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Should I opt for a new or antique rug?

Antique vs new

Should I opt for a new or antique rug?

One of the most common quandaries when purchasing a carpet is whether to invest in an antique rug or opt for a new rug. You may think it’s as simple as matching your purchase with the age of your home – an antique rug for a historic residence and a new production rug for a contemporary space. 

But there’s evidence to suggest that this idea isn’t something that is upheld by interior designers, with antique rugs making bold statement pieces in cutting-edge modern homes and contemporary creations adding vivid colour and patterning to centuries-old rooms. 

There are, however, other factors you should take into consideration when deciding between an antique rug and a new carpet, including the quality of materials used, the method of construction and the uniqueness of the piece. 

New vs Antique Rugs: Materials

While it’s easy to focus solely on the design and aesthetic of a rug, equally important in your decision should be the raw materials used. Antique rugs are usually crafted from high-quality wool (sometimes from a tribe’s own flock of sheep) and exhibit workmanship that is hard to find in the modern day. If a carpet has survived 80 or 100 years and is still looking great, it suggests that is probably has many more years ahead of it. 

Unfortunately, the availability of cost-effective and poor-quality materials has skyrocketed in recent years, meaning that many modern carpet manufacturers are cutting costs where it matters the most. This doesn’t mean you can’t find new production rugs of high quality but you just need to ask a few more questions about the raw materials used in its manufacture. 

New vs Antique Rugs: Patterning and colouration

When you think of antique rugs, it’s probably traditional or tribal patterns that come to mind. Certain colour palettes were favoured, depending on the region in which the rugs were produced, with Aubusson rugs known for their soft pastel tones and Persian carpets more richly coloured. 

Something to keep in mind when purchasing an antique rug is that the colours may have changed over time as a result of sun exposure or the natural fading of vegetable dyes (which were the main means of colouration). Due to their young age, new production rugs will be more homogenous in colour, although this doesn’t mean that the colour won’t alter in the future. 

As is the case with art, carpet design has evolved over the years with changing design aesthetics and the expression of individual styles. Today’s rugs are often brightly coloured and patterned with both modern and traditional motifs. In some cases, modern rugs bring to life centuries-old designs from Persia or Central Asia so they can be appreciated by a modern audience.

Despite the greater choice of designs and patterns that are now available to buyers, many contemporary rugs use dyes created from harmful and toxic chemicals, such as azo dyes. While they have good wash-fastness, they also come with potentially devastating impacts on the environment and our health. When purchasing a modern rug, it’s important to look for rugs that are “azo-free” and preferably coloured using natural dyes. 

New vs Antique Rugs: Machine-made vs hand-knotted

Any rug that was made more than 80 years ago is most likely hand-knotted or hand-woven, with a lot of human labour invested in its production. Hand-woven rugs such as kilims typically take around three or four months to create while hand-knotted rugs can take up to a year. 

It’s true that hand-knotted and hand-woven rugs are still crafted today, particularly in regions of the world where traditions hold strong. In these areas, the art of carpet weaving has been passed down through the generations, with little impact from industrialisation.

But in most cases, new production rugs are machine-made or sometimes hand-tufted, with rug manufacturers under pressure to deliver high-volume results within limited time frames and budgets. Unfortunately, this can result in rugs that are of lower quality and may not survive well into the future. 

New vs Antique Rugs: Uniqueness

If you’re after a rug that is completely unique and one-of-a-kind, you’ll have a greater chance of finding that with an antique rug. While certain styles of antique carpets are associated with particular areas or tribes, it’s less likely that you will find two rugs that are exactly the same.

On the other hand, new carpets are typically produced in higher volumes to meet the economic demands of modern manufacturing. This makes them a good choice when you’re looking for multiple, identical rugs to appear throughout a particular space, such as a hotel or office.

New vs Antique Rugs: Price

When buying a new production rug, its price will reflect the current costs of labour and materials, the complexity of the design and the quality of materials used. It will also be influenced by the size of the rug and the region in which it was produced, as well as the “brand” behind the sale. 

Antique and heirloom rugs, on the other hand, are priced more like fine art, with unique and one-of-a-kind pieces usually fetching a higher price than more commonly found vintage pieces. If there is visible wear and tear, this will reduce the carpet’s value, while the costs of restoration will only add to the price tag. When purchasing an 80 or 100-year-old rug, you are investing in an antique that may well only appreciate in value. 

New vs Antique Rugs: Sustainability

A factor that is becoming more important with modern buyers is sustainability and this comes into play when deciding between an antique or new rug. Antique rugs that have stood the test of time are a more eco-friendly choice, particularly when you take into consideration the natural materials used. Rather than ending up in landfill, they can be restored and given a new lease of life in modern homes. 

That’s not to say you can’t find sustainably made contemporary rugs crafted from organic fibres and natural dyes. But they may come with a higher price tag, which reflects the quality of materials and the workmanship that has gone into their creation. It’s important to remember that by purchasing a sustainable piece, you are not only investing in the future of our environment but also the longevity of the rug. 

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