The Rich Have Abandoned Rich-People Rugs (Published 2018) (2023)

The Rich Have Abandoned Rich-People Rugs (Published 2018) (1)

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Persians? That’s Paul Manafort money! Now rich people are trying not to spend millions on something that they and their little dogs walk over.

A Persian rug, foreground, from the 17th century is nearly $3.5 million at Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in New York.Credit...Stefania Curto for The New York Times

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By Jacob Bernstein

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Even in an increasingly expensive Manhattan, $3.5 million still pays for a lot, like a 2,000-square-foot apartment (without south-facing light) and 12 years of private school for one of the children. But if you’d like to outfit the living room of that apartment with the very finest Persian carpet Jason Nazmiyal is selling out of his Midtown showroom, you’ll need an additional $3.5 million.

For decades, antique Persians, hand-knotted from silk and often taking years or even decades to produce, were the gold standard of floor coverings for the swank, the sine qua non of Oriental rugs. Then the market got flooded with fakes, tastes shifted, and people became aware that most of what they were being sold was as likely to return a profit as a decade-old flat screen TV.

“That’s why we don’t really steer clients towards super-expensive rugs anymore,” said Brian Sawyer, an architect and interior designer whose clients include Madonna and Vera Wang. “Most of the time, they wind up being more trouble than they’re worth.”

In the Hamptons estate of the billionaire Ron Perelman: a flat weave modernist Swedish design carpet with black and blue triangles that looks terrific near a Nakashima bench and a hanging Calder sculpture. In the clothing designer Cynthia Rowley’s West Village townhouse: a starburst-y, geometric millennial-pink carpet from the Rug Company. And in the colonial of the longtime Vogue eminence André Leon Talley, in White Plains: a floral-print, 17th-century French carpet known as an Aubusson, which he bought from Sotheby’s in 2014 during an auction of Bunny Mellon’s precious collectibles.

“I selected it from the catalog,” Mr. Talley said. “I knew it was going to be just the thing for my living room, which by the way has Truman Capote’s famous Victorian sofa, with an exotic palm-tree pattern.”

The current celebrity poster boy for the Persian rug set is Paul Manafort, but he may not be buying any for a while. In October, Mr. Manafort was charged by a federal grand jury with conspiracy and money laundering; he pleaded not guilty.

One of the claims in the 30-page indictment involved a series of excursions to an antique rugs dealer based in Alexandria, Va., where Mr. Manafort is said to have spent $934,000 in eight transactions between 2008 and 2010.

ImageThe Rich Have Abandoned Rich-People Rugs (Published 2018) (2)

It was a lot for someone to spend — even someone with $40 million in “suspicious transactions” (although there was something fitting about a man who had previously been described by one of his friends as “The Count of Monte Cristo” spending so much on antediluvian decorations).

“I’m imagining a lot of gold-plated stuff and pseudotapestries,” said Wendy Goodman, the design editor of New York magazine. “Needlepoint faux 14th-century furniture and bath curtains in silk taffeta that the Manaforts were told was water-repellent. What do you think the interior of the cars look like? Was it sheer fur?”

In short order, reporters from The Weekly Standard and HuffPost identified J&J Oriental rugs as the likely location of Mr. Manafort’s spree. (J&J did not answer questions from The New York Times.) That flummoxed the small network of high-end dealers who rely on a mix of cooperation and competition when dealing with the biggest collectors, and who expressed utter disbelief that Mr. Manafort had spent this amount at what was basically a neighborhood store.

“I looked at that website, and the rugs shown there were mostly standard Iranian commercial goods from now or not long ago,” said Daniel Shaffer, the executive editor of Hali Magazine, a rug and textiles publication. “There was nothing collectible about them. I don’t know what he bought, but with the kind of things I saw on the website, he would have had to buy a container load to spend a million dollars.”

