NEW YORK — The stunned crowd at Sotheby’s burst into a rare round of applause when a museum-quality Persian carpet sold for a record-setting $33.76 million this summer.
“It was extraordinary and wonderful and the carpet deserved it,” said the auctioneer, Mary Jo Otsea, Sotheby’s senior consultant for rugs and carpets. The hand-knotted, 17th century Clark Sickle-Leaf carpet, with a red ground and dark blue border, is “still dazzling to the eye,” she said.
While few of us can fathom spending so much money on a showpiece, Oriental carpets, made in countries from Turkey to China, are available at various prices and have long been a popular part of home decor.
“Older carpets look great with everything,” Otsea says. “They add great warmth by their color and design. Older carpets have a wonderful patina and character that you can’t capture in a new piece.”
Doris Athineos, the arts and antiques editor for Traditional Home magazine, says the sale of the Clark Sickle-Leaf carpet may inspire people to look at the carpets with a new eye, mindful that an eight-figure sum was just shelled out for one of the finest examples.
“It gives them confidence to pull the trigger on something they may be eying, and confidence if they’ve inherited them from a great aunt or have them rolled up and stored. They might think, ‘Hey maybe I should put that out,’” Athineos says.
Whether antiques or reproductions, the carpets work well with any kind of decor, she says.
“I can’t imagine where a beautiful antique carpet wouldn’t work,” Athineos says. “I have seen them in every kind of home from minimalist to maximalist, where there’s lot of decoration in the house. They add warmth to very pristine, minimalist spaces.”
Try one in any room except the kitchen, Athineos recommends, especially the space where people spend the most time.
“That’s the kind of wear those carpets can take,” she says. “They’re meant to be walked on.”
With so many styles of design — florals, geometrics, abstracts — Otsea recommends browsing through as many carpets as possible to find out what you like. A great carpet, she said, is the right combination of color, design, technique and tradition.
Athineos advises going to a reputable store, ask about the return policy — some stores allow you to buy and try, and return it if it doesn’t work.
If you are shopping for a machine-made reproduction carpet, Athineos suggests bringing a damp, white cloth. Part the pile and rub the cloth against the carpet to make sure no color comes off.
Don’t get too hung up on a carpet’s size, Athineos says. Buy what you love and find a way to work it into your home. Try the layered look, she says, with one carpet overlapping another.
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