Should you buy a vintage rug? Interior designers weigh in on whether it's worth the investment

Vintage rugs add charm and character to any home, but they require upkeep and careful decision-making. Here, designers tell all on shopping and styling the best vintage pieces

A kitchen, bathroom and living room, each including a vintage rug
(Image credit: James Furman Colum / Allison Garrison for Allito Spaces; Donna Mondi Interior Design; Skip Sroka for Sroka Design)

Finding the perfect balance of contemporary and vintage in your home is no simple task, but it often leads to elevated and chic (yet welcoming) design schemes. And while investing in vintage furniture is a fast track to sophisticated design, vintage textiles require a bit more thought. Does fabric hold up as well as the carved wood and metallic pieces that fill vintage shops? Should you consider vintage upholstered furniture, curtains, or rugs to fill your own home?

When it comes to vintage rugs, designers say the answer is a resounding yes. Made to last and packed with character, these well-loved rugs are often worth the investment you just have to know where, and how, to look. Here, interior designers share their top tips for shopping for antique rugs and styling them in any home, plus the pros and cons of bringing one home. And thanks to their tried-and-true advice, decorating with vintage has never been easier.

Should you buy a vintage rug?

A kitchen with white walls, dusty blue cabinetry and a red vintage rug

(Image credit: James Furman Colum / Allison Garrison for Allito Spaces)

Feeling hesitant about investing in vintage textiles, whether rugs or upholstered furniture, is completely normal, but designers say these pieces are usually worth the associated risks. Ayten Nadeau, founder and principal designer of North Carolina-based I-TEN DESIGNS, says there's so much to love about vintage rugs, wherever you plan to use them in your home.

'I was raised in a culturally rich household surrounded by antique rugs, which I believe to be one of the best investments. Antique rugs are versatile and ideal for kitchen runners, home offices, living rooms, dining rooms, or as door mats. They bring a timeless historical and cultural depth that new rugs can't match, enriching any space with texture, pattern, and color. They complement art, decor, and furniture gracefully,' says Ayten.

While these pieces often come with a hefty price tag, Donna Mondi – founder and principal designer of Chicago- and Denver-based Donna Mondi Interior Design – says their benefits will last the long term. That's why she suggests biting the bullet and leaning into the vintage rug look, even if it requires a bit of a budget stretch.

'While antique rugs won’t necessarily fit into the aesthetic of everyone’s homes, I do believe the timeless elegance and charm of an antique rug adds so much depth and interest to most interior spaces. As they typically can run on the more expensive side, especially to find the perfect rug that fits within your dimension and budget constraints, at DMID we always say that “you’ll only cry once”. So splurge on the rug and you’ll be investing in a piece that will last you more than a lifetime!' says Donna.

Alice Moszczynski, an interior designer with Planner 5D, shares that she's a 'big fan' of vintage and antique rugs. Still, she cautions those interested to make informed purchasing decisions. When you come across a top-grade, gorgeous vintage rug, you're left with only benefits, she says.

'It’s a great option for adding character, history, and sophistication to a space. Antique rugs often feature intricate designs, excellent craftsmanship, and a sense of history that can't be replicated in modern rugs. High-quality antique rugs can appreciate over time, making them both a beautiful addition to your home and a potential investment,' says Alice.

What are the pros and cons of investing in a vintage rug?

A light-filled bathroom with an outdoor beach view, a marble bathtub, a velvet maroon chair and a vintage runner

(Image credit: Donna Mondi Interior Design)

No matter the state of the vintage rug you find, it's important to consider the several pros and cons of investing. Donna says that the timeless nature and notable quality of vintage rugs make the pro side quite appealing.

'Antique rugs exude an elegance that can elevate the aesthetic of any space. The statement of these one-of-a-kind rugs add character and sophistication to any room,' she says. 'The majority of antique rugs are handwoven using traditional techniques versus the modern machine-made, mass-produced rugs that are being sold today. The durability of this technique makes it a worthwhile investment for your home.'

However, keeping the inherent cons of vintage rugs in mind is also key if you'd like to avoid unwanted surprises down the line. Aside from the higher cost often associated with vintage textiles, Donna adds that size and style restraints should be taken into account.

'While antique rugs are stunning, they don’t necessarily fit into every aesthetic. If you prefer a more clean, minimalist, or contemporary design aesthetic, an antique rug might not complement your current furnishings,' she says. 'The standards applied to contemporary rug production didn’t apply in the past, so you will see odd sizes which can be a bonus or a negative, depending on what you are looking for.'

A living room with a vintage area rug and gold accents

(Image credit: Donna Mondi Interior Design)

Allison Garrison, founder and principal designer of San Diego-based Allito Space , says she loves vintage rugs. Despite their age and wear, they do the heavy lifting in hiding dust and stains that will inevitably come their way.

'They add so much character to a space and generally are the best at hiding wear and tear – two of the major advantages to buying them. One con or look out for is that sometimes they aren't perfectly straight or can have some holes or fraying. In some instances, this helps provide that extra character but you want to make sure that neither is too extreme,' she says.