“I can’t believe it was kosher,” Mr. Nazmiyal said, echoing the opinions of more than half a dozen other Persian carpet experts. “If you want to buy jewelry and you’re going to spend a million dollars, you go to see Fabergé, you go to Cartier and Tiffany. When you go to a local, neighborhood store for rare and expensive rugs, in all probability that dealer is going to contact a dealer in a big metropolitan area to get it on consignment and bring it to you. That drives the price up. There’s more hands involved. People hear about it.”

Mr. Manafort wasn’t even a fixture on the auction scene, a typical stomping ground for those looking for deals on highly collectible pieces.

“He never came,” said Mary Jo Otsea, who ran the rugs department at Sotheby’s, where she worked for more than 30 years. She oversaw the 2013 sale of the most expensive carpet ever, a kaleidoscopic tapestry of leafy vines that was woven in Southeast Iran in the early 17th century and measures 9 feet by 6½ feet.

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It was purchased by the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha for $33.74 million, but turned out to be an outlier.

Shortly afterward, Ms. Otsea retired and Sotheby’s shut down the American wing of its rug department. (There are still carpet specialists based in London.) “There was a time 15 or 20 years ago where if you were decorating a Fifth Avenue apartment you would buy a $100,000 antique Persian rug,” Ms. Otsea said. “But the audience for that tapered off so much.”


Blame our increasingly casual culture, one in which the perfect pair of jeans replaced the ornate Christian Lacroix gown as a status object. There has in fact been a 40-year move toward folkloric, less formal carpets. Wool is the new silk. Established imperfections are part of the sales pitch.

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The film director Joel Schumacher was part of the first wave of design geeks collecting Navajo rugs, which started becoming more popular in the 1970s.

“I got to Hollywood as a costume designer, and one of the things you do as a costume designer is shop all the time,” Mr. Schumacher said. Around the time he was outfitting Diane Keaton for “Sleeper,” Mr. Schumacher walked into an antiques store and spotted a chandelier wrapped in what turned out to be a Navajo rug. “I said to the guy, ‘Could I buy the rug?’” Mr. Schumacher said. “He said, ‘No, I use that as padding.’”

It took just $50 to wear the shopkeeper down, and Mr. Schumacher got hooked (no pun intended).

He loved the way the kaleidoscopic geometrics looked with wicker furniture and books strewn all over the place. So he bought more and more Navajos, plunking the larger ones on the floor, the midsize ones on top of beds and the smallest over banisters and pool chairs.

Andy Warhol and Ralph Lauren began collecting Navajo rugs, too. Sotheby’s held auctions for them. Still, prices remained relatively close to earth, at least compared to Persian rugs.

Mr. Schumacher’s biggest splurge was on a rare chief’s blanket that he bought in the 1980s in the Southwest. “I was either in Sedona or maybe Taos,” he said.

The asking price was $20,000; he paid half that, in cash.

In the early 2000s, ABC Carpet on lower Broadway ushered in its own major rug trend, selling Orientals that had been dyed in bright colors like pink, blue, red or silver. Seemingly every well-off woman who relied on Jennifer Aniston for hairspiration had one.

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But ubiquity has a way of creating openings for new things to come along. Or as Ryan Korban, the design guru to the fashion designers Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra, put it: “ABC carpet hasn’t changed substantially in 10 years. Tell me you don’t agree with me. It’s the same chairs and the same rugs as they had when I was in college. There’s only so many times you can go to the same place and look at the same kind of stuff.”

Over the last 15 years, Janis Provisor and Brad Davis, the owners of Fort Street Studio, have made plush and shiny silk-knot carpets for clients including Brad Pitt, Madonna, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. (Although Mr. Arnett and Ms. Poehler divorced a few years ago. “Who got the carpet?” Mr. Davis wondered.)

Prices for a large living room rug typically start at about $21,000, though six-figure carpets are not unheard-of, said Ms. Provisor, showing off a 150-knot wild silk rug with metallic soumak that she once made for a client in a custom size (17 feet by 18 feet) for $147,000.

