tend to mirror the Greenwich Oriental rug market, with perhaps a slight leaning toward more traditional designs and colors.
Chicago is an immense and elegant city with a suitably large and varied market for antique Oriental rugs. Antique rugs of all types seem to sell in Chicago, although my perception is that the trend toward heavily “distressed” rugs that has afflicted New York and Los Angeles has not impacted Chicago as much. Chicago has traditionally been home to a number of outstanding Oriental rug dealers, some of whom are still very active in business after close to a century or more and whom we think very highly of.
Our experience with antique Oriental rug clients in Florida over the years has been very positive. Many clients from warmer regions in New England and the Midwest have second, or eventually retirement homes, in Florida, and many take their love for antique Oriental rugs with them. Lighter color antique rugs, such as Turkish Oushak carpets and Persian Sultanabad carpets, seem to often times be popular in Florida; but a diverse range of more traditional antique rugs also seems to resonate with Oriental rug buyers in Fisher Island, Palm Beach and Sarasota, Florida, including antique Persian Serapi, Bidjar, Fereghan Sarouk and Heriz rugs,as well as antique Caucasian rugs that have a more tribal aesthetic. Antique Oriental rug trends in Florida seem to run a range from colorful, dramatic Art Deco rugs, to flat woven kilims, to more traditional and colorful antique Persian rugs.
Antique Persian Bakshaish carpet with a light blue field, a color popular in antique carpets in Los Angeles
As is the case with New York City, the Los Angeles market for antique Oriental rugs seems varied. Antique Oriental rugs with light blue fields, such as the antique Persian Bakshaish carpet featured above, are popular in Los Angeles. While the “antique washed” (something Quadrifoglio Gallery does not do) and distressed look for antique rugs seems to be in hyper-mode in Los Angeles, we have experience selling traditional, colorful antique rugs to clients in the Los Angeles and San Diego markets, so the market for traditional antique Oriental rugs in good to excellent condition also exists in Southern California. As a broader national trend, the market for antique washed rugs, which we almost never participated in, seems to be weakening and color and quality seem to be returning. So, I would expect the market for classic antique Persian rugs in Los Angeles and San Diego will strengthen over time. Antique Sultanabad carpets appear to be popular in Los Angeles and other areas in California. Antique Caucasian Soumak rugs, which are flat woven with brocade work, and flat woven Persian and Turkish kilim rugs tend to appeal to antique rug buyers in warm climates such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Florida and even Washington. D.C..
Any city with more than 15 million residents is going to reflect a wide range of aesthetic preferences and antique Oriental rug trends. That said, rug buyers in New York seem to break into two or three major categories. First, there is the market for people who tend to collect antiques in general and do their own buying directly from dealers. Our experience with this market over a long period of time is that the taste of many of these buyers seems to run along the lines of New England preferences; that is to say, a preference for antique Persian and Caucasian rugs with saturated colors and generally in very good to excellent condition. Although many of the antique carpets our New York City and suburban New York clients from Westhchester County, Fairfield County in Connecticut and New Jersey favor are antique Heriz and Bidjar carpets with strong, clear colors, there is also a strong market in the greater New York area for antique Sultanabad carpets, Tabriz carpets and Kerman carpets, along with antique Oushak carpets and Indian Agra carpets. The best examples of these classic decorative carpets can be very expensive, especially in good condition with original, non-chemically altered colors. As a result, a sizable market has emerged for antique washed carpets. With very rare exceptions, we tend to avoid dealing in antique washed carpets, but they have emerged as a major part of the antique carpet market in New York and other areas. A substantial portion of the antique Oriental rug market in New York focuses on larger size antique Persian, Turkish and Indian decorative carpets favored by interior designers. There are great interior designers in many parts of the United States, and New York perhaps has more than anywhere else. Many designers favor traditional antique carpets and many utilize antique carpets with strong palettes and in excellent condition. While trends do change, in recent years, however, many New York interior designers have tended to favor antique Oriental carpets with pale, often times nearly entirely washed out color schemes. Few antique rugs originally came with very pale palettes, so a vast majority of carpets that fit that profile have been chemically altered by a process referred to as “antique washing”. The process of “antique washing” a carpet is not an innocuous thing and should not be confused with the process called “stripping”, where applied color such as what was done to Sarouk rugs in the 1920s, is removed. “Antique washing” a rug is a much harsher process than “stripping” and it often involves running the navy blue with one chemical before bleaching out all the colors in general. The market for the “antique washed” look in carpets is also highly transitory. In recent years, tastes in the antique washed carpet market have swung to a certain degree from the yellowish-ivory popular a few years ago to antique carpets with pale blue or steel grey palettes.
The Westchester County New York market, at least in our experience, curiously mirrors the Boston and general New England Oriental rug market perhaps more than the New York City antique rug market, with Princeton, NJ also seeming to fall into the New England style. Antique Heriz, Serapi, Fereghan Sarouk and Caucasian rugs are popular in Westchester County towns such as Chappaqua, Mamaroneck, Pelham, Bronxville, Katonah and South Salem. The Princeton, NJ market for Oriental rugs seems to mirror the Westchester County, NY market more than Manhattan itself.
Regarding 18th century American furniture, New England people tend to buy New England furniture and Philadelphia people tend to buy Pennsylvania furniture, but there seems to be a greater commonality in terms of the types of antique Oriental rugs favored between Boston and Philadelphia than either city shares with the New York market. Antique Caucasian Kazak, Shirvan and Kuba rugs have long seemed to be popular in the Philadelphia area, as are antique Heriz and Serapi carpets. The market for antique Oriental rugs in nearby Wilmington, Delaware seems quite similar to the market in Pennsylvania itself. Antique Oriental rug trends in the Philadelphia area still seem to reflect an emphasis on classic Caucasian rugs and Persian Serapi carpets, as these blend well with traditional antique Pennsylvania furniture.
San Francisco has long been one of the strongest markets for antique Oriental rugs in the United States, with both classic, colorful Persian rugs and softer, more “decorative” antique carpets being popular. The San Francisco market for antique Oriental rugs seems to have a large overlap with the Boston market, with antique Caucasian Kazak, Shirvan and Kuba rugs, along with antique Persian tribal rugs, being prized. Larger Persian decorative carpets of more formal appearance, such as antique Sultanabad and Fereghan Sarouk carpets, seem popular in San Francisco, Palo Alto and the Bay Area in general; as do the more geometric antique Serapi and Heriz carpets that are favored throughout the United States.
The Washington DC area is also a strong market for antique Oriental rugs and has various antique Oriental rug trends. Years ago, I went to graduate school at the University of Virginia and we have maintained and added many friendships in that area over the years. Our subjective experience with antique rug clients in Washington D.C., northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs of D.C. is that high quality antique Persian rugs, such as Mohtashem Kashan rugs, antique Bidjar rugs and antique Fereghan Sarouk rugs, are appreciated. The metropolitan Washington DC area features some incredible architecture, with brick and stone homes that are often more formal than the clapboard and shingle styles prevalent in New England. Both geometric antique carpets, including antique Heriz and Serapi carpets, and antique Caucasian rugs, as well as more formal, curvilinear style rugs work in the traditional decor seen in the D.C. area, Virginia and Maryland. Antique flat woven “kilim” rugs from Persia, the Caucasus and Turkey were popular in Washington DC years ago, but it has become much more difficult to find outstanding antique kilim rugs in general.