On the other hand, Skip Sroka – founder and creative director of Washington, D.C.-based Sroka Design – says you should consider your lifestyle and authentic taste when deciding on a rug for your design scheme. These considerations will make the pros and cons a bit easier to navigate.

'Like all decisions, this should be a decision from the heart. This should be something that interests you and you want to live with it. Normally, these rugs are well-made and will last. If you are looking for a really soft rug, this is not the case. The rug will dictate the color scheme. Rugs are at a point in the market, where good buys can be had. They are in an upswing of value in the market, after years of being pushed aside,' says Skip.

What to look out for when shopping

A vintage rug under a wooden coffee table

(Image credit: Donna Mondi Interior Design)

Many of the pitfalls associated with vintage goods can easily be avoided – but knowing what questions to ask is key. Though graceful fading is 'part of the charm' of vintage rugs, according to Skip, the rug's coloration is just one of many qualities to note when perusing the antique shops for the perfect piece.

'Turn the rug over and notice how small and tight the knots are. The smaller the knots, normally the better wearing of the rug. Look at the whole rug for sun fading and for stains,' he says. 'Be aware that many rugs used vegetable dyes, so these often fade as time goes on. Look at the color of the back of the rug and compare it to the face of the rug to see how much fading has occurred.'

To ensure you're getting the full picture of the product before purchase, many designers suggest viewing the rug you're considering in person as opposed to online: 'Shopping in person is crucial, as online appearances can be deceiving, and there's beauty in the imperfections of antique rugs, such as over-dyeing or handmade flaws,' says Eugenia Triandos, principal designer of Montreal-based Hibou Design & Co.

yellow sofa with gallery wall and vintage rug with modern lamp

(Image credit: Julie Soefer / Emily June Designs)

Eugenia says she often turns to Persian rugs in her projects – though they can be more difficult to find and more expensive, 'their quality and unique character make them worth the investment,' she says. If you plan to buy vintage and antique furniture online, Allison says there are still precautions you can take to ensure you're getting the best deal possible.

'When you are looking at rug dealers online, you want to know if the rugs have been cleaned. If not, they can be quite dusty and you will have an extra undertaking once they arrive to you. Make sure to read the seller reviews so you get a good understanding of the condition of their products,' she says.

Regardless of whether you're shopping in person or online, Donna says tracking down a reputable seller is paramount: 'If the seller can provide authentication and provenance for the rug, you’ll ensure the validity of your purchase. Examine the rug carefully for signs of wear, damage or possible repairs. While some wear and tear is expected, make sure it isn’t anything more significant than you’re willing to live with,' she says.

How to style a vintage rug in any home

A living room with vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, blue and white seating and a vintage rug

(Image credit: Skip Sroka for Sroka Design)

Styling antique furniture for a timeless, transitional space looks a bit different in each and every home, but there are a few rules of thumb that designers swear by. When it comes to vintage rugs, Skip says the design possibilities are 'as wide as your imagination.' To start styling, he suggests looking at the color palette already present in the rest of the space.

'Look at some of the background colors and use that as a starting point for your neutrals. Be aware that if you repeat the dominant colors in the rug, the room may become heavy-looking. You can get a more contemporary effect by using textured neutrals for the upholstery and repeating the colors of the rug in pillows and artwork,' he says. 'Putting a texture on the walls to soften the effect of the rug also works beautifully. You may want to create a cocoon by repeating a color in the rug and even doing the major upholstery in the room in that color.'

Vintage rugs present the perfect opportunity to create a transitional design within your home, and Donna says she loves the chance to mix the old with the new. She adds that these pieces 'are the perfect way to layer in more character and depth to a space that's full of more modern furnishings.'

'Rugs provide a visual anchor to a space so arrange your furniture accordingly to create a cohesive and comfortable layout. Add accessories throughout the space that tie in the colors from the rug. You can do this through a pop of color in an accent pillow, antique accessories on a cocktail table, or artwork that complements the color scheme and style of the rug. We treat rugs like a piece of artwork so make sure to show off the rug’s beauty in whichever space you style it in!' says Donna.

If you're working with a vintage rug that's not exactly the right size for your space, you're not alone – but designers who work with antiques often have discovered a clever workaround: 'If you have fallen in love with a rug that is not quite big enough, an old designer trick is to have a fairly flat weave Berber rug of the background color of the rug made to the right size and then place the rug under your major conversation area,' says Skip.

'I love antique rugs in almost any space, but since you can't specify an exact size, sometimes it helps to add in a natural fiber rug underneath to get the desired coverage for your space. A runner for a kitchen is classic and so easy to style,' adds Allison.

Shop with caution and style with care, and a vintage rug will add the perfect dose of personality to any space. And, as Alice adds, 'by purchasing an antique rug, you're participating in sustainable decor by giving new life to a piece that already exists' – even more reason to go the vintage route next time you're shopping rugs.

Abby Wilson
News Writer

I am a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, with a focus on interior design. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.