Tuesday 24 November 2020

How to buy an antique rug

 Buy and antique rug to give interiors some character

How to buy an antique rug

When you buy an antique rug it instantly becomes an instant and luxurious focal point in any room setting – at home everywhere from modern urban pads to rambling country piles. Rich in colour and character, on the eve of the sixth London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair (LARTA) organiser Aaron Nejad reveals what to look for in the perfect antique rug or textile.

Is the age of an antique rug important?

Flemish tapestry c1600
Flemish tapestry c1600

Buy an antique rug or carpet and you’ll discover they are ideal for period settings, but can also look spectacular in modern environments. Up to around 1850, all rugs and textiles were produced using natural dyes. These dyes survive the generations well and often result in rich and harmonious colour ranges. After 1850 chemical dyes began to be employed gradually and by 1900 many rugs were woven with inferior chemical dyes which can either look harsh or insipid. Look for antique rugs with natural dyes.

Does the quality of the weave matter?

It depends on the item. The first point to consider when buying an antique rug or textile is whether it is beautiful. Is the design well drawn, does it have balance? Are the colours beautiful? Then one can consider the quality of the weaving.

Is condition important?

An early C19th Uzbekistan suzani (dowry embroidery)
An early C19th Uzbekistan suzani (dowry embroidery)

Some wear and restoration is acceptable on antique rugs, especially those which have survived from the classical period pre-1800. However, the condition of an antique rug is extremely important in determining its value. Ask the dealer or retailer what restoration has been undertaken, in particular whether the ends have been restored, and how much re-weaving has taken place.

What is abrash?

In antique rugs one often finds variation in colour known as ‘abrash’. This is a result of same-colour wools used in a rug that were dyed in different batches. If the contrast is not too strong, abrash creates an attractive subtlety of colour variation and is highly prized by collectors and decorators.

Where should I buy an antique rug?

Major auction houses have occasional specialist sales. However, buying from a good and reputable dealer has advantages. Experience and knowledge is available, and most dealers allow clients to view items in situ at home – a huge benefit. Specialist dealers’ fairs are also an excellent way to compare and contrast a wide choice of similar items.

Should I buy an antique rug as a good, long-term investment?

Ninghsia rug, Western China, c1800
Ninghsia rug, Western China, c1800

First and foremost, buy pieces for their beauty and decorative appeal, and then consider the investment potential. Some groups of carpets, such as those made before 1800; certain tribal weavings such as Turkoman rugs, and some suzanis have proved to be very good investments in recent years. Fine Persian silk rugs have also risen sharply in value in recently. Discuss the investment potential of any item you are considering with a specialist dealer.

How do I choose the right carpet?

It is important to remember that there is a carpet for every setting and every budget. A useful first step is to decide whether you want your choice to be a statement, or to be discreet and understated. That will immediately dictate certain colours and styles and even the size. It is generally easier to furnish with repeat designs than with a carpet that has a central medallion design. Pale carpets are generally more understated. A dealer will be able to advise you on all these matters. When actively looking for a rug for decoration, be sure to have your room dimensions with you!

Rug Terminology

What is a kilim? (The spelling varies in different parts of Asia)

Yomut (Turkoman) tribal rug, early C19th, Turkmenistan
Yomut (Turkoman) tribal rug, early C19th, Turkmenistan

This is a generic term for a flat-woven rug or carpet, i.e. it has no pile or nap. Kelims are made across all carpet-weaving countries. In India they are known as dhurries. In Iran: ghelim, in Turkey: kelim. There are subtle variations in style and complexity technique, but essentially a kilim describes the product of weaving a weft over a warp for a flat finish.

There are other flat-weaves: a verneh features embroidery applied on top of the kelim, generally made in the Caucasus region; a soumak, made in the Caucasus and Iran, has a more complex technique of weaving than a kelim that enables the weaver to make intricate and refined designs.

What is the difference between a rug and a carpet? This depends on size: up to 2.4 x 1.5m (8ft x 5ft) is generally described as a rug, above that it is a carpet. (In America all hand-made rugs and carpets are called rugs, whereas a carpet is a machine-made wall-to-wall fitted carpet.)

The four main categories of rug

Court weaving

Ever since the Seljuks conquered Anatolia in the 11th century, courts have set up craft workshops within their environment to make textiles purely for use in court circles. Most early examples are in Turkish museums. The Safavid courts in Persia (Iran) also made carpets, as did the Ottomans, as well as the Moghuls in India. There were the famous Imperial workshops in China. Court weaving is not limited to eastern cultures. In France, Louis XIV had the Gobelins workshops weaving rugs and tapestries. In Russia there were royal workshops in St Petersberg making for the tsars – indeed many Russian aristocrats and monasteries had workshops on their own estates.

