Antique Rugs in Eclectic Interior Design

International Expert Jan David Winitz Says Collectors Drawn to Complementary Impact

Mid 19th century Sultanabad Persian carpet provides a stirring counterpoint to a contemporary dining room.

While prices for 15th-18th-century historic Oriental rugs are only recently approaching the level of comparable contemporary works of art, collectors and aficionados have long been accumulating first-caliber 19th-century Persian and Caucasian tribal rugs to display as complementary signature art pieces in their residences, according to Jan David Winitz, internationally recognized Oriental rug expert and founder of Claremont Rug Company.

Such juxtapositions of antique rugs with other forms of art or pieces from different eras are not only not unusual, they are currently highlighted in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through June 29), entitled “Carpets from the East in Paintings from the West,” which was favorably reviewed in the Wall Street Journal.

Said Winitz, “We have known for more than a century that many artists from the 17th and 18th-centuries drew their inspiration and their color palettes from Oriental rugs. It’s also not coincidental that many early Modernists of Western art, notably Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky, became enamored with antique tribal Caucasian and Turkish rugs, which are inherently deconstructive, breaking down nature and totemic motifs into simple, non-representational geometries.”

Winitz, who annually completes more than 50 “whole home projects,” says many of his clients are drawn to the “eclectic and dramatic unifying impact” that rugs provide when placed in both contemporary and modern residential environments. The range of home and interior design in his world, he says, is all-encompassing.

“I recently completed a three-year project for a client who had just finished a 15,000-square-foot custom contemporary home constructed with exotic woods and stones,” said Winitz, author of The Guide to Purchasing an Oriental Rug. “For the entire length of the construction period, we worked with the client to provide first-rate, collector-caliber pieces for each of the rooms.

Modern architecture and contemporary art seamlessly integrate with a collectible antique Persian Hadji Jallili (Haji Jalili) Tabriz rug. Design: Madelyn Crafts, Studio 104: Interior Design (Photo: Business Wire)

“In the dining and living rooms, we selected formal 19th-century Laver Kirmans and Ferahan Sarouks. In the more casual guest house, we placed exceptional antique tribal rugs,” he said of the home which is located in Northern California. All of the rugs were from the Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving, ca. 1800 to ca. 1910. A total of 55 carpets were involved.

Winitz also cited the burgeoning interest among Silicon Valley collectors for Caucasian rugs, both those involved in technology and in finance. “Many of my clients work in industries that are mathematically or engineering oriented,” he said, “and they very much appreciate the precise, geometric patterns and motifs of rugs from the tribal Caucasus weaving groups and the formal, finely knotted Persian Hadji Jalili (Haji Jalili) Tabriz rugs.”

Collectors gravitate to antique rugs from the Second Golden Age when the artistic skills and cultural traditions existed to produce art at its most profound level. Pieces from earlier eras are owned almost exclusively by museums and are generally not suitable for home display. “Second Golden Age rugs offer much of the artistic impact of historical pieces and usually have the durability needed for display on the floor or on walls of homes,” says Winitz.

Claremont’s clients realize they are acquiring precious works of art, not only decorative floor coverings. “When a rug is perfectly chosen for a particular room, it gives the space a sense of vitality that is difficult to describe,” he said. “Outstanding rugs evoke an emotional response through their sublime beauty and consummate craftsmanship. They are deeply nurturing and inspiring to their owners.

“Most of our clients actively participate in the selection process. A while back, I worked with a client who maintained a 25,000-square-foot vacation home in the Rockies, which was both architecturally contemporary and very much in keeping with the locality. However, as a rug collector, he also desired to have first caliber Oriental rugs throughout. The result was an unforgettable environment, created by having all of the pieces working together in perfect harmony.”