Whether these — or the shiny, envy inducing carpets of their closest competitor Joseph Carini — are good investments or merely terrific splurges is a matter of debate.

“Some of them have held their value,” Ms. Provisor said.

Today, the most obvious trend in upscale carpeting is the Moroccan Berber rug, which is not, though it may appear that way, a discovery by trust-funded Brooklyn millennials or the design firm Roman and Williams.

Jean-Michel Frank, France’s resident godfather of minimalist design, used them in the early part of the 20th century. There have also been Berber rugs in the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Modernist Pennsylvania pièce de résistance, Fallingwater, since the 1950s.

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In the early 2000s they began popping up in European design magazines. The designer Jenna Lyons plunked down a few thousand dollars at Nazmiyal for a shaggy six-foot-wide, brown-and-white, diamond-patterned Beni Ourain (named after the nomadic tribespeople of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco who make them).

It went into the Brooklyn townhouse she lived in, got photographed for Domino magazine in 2008, became one of the most repinned images of all time on Pinterest, and the rest is fuzz-story.


Unlike the best Persians, Beni Ourain Moroccan rugs (and some of their popular cousins including Boucherouites and Azilals) can be completed in a few months, so they are plentiful and relatively cheap.

They were shaggy enough to stage orgies on, but not so louche as to turn anyone into a 21st-century Austin Powers.

“For four or five thousand dollars, you could get a good one,” Mr. Korban said. “People went to Morocco and brought them back. They were on eBay and 1stdibs. With a Serge Mouille sconce and a fig tree, your house looked like the Céline showroom. Now, I think it’s a bit of a Domino magazine-Whole Foods cliché. No offense to anyone who has them, but on to the next.”

Amy Astley, the editor of Architectural Digest, said, “That’s why I don’t buy the traditional crème and brown.” Ms. Astley has a Beni in bright orange and blue at her Long Island vacation home that she purchased from Double Knot in TriBeCa for a few thousand dollars.

“The knockoffs are the worst,” she said. “But I understand the desire for a uniform. It’s easy, it’s foolproof, and it’s great for most people who don’t want to spend tons of money.”


Continue reading the main story


Have Oriental rugs lost value? ›

FALSE. The design is just one component used to identify hand-knotted rugs and their value. Construction, including the type of knots, signatures, having a firm grasp of “Oriental” history, the age of the textile, origin, and experience are the best methods to identify all rugs. All oriental rugs appreciate in value.

Why are vintage rugs so expensive? ›

While not always the case, the older and earlier rugs, tend to be more rare and as a result, more valuable. Although a fine rug that will last for hundreds of years, wool, silk, the rug dyestuffs and materials are still organic and will eventually break down.

Are Persian rugs a good investment? ›

Persian rugs can be good investments if you make the right choices. Those who own an antique Persian rug passed on from previous generations will vouch for its durability. While Oriental rug antique collectors will tell you, a diligently chosen Persian rug is unlikely to decrease in value.

How can you tell how old a rug is? ›

Very old rugs will feel gritty, sandy, or even smooth on the back. A fine rug that looks tightly woven, but that still feels somewhat floppy or supple, is probably old, since even tightly woven rugs become supple with time. Color or rug dye quality can also help determine how old a rug is.

How many years should a rug last? ›

The typical lifespan of area rugs run anywhere from 5 to 10 years. The longevity will depend not only on your home's foot traffic, but also on how you maintain your rug.

What type of Persian rug is the most valuable? ›

Antique Kerman Persian Rug

The most expensive rug ever sold was an antique 17th century Kerman rug. The Clark Sickle-Leaf Vine Carpet sold for 33.7 million dollars at Sotheby's auction. Kerman rugs are a type of Persian rug woven in Kerman, Iran featuring a vase pattern.

What is considered an antique Persian rug? ›

What Are Antique Persian Rugs? The term “Persian Rugs” refers to those rugs that were made in modern day Iran. For a Persian rug to be classified as “antique” it would need to be at least 80 years old.