City rugs and carpets

These are woven in organised urban workshops under controlled conditions; weavers follow patterns, while supervisors ensure a high quality control. Generally, these are more uniform quality and better produced rugs.

Village rugs

Woven by individuals and their families in rural settings, with or without finance from an entrepreneur; they are made for commercial purposes. The weaver follows their own pattern traditions which may have been passed down through generations. The finish is generally more rustic.

Tribal or nomadic

These are woven in tents, in temporary camps, during migration. Pieces are made for domestic use (the nomads need covers, saddle bags, rugs for the floor and walls of their tents), and in addition also to sell for subsistence.


Late C19th Caucasian Karachop rug
Late C19th Caucasian Karachop rug

The sixth annual LARTA event, from April 14-17, is the UK’s only specialist event for period rugs, carpets, tapestries and textiles.

Aaron Nejad, who has dealt in fine textiles and rugs for the last 20 years, launched the event in 2011 to create a focal point for collectors and international buyers at a time when many auction houses were closing their rug departments.

The trend for using vintage rugs is on the up. Aaron said: “We’ve seen a steady growth in sales over the past year or two. Decorators and private buyers are definitely looking to introduce soft floorcoverings.

“Prices for decorative antique rugs are great for non-specialist buyers at the moment. You can find a beautifully-hand loomed, vintage piece, carefully crafted using time- honoured traditions for the same price as a mass-produced new one at a department store. Why spend thousands on a brand-new rug which will lose most of its value the minute you get it home?”

LARTA, which takes place at Church Street, Marylebone, sees 12 exhibitors in a souk-like back-drop, with rugs, runners, embroideries, tapestries, kilims, decorative textiles and a selection of tribal artefacts on show. For more details visit www.larta.net.

Monday 16 November 2020

The Basics of Collecting Tribal Art


The Basics of Collecting Tribal Art

Tribal art appeals to many people, often for different reasons. Perhaps it is a historic or ancestral interest that fuels one’s fascination. Or perhaps it’s just the aesthetic appeal of tribal artworks that inspires a new collector to enter the field.

With interest in tribal art continuing to grow, and interesting pieces coming to auction regularly, opportunities to discover and acquire meaningful objects are definitely available. To help lay the framework for this fascinating subject, we turn to one of the foremost auction houses specializing in tribal art – Artemis Gallery in Boulder County, Colorado.

Bob Dodge and his wife, Teresa, co-founded and serve as joint executive directors of Artemis Gallery, one of the world’s most respected names in tribal and ethnographic art and antiquities. Bob graciously shared information about what constitutes tribal art and offered authoritative advice on how to start or expand on a collection.

Native American bird effigy bowl carved by the Mound Builder culture of North America from a single piece of stone, circa 500 to 1200 CE. Artemis Gallery image

What is your definition of tribal art?

To us, tribal art is the sum total of the visual arts of indigenous (sometimes referred to as ethnographic) peoples from around the globe.

How are tribal art and antiquities most often categorized? Is it by region or type of item? How can this knowledge aid potential collectors?

Tribal arts, like antiquities, are most commonly categorized according to region, however there are many other ways of categorizing them. Some more common ones can be material, purpose (mask, fetish, votive, offering, ceremonial, etc.), time period, or others. This can certainly aid a potential collector by putting items into meaningful and searchable groups.

Information is perhaps the single most important element of any collecting passion. So, having the ability to find information about legality, availability, value and authenticity can be critical.

What are some of the more common types of tribal art coming to auction, and what are  some of the rarest pieces you’ve handled?

By far the most common form of tribal art on the market would be African wooden masks and figures. By most estimates, I think you could find well over a million examples, with most of them having been created for the tourist trade. Some of the rarest – and at times the most macabre – items we have seen and handled include decorated human skulls created by tribal groups in the South Pacific, Maori jade Tiki figures, and early Australian aboriginal art and artifacts such as throwing sticks and boomerangs.

Circa mid-20th century carved wood figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kuba peoples. Artemis Gallery image

Are certain types of tribal art (bowls, figures, masks, etc.) more specific to a region of the world?

Yes, art by region can be pretty specific and pretty common. Masks from Africa, ancestor figures from Papua New Guinea, large bowls and vessels from the Amazonian tribes, decorated bowls from the American Southwest – all would be examples of regional art.

