Decorating With Antique Rugs

A Primer in Luxury

Claremont Rug Company in Private Air, Luxury Homes

Cover of Private Air Luxury HomesJan David Winitz, President and Founder of Claremont Rug Company, Talks to Private Air About How to Build Luxury from the Ground Up with Exquisite, Rare Rugs

A world-renowned expert, Jan David Winitz is one of the industry’s most well respected ‘go to’ sources when it comes to exquisite, rare and infinitely coveted rugs. As the President and Founder of Claremont Rug Company, Winitz sat down with us to discuss the finer points on how to choose the perfect rug to complement your home, lifestyle and personal style.


Antique Persian Carpets define space in this contemporary condo

This deluxe contemporary condominium acts as a backdrop for items from this international businessman’s several art collections, including his passionately assembled treasury of antique Caucasian tribal rugs. He chose a very rare, gold ground Persian Sultanabad carpet, circa 1850, for the main seating area.

JDW: We are proud to have been featured in Private Air/Luxury Homes Magazine for private jet travelers.

PALH: When most people think of antique Oriental rugs, they tend to envision styles are that are quintessentially traditional in feel. When your personal tastes run towards more modern, minimalistic design, how can would-be rug collectors incorporate historically traditional elements into their contemporary space?

JDW: Frankly, I haven’t yet met a décor that the appropriately selected antique rugs couldn’t enhance. My clients consistently find that the intricacy and color range of art-level Persian carpets and tribal rugs add a warmth and beauty to their homes and effectively unify the architecture, furnishings and art into a cohesive design aesthetic.

A surprisingly wide range of rug styles harmonizes brilliantly with the clean, simple lines of modern architecture. To enhance a contemporary decor, I favor geometric rugs with abstracted, highly stylized drawing. For instance, we recently furnished a large part of a massive ultra-modern steel and glass residence in Southern California with soaring ceilings and virtually no walls. The homeowners and I agreed on 19th century Caucasian tribal rugs and larger Persian Bakshaish carpets. Their potent colors and bold, graphic patterns mirrored the grand scale of the environment and effectively delineated space. This was particularly important because this home has few walls where one would normally hang paintings.

Many other clients enjoy the counterbalance of the elemental quality of modern architecture and the softer flowing lines and complexity of the elegant, floral antique Persian rugs.

This stunning modern home with its symphony of surfaces includes a luxurious, understated antique Persian Tehran carpet, circa 1900, contributing a quiet refinement to the space

This stunning modern home with its symphony of surfaces includes a luxurious, understated antique Persian Tehran carpet, circa 1900, contributing a quiet refinement to the space

PALH: What type of rug would you recommend for a more modern installation?

JDW: Geographical location is as important an influencer as architectural style in choosing which antique rugs to use. For instance, in sun-drenched beachfront homes, whether in Florida or New Zealand, our clients often opt for Persian rugs with lighter tones in colors reminiscent of sea-and-sand or tropical fruit. The earthy browns, golds and taupes seen in some Hadji Jallili (Haji Jalili) Tabriz, and the exotic warmer hues and aquas of rare ivory-ground Sultanabads are perennial favorites in this application. Rugs featuring expanses of undyed camel hair have always been a personal favorite of mine that many clients are now discovering.

In Northern homes with darker woods, I go to the opposite end of the spectrum and recommend rugs with deep rich blues, reds and jewel tones, such as sapphire, emerald and garnet.

Antique Serapi carpet in a grand great room

A newly constructed, traditionally designed Canadian home employs two antique Persian geometric Serapi carpets that efficiently balance the strength of the architecture

PALH: How do you approach homes with an Eastern influenced aesthetic?

JDW: Rugs with low contrast, small repetitive designs, such as all-over pattern Ferahans, reflect the quiet ambiance of this interior style while contributing a kind of shimmering beauty to the space. These are “rhythm rugs” that provide a melodic background music rather than a full-blown symphony. They don’t overtly impact a room’s overall design as much as provide a backdrop that is absolutely mesmerizing when viewed close up.

PALH: How about a definitively traditional room?

JDW: Of course, this is the pairing we are all most accustomed to – antique carpets with crown moldings, coffered ceilings, and floors with magnificent inlay. This quintessential style of luxury is still in great demand. For those with traditional tastes, the complex designs and rich tones of formal Ferahan Sarouks and Kashans have always been favored. For the private areas of the home, traditionalists often use Laver Kirmans for their soft, pastel palettes and botanical designs. The architectural grandeur of a geometric carpet style known as Serapi has a long history of use in certain parts of the United States; New England and the South specifically. For example, we recently outfitted an entirely newly renovated penthouse of a long-term client in Texas, a sophisticated art connoisseur with a significant collection of best-of-the-best antique Persian carpets. Here, we decided on pieces with complex designs and heraldic medallions to echo the lines of her English antiques.

