How do you buy a beautiful oriental carpet for a great price? That’s the question most diplomats have when they’re posted anywhere between Turkey and China. The Caucasus is famous for its hand-woven carpets, and everyone who serves here wants one—or several.
When we moved to Armenia in 2017, we already had three carpets; from Armenia, Iran, and Pakistan.
Our Armenian carpet is from Tufenkian, a famous Armenian carpet producer. Unfortunately, ours tiny and has a dull blue color. I put it in our kid’s play area. Every time I point out why I don’t like it my husband shrugs and says: “that’s just the style.”
Our Iranian carpet, on the other hand, is very nice; it’s mid-size and mostly blue and beige, with a hint of mint-green. The carpet looks different—darker or lighter—depending on the side you approach it from. It has a recognizable style, apparently, because everyone who walks into our house who knows anything about carpets points out it’s Persian.
Our Pakistani carpet is my favorite, even though I suspect they have bleached it a little to make it look old (or it’s been in the sun a lot). It’s big (7 by 11 feet), colorful, detailed, and it has all of my favorite colors: blue, pink, and burnt orange. It was the first carpet I bought and I was so nervous that I picked the first one I liked. It worked out, though; it’s always in our living room and I still love it.
Since we moved to Armenia, we bought two more carpets. I didn’t want to become one of those crazy people with ten expensive carpets in the attic (or in long-term storage), but that didn’t happen; each of our carpets is in a place in our house where it fits perfectly. The white one from Artsach (Nagorno-Karabakh) is now also my favorite. We put it in the hallway and every time I come down the stairs it strikes me how gorgeous it is.
EVERY CARPET IS “SPECIAL”
One thing that always made me skeptical of buying carpets was hearing people tell stories about how incredibly special their carpet was. I thought it was ridiculous that so many people believed they owned carpets that came straight from Afghan palaces; or had been hidden in a cave for eight decades; or had totally unique patters and color combinations. I mean, please.
But I was happily surprised that right after our most recent purchase, a friend of mine brought out a book that had our carpet design in it; I’m still not totally sure what that means, but at least it makes me feel that our carpet is of well-known design and is likely to be worth at least something (besides that it’s pretty).
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE AGE OF A CARPET?
I always figured that the age of a carpet is really important, as in; the older the better. I still think that the older a carpet is the fewer there are of them, and the more exclusive it may be. On the other hand, I realize now that you have to put up with the wear and tear of it then. We own a carpet that is (supposedly) from the late 19th century. It’s clearly been mended on the sides, which is not ugly but I also don’t think it helps.
What my husband likes about old carpets is that it’s almost a guarantee that it was made by someone at home who worked on it for a long time. He thinks it gives it something authentic, and personal. It’s like a piece of history. I don’t disagree. I just think that a brand-new one can be equally attractive, just in a different way.
YOU HAVE TO BARGAIN
Carpet sellers, in my experience, always start with a price that’s significantly higher than what they’re ultimately going to be satisfied with. One of the few times I successfully negotiated the price of a carpet waaayyy down was when my husband wanted to buy one I found ugly. I kept pointing out its flaws and as a result, the salesman dropped the price by half.
I don’t like to negotiate in a negative way, though. Every carpet has its own pros and cons, and I don’t know enough to really say what’s what. Instead, I just take my time, discuss the matter at length with my husband, and stay vague about my intentions. I like to look at other carpets in between and come back to it later. That way I’m sure I like my original pick the best, and that’s how we got our last two carpets for USD 2,000 rather than the 2,700 asking price.
WHAT’S IT WORTH TO YOU?
I don’t buy carpets as an investment, so the market value is of limited importance to me. My guiding principle is what I want to spend. For our Pakistani carpet we overpaid, but only in the sense that it was clear we could have gotten it cheaper because as soon as we agreed on the price—which was pretty much the original asking price of USD 900—the salesman started offering us free poufs and what not.
Looking back at it, though, I’m still happy with what we paid. At the time, we had extra money to spend. And it was well worth it since it’s our centerpiece carpet, and we’re really enjoying those poufs, too!!