What is the best quality rug to buy? ›

The best fiber for rugs is by far wool. It is the strongest, most vibrant, and most resilient fiber to be walking on. A low quality wool rug will outlast the best synthetic fiber (nylon, acrylic, polyester, olefin) all day long.

What kind of rugs are in style 2022? ›

Keep scrolling to check out the five rug trends for 2022 and how to shop them.
  • Antique Aesthetic. Malileh Heriz Emerald Rug. ...
  • Muted Neutrals. Jonathan Adler Biba Concrete Rug. ...
  • Animal Hides and Patterns. Zebra Black Rug. ...
  • Geometric Patterns. Herringbone Batik Natural Rug. ...
  • Flat-Woven Rugs. Burlap Solid Sand Re-Jute.
Dec 20, 2021

Are oriental rugs out of style 2022? ›

Oriental rugs are timeless classics and certainly still in style in 2022. In an era when mass production has come to the forefront, these fine quality rugs stand for excellence and class.

What is the most popular rug color? ›

The most popular carpet colors are black and dark variants and for good reason. Black and dark gray carpets are found ubiquitously wherever carpeting is the flooring of choice. They also stand up to stains well, accentuate more vibrant decor choices, and will never go out of style.

How much are old oriental rugs worth? ›

Generally, these rugs can range from $50-$150 per square foot in value. Post-World War II rugs can originate anywhere from the 1950s to the present. This period has seen a great influx of rugs from Pakistan and India to this country.

What country makes the best Oriental rug? ›

Iran. Perhaps the most valuable rugs were made from this region, with Iran being the present-day Persia. The 2,500-year old practice of hand-weaving rugs has gone through the several generations of war and trade which influenced the techniques and patterns each rug has.

How long should an Oriental rug last? ›

Depending on the level of traffic, quality of the rug and the level of care it receives your rug could last anywhere from 20 to 200 years. Rugs held by collectors and sold for hundreds of thousands or millions can often be several centuries old.

Are old rugs valuable? ›

Older antique rugs, especially those that are in good condition, are also more valued because they are rarer and have a look and feel like nothing that could be produced today. While not always the case, especially when dealing with rare and collectible piece, larger rugs will generally cost more than small ones.

What makes a rug valuable? ›

As a general rule, the most valuable rugs will be those that are very old and still in good condition. Components and craftsmanship are also important when assessing a rug. Rugs that are made of higher quality materials, and created with greater skill, will be more valuable.

Can carpet last 20 years? ›

On average, a carpet should last between 5 and 15 years. However, a carpet's life expectancy is heavily dependant on its quality and your use of it. With proper carpet care, a high-quality carpet can last 20 years or more. Carpets made from wool or nylon enjoy the longest lifespan.

How much does a rug appraisal cost? ›

Full written appraisal.

These appraisals will usually cost a minimum of $500, if not more, depending on the dealer so be sure to ask about the fee before having them look at your rug.

How do you price a rug? ›

The material costs, such as raw materials, dyes, and threads that go into a rug all play a part in the final price. Every material used in the rug such as whether the foundation is made of cotton, wool, or silk can affect the cost. The higher the quality of materials the higher the price point.

How much does a good quality rug cost? ›

Quality rugs will, generally speaking, start at around $400 and can go all the way up to $10,000 and even far more for a very high end, luxury rug.

How old is a vintage rug? ›

While any rug older than 80-100 years old is considered antique, the lesser-known range between antique rugs and vintage rugs 50-80 years old are labeled semi-antique. Any rug 20 years or older can be listed as vintage, but the typical consensus is vintage applies to the range between 20-50 years old.

Is 30 year old carpet good? ›

Carpet can last anywhere from five to 15 years, depending on the carpet type, carpet cushion, carpet fibers, and how much foot traffic it endures. Even in barely-used rooms, high-quality carpets will start showing signs of age after 10 years as the padding deteriorates, the threads wear, and the shades shift.