PALH: How do you suggest to a client who already collects paintings or sculpture how to incorporate rugs into their art collection? How would one go about creating a rug collection that complements rather than competes with other art collections in the home?

JDW: There are antique Oriental rugs that work brilliantly with every form of art. Most art collectors have very distinctive taste and they quickly discover the rugs that reflect this.

As the aesthetic principles of balance and harmony are central in antique Oriental rugs, they naturally play a harmonizing role to art rather than competing with it. When I see a client’s art, I can quickly glean which rug styles will most effectively amplify the painting and sculpture collections by their common colors and pattern rhythm.

The countless successful pairings we have done include a curvilinear Manchester Kashan rug with a Lichtenstein painting, angular Bakshaish rugs with a Georgia O’Keefe and Rodin statuary, and a series of camel hair carpets with a Klee and a Diego Rivera. Each pairing became more than the sum of its parts. Notably runners in gallery hallways bring the same splendor and magic onto the floor as the canvases on the wall. They serve to complete an art installation. One project we recently did for a New York–area art collector included 12 un-dyed Camel hair runners.

Laver Kirman Persian Rug in elegant Dining areaThe indoor/outdoor nature of this Mediterranean-inspired dining area is graced by an exquisite 150-year-old Persian Laver Kirman carpet with it’s time-softened palatte

PALH: How does one furnish a particularly large, grand room?

JDW: One extremely large space we furnished was a 45′ x 60′ living room in a Sierra Mountain family compound. We successfully broke up the room with four carpets, providing intimate seating areas and in the end, creating a much more impressive and exciting room. We also often employ palace-size carpets, up to 17′ x 30′, which effectively integrate the various areas of a room into a unified whole.

PALH: Most people think of Oriental rugs as being appropriate for the public areas of a home. Why would someone who was not a carpet collector wish to use rugs throughout a home?

JDW: Most clients who start working with us begin by looking for three or four carpets for their main public areas. Often, having experienced the sense of individuality and richness that appropriately selected art-level rugs bring to a space, they return to furnish the private areas of their homes. Commonly, in the next residence that they open or in a second home that they maintain, rugs are often considered for both public and private areas from the beginning.

We also provide a unique Whole Home Display service where we work with the clients’ floor plans, pictures of their other art and furnishings to select rugs for multiple spaces. The process often culminates with a viewing of actual rugs in the home, addressing as many as 25 large and small spaces at a time. We do these one- to two-day presentations anywhere in the U.S.

Charmong Ferahan Sarouk in a high-end investment firm lobby

Modern architecture and contemporary art eclectically integrate with an antique Persian Tabriz rug from the esteemed Hadji Jallili (Haji Jalili) workshop to create a striking waiting area of an investment firm. Madelyn Crafts Interior Design —

PALH: How is the cost of a rug influenced by age, rarity and style?

JDW: These questions are important to the first time buyer. That is why I created the “6-Level Oriental Rug Pyramid” to present the wide range of quality and artistry available.

I have also created a “9-point Methodology for Evaluating Antique Oriental Carpets” that addresses the interconnected merits that determine the value of an antique rug. Anyone can read these pieces by visiting the Education Section at

PALH: For someone who is not yet familiar with the various types of antique rugs, their origins, etc. where would be a good place to begin becoming educated?

JDW: Well, since you asked…our website. Many of our clients have told us that they previously knew little about antique rugs before they visited our site. But after spending time looking at the rugs (over 950+ on display), reading the profusion of educational material and other content assembled there, they knew exactly which styles they wanted when they contacted us. Because people also seek out a source of decorative inspiration, our website offers more than 100 images of a wide spectrum of actual residential decors furnished with our antique rugs. Recently, one traveling executive called us one morning after staying up half the night studying our site to begin the process of selecting his rugs. Another time, a client on his way back home to New Zealand from Southern California diverted his private aircraft to visit our gallery because he saw rugs in our catalog that he wanted to bring home with him.

Jan David Winitz, President and Founder of Claremont Rug Company in Oakland, CA, has built a global reputation among carpet collectors and connoisseurs since he founded the company at age 25 in 1980.