The Return of ‘Things’
by Sonia Purcell
The collection of Rugs as works of art is experiencing a renaissance
Rugs – Henry VIII not only collected wives during his reign as king of England. He also has a keen eye for rugs, vying with his chief adviser, the wily Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, to amass the most fabulous collection. That urge to gather rugs – as works of art rather than mere floor coverings – is now enjoying a renaissance. They can look wonderful in both modern and traditional homes and the emphasis is on quality: Jan David Winitz of the California-based Claremont Rug Company has taken on staff throughout the recession as the wealthy have started to invest more in art-level pieces from the 19th-century.
Some clients have been buying up to 50 rugs for their homes at a time – mostly for the floors for a few particularly delicate ones for use as wall hangings. With more than 20 different types of Persian rugs alone, there can be different styles in every room. Some parents even create the whole décor for children’s rooms inspired by a rug. “For an oceanfront house in California we found a beautiful rug for the daughter’s room that was evocative of a field of wild flowers and was very celestial and graceful. The son’s room had one with deeper colours and geometric medallions”, Winitz says.
A number of the company’s clients constantly top up or swap pieces in a never-ending search for the best possible collection. Some are interested only in museum-quality examples, the highest standard available. Despite prices starting at about $20,000 and rising to $500,000, Winitz maintains that rugs are still undervalued compared with other works of art or antiques – although the best are at least maintaining their value. The quality shows through in different ways, he says: “The level of beauty, the level of harmony and grace, the uniqueness of design and the unusually wide range of colour overall, the rug should sparkle like an old master painting. With the natural dyes and the patina of time, the rug assumes a depth and glow as if you are looking into the color not at it.” Winitz advises buyers to look for nuances in the shades and ebbs and flows of tone that are the result of natural dyes.
He asserts that the best examples are Persian, Caucasian, or Turkish, but points out that there are many different styles even from these areas. Antique Laver Kirman rugs, for instance, often feature flowers and delicate colors. “They look wonderful in bedrooms or throughout the home, evoking what lies outside”, says Winitz. Caucasian rugs, by contrast, can have a more contemporary appeal, featuring more geometric designs with symbols such as the eight-pointed star of wisdom, the wheel of life or the zig-zag depicting running water or mountains.
“An intense business man client said he had looked at one of his rugs after a very hard day and had found it comforting in a time of trouble”, says Winitz. “They are so much more than just a way of covering the floor.”