Wading through the tidal seas of online oriental rug dealers can, at times, be an exhausting affair. New retailers come and go, ebbing and flowing around older, more established dealers.
Some faceless bargain sites feature hundreds upon hundreds of individual carpets, without much hint as to the identity of the dealers themselves. Others center upon the unique personality and experience of their founders while only selling a much smaller, hand-selected group of extraordinary pieces.
In an industry long shrouded by mystery and steeped in foreign cultural traditions, it is easy to find oneself awash in a tumult of vocabulary describing various styles, patterns, regions, and methods of production. Those online oriental rug dealers who take the time to offer up their knowledge to prospective customers do themselves and the industry at large a true favor.
The following list is a short and admittedly incomplete lineup of some of the best websites for researching and buying fine oriental rugs. Ranging from tiny, selective galleries to larger well-renowned dealers, these sites not only offer beautiful rugs for sale, but also provide visitors with a plethora of educational materials to introduce them to the multifaceted world of oriental rugs.
When I first came across Christopher Wahlgren’s site, Nomad Rugs, I was immediately enamored with the low-key, minimalist web design and beautifully composed photographs. It quickly became apparent that lying just behind the aesthetic pleasure of navigating around Wahlgren’s site was a deep trove of information and stories illuminating his experience in the world of oriental rugs.
One of the site’s primary pages is simply titled, “Learn.” Travel photos from rug producing countries mingle with experiential anecdotes, advice on finding rugs you love, and links to a host of other outstanding oriental carpet websites.
Perhaps the most impressive feature is Wahlgren’s glossary of nearly 100 terms describing the people, methods, and materials of oriental rug lore.
Not to mention the rugs themselves! Nomad Rugs stocks an impressive inventory of beautiful oriental pieces, from tribal kilims to large Persian carpets and vintage relics. Wahlgren has certainly come a long way from his modest beginnings selling rugs out of his garage, yet he retains an admirable enthusiasm and curiosity that must have sparked his interest in the art form in the first place.
Emmett Eiland’s Oriental Rug Company
Another Bay Area treasure (Nomad Rugs is based in San Francisco), Emmett Eiland’s Oriental Rug Company was founded in Berkeley in 1969--certainly a fertile time and place for the transmission of oriental philosophy and, as it turns out, textile art.
Eiland has a reputation as one of the most straightforward and knowledgeable authorities on oriental rugs, and in 2003 published Oriental Rugs Today, a 216-page exploration of modern carpet weaving.
The site seems a tad outdated--the latest blog post was published in 2010--and its web design falls short of Nomad Rugs’ breezy navigation, but amongst Emmett Eiland’s pages can be found vast stores of knowledge about the oriental rug industry. Browsing through the blog archive reveals dozens of lengthy, informative, and well-written articles, including a few chapters from Eiland’s book.
The Oriental Rug Company has an online inventory of over 1,000 pieces hailing from a wide variety of rug-producing countries. A powerful advanced search feature allows visitors to easily hone in on relevant pieces by size, price, age, color, region, etc.
Peter Pap Oriental Rugs
Rounding out the trifecta of Bay Area rug dealers thriving online is San Francisco’s Peter Pap Oriental Rugs. With over 35 years of industry experience, Pap exudes a true fascination with and respect for the art of the oriental rug and the craftsmen (often women) who create them.
Fusing the best elements of Nomad Rugs and Eiland’s site, Peter Pap pairs a deep and broad inventory with a series of educational articles walking his visitors through the history and aesthetics of oriental rug making.
Pap’s inventory tends towards antique--and therefore, quite expensive--oriental rugs, many of which push well beyond the $10,000 mark. Each and every piece, regardless of price, demonstrates Pap’s finely cultivated taste and appreciation for the art form.
Founded by Ruth Lockwood, a native New Zealander who relocated to Turkey in pursuit of her passion for oriental textiles, Tribal Collections is a small jewel glittering amongst the sands of oriental rug websites.
The website itself features basic, bare-bones design; a few pages harken back to late 90’s GeoCities aesthetics. Web design aside, Lockwood’s selection of oriental rugs belies a keen eye for uniquely captivating pieces of textile art. Every single rug I saw on Tribal Collections had me reaching for my wallet.
Lockwood’s detailed descriptions of her inventory reveals a wealth of knowledge concerning oriental rug history and design. As an expat living in a rug-producing country, she has clearly immersed herself fully in the culture of oriental rugs.
Scattered throughout the site are gorgeous photos of the Tribal Collections gallery in Goreme, Turkey, which is apparently located in a “traditionally-restored cave house” whose stone arches and hardwood floors beckon irresistibly.
It’s truly inspiring to see a generation of oriental rug connoisseurs that have managed to bring decades of industry experience to the online format. All of the aforementioned sites come highly recommended; even just a quick browse through their inventories is a true visual (and educational) delight.
If you’re looking for some more rug websites to explore, feel free to contact us here at RugKnots. We’re constantly poking around the oriental rug cyberspace, and would be happy to help you find the online resources to further your own understanding and curiosity.