Persian Parade

, July 7, 2012 - Antiques & Vintage

If you had to name one thing that will never go out of style, what would it be?

Detail of the Pazyryk carpet, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersbug

I would go for Persian carpets. They have been produced since ancient times and were popular all throughout history.

The oldest preserved carpet dates back to the 5th century B.C. This so-called Pazyryk carpet, discovered in a block of ice in Siberia during an excavation in 1949, has an advanced weaving technique that indicates a long history of evolution and experience in this art. It has a red and green colour scheme and two pretty borders, one depicting deer and the other Persian horsemen. 

The craft of carpet-making formed an important part in the history of Persian culture and fortune. In Europe, we can trace this ‘exotic’ product back to the fourteenth century, and it seems to have been in demand here ever since. Persian carpets were praised for their decorative qualities and luxurious appearance, but also played a role in keeping the home warm: covering surfaces with carpets was a good way to insulate. We are now used to laying carpets on the floor, but in earlier times people also used them to cover tables and walls. There are numerous paintings, from the Renaissance to the belle epoque, that show fine examples of Persian carpet designs that were available at the time, and their varying uses. In most Dutch 17th century interior paintings for example, they are depicted on top of tables. These interior scenes are often a joy to look at, but if you like to see ‘the real thing’: in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can spot some amazing antique carpets, amongst which the famous 16th century Ardabil carpet.

Ardabil carpet, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

When looking at antique carpets like the Ardabil, it strikes you that the designs, patterns and colours are still mainly the same as they were hundreds of years ago. Of course, there have always been many different designs and endless pattern variations in Persian carpets, depending on the area where they were produced, or sometimes on specific wishes of a client. I do not mean to discuss types of carpet designs and their origins, I wouldn’t know where to start and frankly I don’t know enough about it. I just want to share my admiration for this product that has been around for such a long time and is still being used in modern-day interior design. I notice sometimes however that among friends, especially those my age, Persian carpets are considered to be old-fashioned. It’s a silly, unjust assumption that needs to be overthrown!

In my opinion, you can create a very stylish, current look by choosing a carpet that appeals to you because of a particular colour combination or pattern and then picking up colours from the design for the other features in the room as a basis for further decoration. With the images below I’ll show you what I mean and you will see how this decorating trick is always successful.

In Museum van Loon in Amsterdam, there’s a room with wonderful panoramic murals from the 18th century. But on my last visit to this historic house, I was enthused more by the newly added pairing of this orange and green carpet – that picks up the colour of the panelling – with the velvet upholstered settee.

In this living room by Thornton Design, the soft furnishings and artworks echo the golden and blue hues in the design of the rug. The different shades of green add extra depth.

This office in the home of interior designer Cortney Bishop (as featured on Design*Sponge) is a pretty mixture of patterns and colours for which the white, orange and blue rug was the starting point. I love the intense blue velvet on the chairs and how it emphasizes the hints of blue in the rug design. The many different patterns are a daring choice but they work so well together because they all relate to the rug.

In the bedroom, a patterned rug adds coziness and can give direction in choosing a colour scheme – which can be difficult for a room that you ideally want to give a tranquil, but not boring look. The unusual combination of green, white and terra might not have come to designer Jean Louis Deniot’s mind if he hadn’t had that awesome rug.

In her bedroom, Naomi Stein of Design Manifest paired what seems to be a pale pink and blue kilim (just visible under the night table) with bedding, flowers and an artwork in matching delicate hues. Note how the grecian key motif in the rug is repeated in the geometric fabric on the cushions – another clever combination (image by Courtney Apple Photography).

I spotted this combo of an orange carpet and mustard yellow couch in the showroom of Soane Britain in Pimlico Road, London. This shows that the trick works equally well with intense colours as it does with subtler hues.

Even in a room where everything else is modern, a Persian carpet can be a great addition. Imagine this room without the carpet – it would lose all its character. The monochrome colours of the rug are repeated in the furniture (images via Design*Sponge).

A very modern looking carpet that (surprisingly) dates from the 19th century serves as a backdrop for the crisp white Tulip table and chairs in this Berlin apartment. Here, the chair cushions pick up the bright orange details in the rug and connect them to the large scale painting (source: AD Espana, april 2009).

Are you convinced yet? Persian rugs are it! And you know what the cool thing is? You can pick ’em up at auctions for a steal these days. I’m going to end this post with showing off some of my own finds – most of them very low priced:

I love this one because of the unusual combination of soft pinks and blues with a strong darker blue. Also, I tend to lean towards really large-scale patterns which in themselves have a more modern look instead of the classic, small scale motifs. The types I usually look for: Shirvan, Kazak, Lorestan, Kurdistan.

This one just has it all: bright colours and fierce patterns. It’s quite a large one, and think of the many possibilities for a lively coloured interior when using this rug as a starting point!

This is a detail of another great auction find – seen from afar the motifs on the carpet seem to be random and abstract, but on closer inspection you will find funny little figures like this one! The deep dark blue with turquoise, pink, red and white is a colour combo that goes right to my heart.



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