Vintage Rug 101 with District Loom

We don’t often play favorites, but when it comes to rugs, nothing compares to vintage. Last month we put together our official guide to rug selection, but now we’re taking that one step further. Today, we’re sitting down with the incredible duo behind District Loom to talk about all things vintage rugs and what makes them entirely special.

District Loom is led by a husband-wife team who passionately curate vintage rugs for the modern home. Their online shop features an incredible collection of heirloom-worthy rugs, each with a completely unique look and feel. When it comes to shopping vintage, Heather and Brett really know their stuff, and they’ve got no shortage of insights to share.

Without further ado, here’s our conversation with District Loom!

photo by District Loom What drew you to the world of vintage rugs? 

Since a very young age, I’ve had an obsessive eye for detail—specifically in home interiors. I noticed that well-designed spaces transformed my mood and experience within a room. Attending interior design school was my plan, but my loving parents encouraged me to pursue my other strength, science, for what seemed to be a more practical career choice. I now work full time as an otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat) nurse practitioner. My interest in design never left me, and my passion was re-surfaced years later when Brett and I were decorating our first home. We found ourselves with two new puppies to house-train, and we quickly realized we were unable to effectively clean any of the machine-made rugs in our home. (Resulting in us throwing out four rugs in just two years!) We were so disappointed in the lack of durability and poor quality of the vintage replicas that are widely available to the U.S. consumer. We were also saddened to know the plastic backing and fibers in these rugs ended up in a landfill, contributing to the global waste crisis our world is facing. Our disappointment in the quality of machine-made rugs and our new-found awareness of the amount of waste in the industry was the catalyst to apply our research skills (honed through years of nursing and grad school!) and to dive down the rabbit hole of vintage rug hunting. Once we started searching for vintage rugs for our home, we found out the rug shopping experience was antiquated, scarce, and expensive. After a few not-so-pleasant trips to local rug shops with high-pressure sales and cost-prohibitive pricing, we realized the in-store consumer experience and inventory were sub-par, to say the least. This motivated us to provide a more approachable, affordable, and edited inventory of on-trend pieces to design-minded homeowners and interior designers!

talk to us about what makes a rug "vintage" versus "antique.”

Vintage rug = anything over 30 years old. Antique rug = anything over 100 years old. what's your favorite part of curating the district loom rug selection? Vintage rugs’ quality and craftsmanship allow them to add texture and character that their machine-made replica counterparts are unable to deliver! The fact that each piece is one-of-a-kind also allows each owner to make their home uniquely their own! Lastly, I love the sustainability vintage rugs offer as each piece will last a lifetime, thereby limiting waste. When you see THE ONE that makes your heart skip a beat after a long scroll of sourcing, it’s like the feeling you can imagine one would get when winning the lottery!

photography by ohcarlene / styling by wld_wst what are some common misconceptions you find among those shopping for a vintage rug? That all vintage rugs are the same. The term vintage is NOT equivalent to quality. There are many different levels of quality within the vintage rug market.  can you share five steps to properly care for a vintage rug?

  1. 1. Always use a rug pad – we suggest a natural felt non-slip custom sized pad from RugpadUSA (not an ad). 2. Rotate the rug every few months to prevent uneven wear and sun exposure. 3. We recommend sweeping your rug with a broom to loosen debris and bring them to the surface, then vacuum with the rotating brush turned OFF. 4. To clean up a spill at home, we recommend blotting first with a clean cotton towel. Then, use mild clear dish soap or organic baby shampoo with room temperature water and dab away. We have found that due to the high-quality weave and aging process, stains hide very well. 5. If you have a major stain that does not respond to this method, we recommend you search your area for a local oriental carpet cleaner or repair shop.

photography by ohcarlene / styling by wld_wst how can a buyer identify the quality and authenticity of the rug they're purchasing?

  1. Identify the origin, which will reveal the authentic age of the rug. Keep in mind that certain origins were only manufactured during specific time periods, so look at the motif or pattern of the rug to help identify its origin. 2. Pay attention to color distribution. True antique rugs were only made out of natural vegetable dyes, and the color should be distributed evenly from the base of the till to the top of the tuft. 3. Look closely at the knot count. The tighter the weave, the more expensive it will be, as it would take longer to make. 4. Flip over the back of the rug and it should reveal the backside of the knots without any plastic backing. 5. Consider the rug’s materials. 100% wool or wool on a cotton foundation are both all-natural and very resilient.  what are your favorite ways to style a vintage rug? any trends you're loving right now? I love a vintage runner in the kitchen! Another trend I love is layering a medium-size vintage rug on top of a larger jute or seagrass rug to add texture and history!

photography by  @rebekahjmurray


A special thanks to Heather and Brett for sharing all of their vintage rug wisdom with us! You can shop District Loom’s collection online and follow some of their latest finds on Instagram.