A few months ago Lauren (Levy, senior writer at the Strategist, of course), forwarded an email to me. Subject line: “The First Direct to Consumer Vintage Rug Brand.” She knew I was in the market for a rug and not willing to pay much more than $500. I also didn’t want to buy a mass-manufactured rug made to mimic a traditionally handmade gabbeh rug or a prayer kilim. I wanted the real thing, and in one press release Revival promised me everything I had been looking for: a one-of-a-kind and vintage rug, for a third of the price I’d pay at a brick-and-mortar shop in New York.
I found Sari immediately. “Saturated and rich blood orange with subtle hints of the original lattice pattern coming through,” Sari measured four feet and nine inches by eight feet and ten inches — just the right size for the naked wood floorboards in my living room. Mouse hovered over the “checkout” button, I texted a friend whose brother used to trade rugs in Istanbul. “Margaret,” he wrote back, “those rugs are a complete sham. But if you want to ask Matt about it, here’s his email.” Dismayed but piqued, I emailed Matt.
Turns out it’s not a sham. It’s more so that in the serious rug world — which can get fanatical and wildly expensive — these simply are not collectible. “If you want to get technical,” Matt wrote, “that kind of rug is made by taking a really old, beat-up rug (which is why the wool pile is so worn away), bleaching it with chemicals, then applying a new wash.” Revival’s founders, one of whom was an early co-founder at Brooklinen, find their rugs basically everywhere in Turkey that’s not Istanbul (which is saturated with buyers and well-trodden territory). A video on the site shows the process: how these hand-knotted rugs get dusted off, sudsed, and sometimes, newly dyed. Because of their age, many of the rugs on Revival’s site have a faded, threadbare look, an effect that’s in fashion and can be attractive. Some others get a new vivid color wash from the dyes.
“The Sari is a decent price for its type and size,” wrote Matt, my new rug guru. “The most important thing to remember in a rug purchase is that 90 percent of it comes down to what your eye is attracted to.” And then, significantly: “You don’t stop listening to Phish because a music critic tells you opera is ‘better.’” I can’t really get into the Phish thing here, so just replace “Phish” with whomever you truly love — Cardi B, Bruce Springsteen, the guy who sang “Mambo No. 5,” it doesn’t matter — and know that for the person who would be sharing the rug with me, these words were magically convincing.
I can’t afford to be a serious rug person, but after talking to Matt and receiving my Revival rug, I also don’t want to be one. Collectible or not, I find the Sari beautiful, especially when the 7 p.m. light floods into my apartment from the west-facing windows and casts a golden-honey sheen onto everything. The quality is obvious, too: The rug has a low pile, but feels so sturdy that a sticky pad to hold it in place wasn’t necessary. I even bought a second rug from Revival, a smaller white-and-brown hemp kilim for the foot of the bed, and it’s excellent. After a year in my apartment, I finally feel like it’s come together. And perhaps most important of all: For $450 and $233, respectively, for rugs that have already lived a long life, I don’t feel bad walking on them with my shoes on. And that’s really what a rug is for, anyway.
And a selection of rugs
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