What type of rug is most durable? ›

Wool is definitely the most durable choice when it comes to rug materials.
  • Polypropylene. Polypropylene is a synthetic material that looks like wool. ...
  • Nylon. Long-lasting nylon rugs are practically indestructible. ...
  • Polyester. Polyester rugs are inexpensive, like other rugs made from synthetic materials. ...
  • Seagrass. ...
  • Sisal.

What is the most famous carpet in the world? ›

The Ardabil Carpet is the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful and historically important. It was made in the town of Ardabil in north-west Iran, the burial place of Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardabili, who died in 1334.

Which country has the best rug in the world? ›

When it comes to quality handmade rugs, no one does it better than the Iranians. Iran, formerly known as Persia, was the center of handmade rug and carpet production throughout the Middle Ages. Iran is still a major rug exporter, with their handmade rugs being famous worldwide.

Should rug be darker than walls? ›

Considering Wall Color

Your wall color should be two tones lighter than your carpet. If you have dark walls, you can also go a few tones lighter with your carpet. Since it's much easier to change your wall color than your carpet, choose your carpet color first and then match your wall color.

How can you tell if a Persian rug is authentic? ›

In short, a genuine Oriental or Persian carpet has no sewn-on fringes. The fringes form the end of the warp yarns and are therefore an integral part of the carpet. If you should see on the back of the rug that the fringes have been sewn on, then in all probability it is not a genuine oriental rug.

What are the most desirable Persian rugs? ›

Kerman rugs are one of the finest types of Persian rugs. They are best known for their wide range of designs and color combinations. Kerman rugs have very distinct type of dyes that are created by their master weavers. Kerman rugs come from the city of Kerman, which is located in South Central Iran.

What is the difference between a Persian rug and a Persian carpet? ›

A Persian rug or Persian carpet is a handwoven or hand knotted rug, woven in Iran. It can be a kilim (flat woven rug) or a knotted pile rug. The term carpet denotes a larger size but often these two terms, Oriental carpet and Oriental rug are used interchangeably.

How can you tell if a Persian rug is handmade or machine made? ›

One of the best ways to tell the difference between hand knotted and machine made rugs is to look at the back of the rug. In hand knotted rugs the weaving and the knots will be slightly uneven and not perfectly uniform. On the other hand, a machine made rug will look very uniform and perfectly even.

What do symbols on Persian rugs mean? ›

The symbols often were believed to protect the rug's owner from misfortune. The symbols in Persian rugs may represent historical monuments, scenes from daily life, Islamic buildings, weeping willows or other trees and religious imagery such as the Tree of Life or the Garden of Paradise.

What rug material to avoid? ›

Here are a few things to be aware of when it comes to the main toxic offenders in most rugs: Materials like polypropylene (also known as olefin or polyolefin), nylon, and polyester. These three are synthetic materials that are created through chemical processes.

Is it better to have a bigger or smaller rug? ›

A rug that is too small for your space can cause the room to feel uninviting. A rug that is too large for the room can, paradoxically, make the room feel smaller. The right-sized area rug will bring warmth and balance to the room, creating the perfect finishing touch.

Should I get a 5x7 or 8x10 rug? ›

If you like to keep your furniture legs off the rug a 5x7 size is recommended. An 8x10 rug will fill the visual space of the seating area and should have the front legs of your furniture placed around the edges.

What kind of rug pattern makes a room look bigger? ›

Choose Light Colors and Almost No Pattern. Light-colored rugs make a room look brighter and feel spacious. Consider pale pastels, natural-looking neutrals, and off-white to start. Patterns, like texture, are visually appealing but clutter a space quickly!

Should a rug be bigger or smaller than couch? ›

General Rules:

Make sure your rug is at least 6″ wider (8″ is ideal) than your sofa on both sides. Typically run the rug the length of the sofa. Give 30″ to 36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces (if your living room allows for it) if not then at least 18″-24″. That will help to inform your rug size.