How has the tribal art market changed during recent years?

The Internet has been a major game-changer for the tribal art market, including the antiquities trade. Dealers in the past were pretty much able to set their own prices depending upon the wealth of their client base. The law of supply and demand was almost irrelevant, because nobody could track either side of the equation.

The Internet has allowed collectors to shop virtually worldwide and see what prices other dealers are asking, as well as easily look at prices realized by major and minor auction houses. The Internet has opened literally hundreds, if not thousands of sources for good material.

Face maskette made of dark greenstone with light green and russet striated inclusions, Pre-Columbian, Mexico, Guerro, Mezcala, circa 500 to 200 BCE. Artemis Gallery image

What would you say to a collector who is interested in acquiring tribal art but wonders about affordability?

A new collector of tribal art has so many options available to them that price should not be a deterrent. I am a collector of ancient art, first and foremost, and a dealer secondarily. I have been able to find wonderful buys at prices even below $100. If someone has a passion for the arts, money should not slow them down in the slightest.

How about potential collectors who may be concerned about legal disputes over rightful ownership of tribal items – what advice might you be able to share?

The laws of cultural patrimony are complicated and confusing. The basics are that if a cultural item has been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, the buyer and seller are safe. Any collector, new or old, should ask for specific information about when an item was acquired, and when it left its country of origin. Then, make sure that information is conveyed in writing on any sales transaction.

Pre-Columbian gilded gold mask, Sican-Chimu culture of North Coast Peru, circa 800-1000 CE. Artemis Gallery image

Can you please describe the TL testing process, and the important role the Artemis testing lab serves?

TL testing (thermoluminescence) is one of many tools available to determine the authenticity of an item that is ceramic or made of terracotta pottery. It takes tiny bits of the pottery, done by drilling very small holes into unobtrusive areas, and subjects the samples to an analysis that ascertains how much stored light radiation is in that object. We can then graph the amount of this stored energy to determine when the pottery item was last subjected to high heat, and therefore created. By developing a commercial lab here in the United States, we are able to help collectors and dealers alike in selling authentic objects with scientific analysis as the proof.

What are three items of advice you have for anyone who wishes to start a collection of tribal art?

  1. Be passionate about your collection. Buy what you love, not what you think makes a good investment.
  2. Be skeptical. Go into every transaction assuming the pieces may not be authentic and requires proof to the contrary. Believe the piece, not the story behind it. Stories can be faked, and often are, but the piece itself will usually lead you to the truth.
  3. Be diligent when amassing your collection. Record every aspect about each piece – especially its history, provenance and details of your purchase. That way you will have a solid record should you ever wish to sell, or should your family pick up the collecting bug.

How would you complete this sentence: Tribal art represents…

A way of connecting to peoples who are or were in many respects just like us, and yet, are or were simultaneously so very different. Tribal art expands our ability to appreciate others as well as ourselves.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Louis XVI Furniture Styles: Stylish Spotlight


Louis XVI Furniture Styles: Stylish Spotlight

European Antique Furniture- styylish

Louis XVI furniture styles are some of our favorite pieces here at Styylish. In this guide, you’ll find everything from history to design tips, along with a buying guide of selected pieces.

The History of Louis XVI Furniture

The Louis XVI period began circa 1750, slightly prior to the reign of King Louis XVI (“Louis The Last” 1774–1793), and continued until the French Revolution and turn of the 19th century. Here we find the final manifestation of the Baroque style, in addition to the genesis of French Neoclassicism.

Also known as the “goût grec,” the Louis XVI style sees pieces characterized by elegance, along with a harkening back to stylized designs and motifs from the Hellenic period, due to the plethora of ancient Greco-Roman works discovered via archaeological digs at the time. Discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii were particularly influential. The Louis XVI period also featured a reaction against the florid stylings found in the previous era. Restrained, geometrical forms made a resurgence, as opposed to the twirling, freehand designs of the Rococo period.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette’s Cabinet Dore in Versailles
The Cabinet Dore of Marie Antoinette

Much of the Louis XVI French furniture was designed and crafted specifically for Queen Marie Antoinette. Its purpose was to furnish many of the apartments she created in the palaces at Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Tuileries, among numerous other royal halls and residences.

Although Louis XVI himself had scant interest in the arts, his wife, Marie-Antoinette, along with her family, were major patrons of the arts. They commissioned large quantities of neoclassical furniture. gave their protection to artists, and ordered large amounts of furniture in the neoclassical style, inspired by Greco-Roman art. This led to numerous wealthy nobles copying their taste, subsequently furnishing their chateaux and townhomes in the novel style as well.

