Whether they’re adding bohemian allure to a bedroom or a rustic kitchen or tying together the designs of a palatial living room, vintage turkish rugs are a designer go-to. They showcase a wide array of color pairings and are highly durable, making them a designer staple in any home.
Rug production in Turkey has been a flexible and dynamic enterprise over the centuries, producing a broad spectrum of styles that have become iconic. The region’s varied landscape, isolation and a concentration of cultural influence have resulted in distinctly regional rug traditions that differ considerably in construction and color.
Early Turkish rugs often featured geometric motifs that were relatively small in scale. Hexagons, squares and rhomboids arranged in diagonal rows were garnished with stars or leaves and bordered by Kufic-like ornaments (the oldest form of Arabic writing). Their soft pastel palette of blue, red and green was also distinctive. This first group of Turkish rugs was so influential that the patterns were copied by European artists and appeared in paintings throughout the 16th century.
The rise of the Ottomans in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ushered in a second group of rug design. This new group was more elaborate in scale and detail, showcasing elaborate field designs overlain with winding details and other ornaments. The new era also saw the development of a wide array of animal motifs and designs that became wildly popular. The Memling Gul pattern and the so-called Small Pattern Holbein rug are just two examples of this type of carpet that was so prevalent in the art of that period.
The mid-16th century also marked the emergence of niched prayer rug designs and the first appearance of floral elements in Persian rug design. During this time the Safavid rulers in Persia were overseeing important aesthetic changes in their country’s rug production, and the Persian influences filtered into Turkey as well.
With the rise of the Ottomans in the seventeenth century, a more refined and sophisticated style of Turkish rug was produced. The most popular of these were Oushak rugs, which are revered for their finely realized and sophisticated compositions. The town of Hereke, for instance, specialized in the elegant curve-linear patterns that are a hallmark of the genre.
Other towns of the Turkish rug production area produced a variety of unique styles as well. The legendary prayer rugs with their decorative pillars and angular mihrab motifs were a regional icon, while the magnificent medallion rugs and fluid Safavid-style arabesques of Ushak are also recognized for their beauty.
The modern period has seen the continued evolution of the Turkish rug as it has adapted to changing fashion trends and the needs of designers and collectors. While some producers still produce a range of traditional designs, others have developed new and innovative patterns that are highly desirable. For example, the Ushak rug makers created a remarkable series of octagonal and symmetrical medallion rugs known as “Gol.” Their silky luster and clear, crisp design make them a particularly sought-after design.