What color rugs are in 2022? ›

Shades of Brown

Browns will add richness and a beautiful natural quality to any space they inhabit, pairing perfectly with all washes of wood and nature-inspired colors like green and blue. Our Top Picks: Banded Shag rug in brown, Victorian Ombre rug, and Zella Washable Vintage rug.

What kind of rugs are popular now? ›

In terms of popularity in modern interior design, in 2023, organic designs are going to rule the roost. Jute, bamboo, sisal, and other natural fibers will take over interiors, thereby creating a calming, relaxed vibe. No matter their colors or patterns, the rugs will drive schemes to feel current and relaxed.

What is coming back in style 2022? ›

2022 Fashion Trend: Voluminous Silhouettes

From oversize shirting to ballooned silhouettes and a continuation of the puff sleeve trend, dresses and tops will retain their volume through the end of the year. If anything, the latter will spice up all the soft pants you'll probably still be rocking on the bottom.

What is trending in carpet 2022? ›

Bold Patterns

That means bold colors and patterns are back. There's a reason patterns are one of the top carpet trends for 2022. Not only do patterns mask the inevitable dirt, crumbs, and pet hair in your home, but they also allow you to express your personality through interior design.

What color carpet stays cleanest? ›

Dark brown is one of the best carpet colors for hiding dirt. The darker the shade, the better the dirt will blend into the carpet. Powder and dust won't show up against the dark brown color. While a lighter brown can also be an attractive option, it won't hide as much dirt.

What color rug makes space look bigger? ›

Use light-colored rugs

The work of light colors is to brighten up a room and its décor. Rugs in tones of beige, sand, and taupe will make your room seem bigger and sprawling.

What color rug hides stains best? ›

Hides dirt and stains: The best carpet colors to hide stains are deep browns and grays because they camouflage spills of wine, pasta sauce, and other dark liquids. Dark colors also hide dirt and mud well (to a point!).

Are Oriental rugs worth money? ›

Almost all fall into the decorativecategory and will not appreciate in value. Fineness of weave and quality of wool will be primary indicators of their value, however, design will play a part. A new room-size Chinese rug that sold for $4,000 a few years ago in very good condition would be worth $1,000 today or less.

Are Oriental rugs making a comeback? ›

They're a friendly, non-obtrusive ground for a room,” Donelson says. “They're part of filling a home with soulful objects.” The old-world Oriental rug is making a comeback on Pinterest boards and in the homes of design lovers and millennials, who are decorating with it in fresh ways.

Are Oriental rugs coming back? ›

Oriental rugs are great for formal dining rooms or more modern rooms where you want to add a vintage touch. Oriental rugs are in style now will continue to be in style in the future because they set the tone of a room and use a technique perfected over thousands of years.

Are old rugs worth anything? ›

Age and condition.

rare antique rugs are regarded as quite valuable, but this is also dependent on how well kept the rug is, its condition, design intricacies, as well as other considerations. The fact that a handmade rug is ancient does not imply that its value will skyrocket.

What kind of rugs are trending? ›

Rug trends to watch out for in 2023

Jute, bamboo, sisal, and other natural fibers will take over interiors, thereby creating a calming, relaxed vibe. No matter their colors or patterns, the rugs will drive schemes to feel current and relaxed.

Is Carpet Back in Style 2022? ›

Carpet is making a comeback in 2022. It doesn't matter what room you are decorating; it is worth paying attention to the floor. A statement rug or carpet is a good choice for a living room. It will not only ground the space, but can also serve as a starting point for the design.

What are oriental rugs called now? ›

Since many of these countries lie in an area which today is referred to as the Islamic world, oriental rugs are often also called “Islamic Carpets”, and the term “oriental rug” is used mainly for convenience. The carpets from Iran are known as “Persian Carpets”.

Who buys second hand rugs? ›

Some of the most popular options include eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace. You can also sell your rug on apps like Mercari and 5miles.


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