The transition from the Baroque and the Rocaille style to the Neoclassical in France began close to 1760, at the end of Louis XV’s reign (and the Louis XV style).

Unearthing the Neoclassical

After the aforementioned digs at Herculaneum and Pompeii, Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s chief mistress, sent a number of scholars to Italy to report back on the findings.

Their number included famed designer Jean-Charles Delafosse and Flemish architect, sculptor, and engraver Jean-François de Nefforge. The Greek and Roman art they saw inspired many of their subsequent engravings, along with countless other furniture designers.

The Louis XVI Furniture Styles

In this period we find wood panels finely sculpted and gilding with neoclassical frames. Motifs included sphinxes and tripods, lightened via bouquets of flowers. Furniture such as commodes, corner tables, secretaires feature inlays with cedarwood, Amarante, and gilded bronze medallions. Meanwhile, sofas frequently featured gilded frames. 

We can find Louis XVI furniture styles in the trifecta of comfortintimacy, and luxury. An easy way to spot Louis XVI chairs is through the seatbacks, which are typically oval or shield-shaped. We find the frames geometric, neat, and angular.

Carvings from this period are generally more restrained. They often reflect regularized, classical motifs, such as the Vitruvian scroll.

Meanwhile, armrests meet the front of the seat, often in scroll arm terminals. Louis XVI furniture styles usually use straight chair legs. Reflecting the design of Greco-Roman columns, fluted legs or ones with ribbon-twist carvings abound.


Buying Guide: Our Selected Louis XVI Furniture


Antique Cylinder Desk, Louis XVI Germany 1780 – $6,500


Antique Cylinder Desk- 18th century- styylish

This elegant cylinder desk, dating circa 1780 and designed in Germany, features a stunning walnut veneer. Exquisite rosewood and maple intarsia run throughout the desk’s surface, and behind the cylinder top are five small drawers along with a larger open compartment. The writing top also features a walnut veneer.

This cylinder desk is in extremely good condition and has been French polished. It measures 36.62” H x 47.25” W x 22.84” D. The desk ships from Germany and its list price includes shipping to Boston.


Working Table, Louis XVI France 1780 – $4,900

Louis XVI working table- 18th century- styylish

One of the most unique and alluring characteristics of this Louis XVI working table is the three-dimensional layered cube design on the surface. Walnut, maple, plum wood veneer, and marquetry decorate this kidney-shaped table. It features a leather top (replaced) along with a flap on either side. Finally, the compartments underneath the flaps work well as a space to store letters, pencils, other writing utensils, while a central drawer offers additional storage space.

This elegant working table is in great, original condition. It measures 26.97” H x 43.31” W x 15.75” D.


Kingwood Dresser, Louis XVI France 1780 – $6,900

Antique Louis XVI Dresser- styylish

This beautiful antique Louis XVI dresser stands out for its elegant veneer, which is coupled with a geometric kingwood and tulipwood marquetry for an exquisite, distinguished appearance. The three-drawer commode is decorated with brass fittings and escutcheons, while brass fillets separate each drawer. The dresser’s canned round legs are sturdy walnut, while the original marble top tastefully accents the dresser’s outline.

This dresser is in very good condition and comes refinished. It measures 34.26” H x 39.38” W x 19.3” D. It ships from Germany and the list price includes shipping to Boston.


Antique Desk, Louis XVI France 1780 – $7,900


Antique French Desk- Styylish

Dating back to 1780, this unique drop front desk originates in France. Here we have a standard example of Louis XVI furniture styles, with an elegant walnut root veneer on the exterior of the writing top, and walnut root veneer fields on each of the three drawers (one upper, two lower).

A beautiful cherry veneer frames walnut wood grain, while Louis XVI trademark geometric marquetry bands decorate the exquisite exterior. The inside of the writing top features six small drawers and four open compartments. Meanwhile, green leather covers the writing surface.

This drop front desk is in very good refinished and French polished condition. It measures 56.7” H x  36.23” W x 15.75” D. The desk ships from Germany and includes shipping costs to Boston. 


Walnut Commode, Louis XVI Southern Germany 1780 – $6,500

Louis XVI Commode walnut- 18th century- styylish

This Louis XVI commode, hailing from Southern Germany in the 1780s, stands out for its different walnut veneer grains, separated by cherry marquetry flower decorations and pristine geometric bands. One of the focal points of this piece is beautiful marquetry depecting of two baskets hanging down from a robe, which decorates the sloped corners the commode.

This commode is in very good condition and still has its original vintage finish. It measures 33.47” H x 51.19” W x 23.63” D. 


Armchairs, Louis XVI France 1800s – $3,000

Louis XVI Style Armchairs- 19th century- styylish

The pair of Louis XVI style armchairs are made of pear wood, with straight backs crowned with finely carved wreath decorations. The frame of the upholstered seat and back also features carved details, while the seat ends on round tapered baluster legs.

These elegant armchairs originally belonged to a salon suite composed of one settee and two chairs. The settee and the chairs are sold separately. Price for the set is $5,000 including the settee.

The chairs measure 39” H x 26” W x 22.83” D with a seat height of 17”. They ship from Germany and the list price includes shipping costs to Boston.


French Card Table, Louis XVI Strassburg 1780 – $4,000 

French Antique Card Table- 18th century- styylish

This unique French antique card table is decorated with a stunning wood block (also known as cube) marquetry on both the inside and outside of the top. The cabinetmaker used kingwood, satinwood and plum to create a trompe l’oeil effect here. To open the top, simply turn it and let it rest on the base of the table. All told, this is an extremely sturdy antique table. 

The table is in very good condition with a nice original patina and the expected wear and tear of an 18th-century piece. It measures 29.14” H x 34.26” W x 17.13” D.


Vanity, Louis XVI Wuerzberg 1780 – $6,200

Antique Vanity- 18th century- styylish

This exquisite original vanity (dressing table) was made in Southeast Germany, likely near the city of Wuerzburg around the year 1780. It features beautiful cherry veneer with marquetry details in elm. There are also flower-like inlays on the top and sides.

The middle opens with a flip-up mirror, while on each side there are two large compartments. Meanwhile, the original vintage paste paper decorates the interior.

This elegant vanity is in very good condition. The outside was carefully refinished and the inside is in its original vintage condition with the original paste paper.

It measures 30.52” H x 36.62” W x 20.67” D. It ships from Germany and the list prices includes shipping to Boston.


Decorating Tips

Mixing Antique and Modern- styylish

Due to the style’s geometric lines, you’ll find Louis XVI furniture styles are easy to combine with almost all contemporary interiors. That said, like any antique furniture style, you waste Louis XVI style pieces when you simply throw them into a room. Incorporating pieces from different periods and styles is critical if you want to add character, energy, and liveliness to any room.

Like we say with all our antiques, one thing to keep in mind is this: don’t use antiques to create rooms from the past. Create spaces that speak to modernity. Use the beauty of the antique to accent a space with a taste of the classic, Old World period. Mix it up, incorporating modern and vintage pieces together. This gives your antiques new life and allows you to present spaces envisioned in an organic and interesting way.


Opulence with Restraint

The Louis XVI period revels in opulence with restraint. Because we see a certain level of forbearance in the design of pieces from this style, such as fewer floral inlays and instead more solid wood veneers framed by gilded pieces… replicate that restraint in your interior design! Don’t overcrowd. Less is more.

Use gallery sofas, sometimes referred to as boudeuse (French for ‘sullen’), to allow visitors to appreciate your space from any angle without jamming with accessories. Incorporate greenery, gilt, and heavy fabrics to craft a warm, flowing ambiance. This plays off the geometric lines of the Louis XVI pieces.

Louis XVI championed neoclassical design as a less-extravagant alternative to the excesses of the rococo. When decorating with Louis XVI furniture styles in the 21st century, however, using a counterbalance to the straight lines that define the style is well-advised. Allow more exotic and fluid pieces to play off the geometric marquetry and linearity of the Louis XVI pieces in your space. This catalyzes a wholly organic ambiance. 

More Alchemy Than Science

Louis XVI dresserWhere antique design is concerned, we like this quote from designer Maria Hademus: “I find that choosing the right antique is more alchemy than science.” What we mean by that is that it’s an art of intuition, understanding the aura of a space and finding the correct way to accentuate its positive qualities. It’s also important to remain targeted in your placement.

Antiques add an extra layer of personality and character to a room if placed properly. That said, be careful not to use too many pieces of a certain era in the same space. In that way, one can inadvertently create a historic interior. We don’t want a Louis XVI room (unless you are trying to create a museum). Place Louis XVI items precisely where they best accent the space.

Head to our shop to start your search, and reach out if you have any questions! We’re confident we can help you find the perfect antique piece for your space here at Stylish.

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