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Often when I see a Persian or oriental area rug, I think DATED. In fact, I have an Ask Maria post about this very subject where I simply told my reader “This rug will NEVER be amazing”.

Well, as I have said many times in this blog (often in the comments) I’m willing to be wrong.

Last fall when I held one of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops in DC, Erika Ward from BluLabel Bungalow was there. She had been waiting for me to come to Atlanta but when she saw DC come up, she decided it was close enough and it was time for her to attend.

Erika’s blog has been around almost as long as mine and I was thrilled to meet her. Somehow, we got to talking about oriental rugs and she showed me some rooms she had decorated that really made them fabulous.

So fabulous, that I’m posting them here for those of you with Oriental rugs that were so expensive you can’t part with them yet. Or maybe you have an inherited Persian rug or two and need to know what to do.

Erika Ward Interiors

This dining room is my favourite. The wing chairs with this graphic pattern seriously bring this rug back to life! Notice the walls are a bold navy blue grasscloth with white drapes for contrast which keeps the look fresh.

I love the graphic red and grey pillow here and the solid silk drapery to tie in the red. Simple really. If you just think ‘solid drapes’ instead of a pattern, you can buy them off the shelf and transform your living room TODAY.

Here she just recovered an antique chair with a bold black and white stripe! Inspired!


So the lesson here is GO BOLD. You can’t wimp out with colour or pattern if you want to update your oriental rug.

See the difference with Erika’s room (above) and this living room (below)? I found some chairs in a bold buffalo check and solid fabrics to pick up the rug that is very similar to the one Erika decorated with for her client.

Here the sofa could technically be brown again like our inspiration picture, because some of you might still have a brown sofa. White would also be a fresher option but not very practical for most people.

Image source | Source for chairs

So if you have a very similar rug, don’t despair, just don’t be shy about repeating the colours found in  the rug.

And thank you Erika for showing us how it’s done! I will never see a persian/oriental rug in quite the same way again! Erika is located in Atlanta, see more of her work here.

When I told her I was writing this post Erika said “Hey I still owe you a video about your course”, so here it is:

My course is Chicago has been sold out for a few weeks already and the waiting list was almost up to 20 people so we found another location for the following week May 18 – 20, 2017.

There are still 3 spaces left in Austin and Toronto and it will be more than two years since I’ll be back at either of those locations so the time to jump in is now!

San Francisco is the week after Chicago at the end of my Spring lineup, May 24 – 25, 2017

Register here.

Related posts:

4 Guidelines for Choosing an Area Rug

How to Choose an Area Rug

Ask Maria: I Can’t Find the Perfect Area Rug

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  • Lynn says:

    Well Maria, while I agree with most of your posts, I was a bit incredulous about your original post that oriental rugs were dated. Say what?! How could something so classic be dated? I thought you said classic is always in, its just about the styling. So here we are, don’t through out your expensive rugs, just restyle. Phew….

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, well in my defence I have seen MANY MANY of these rugs that were just plain unattractive and in bad living rooms with no hope of looking any better because I was only there to choose paint colour (back in my paint store days) so that’s why I couldn’t see them in a fresh light until Erika helped us out with that! Thanks for your comment, Maria

    • Donna Patrick says:

      Your comments about Oriental or Persian rugs has always bothered me. If you study Persian rugs and understand the history and value, you will appreciate them. I believe they are timeless and classic. And the wool handmade rugs are dirt resistant, fire retardant, kid proof and last for many years. There are also many beautiful wool machine made rugs with most of the qualities I mentioned. I have lived with several Persian rugs for almost 40 years and probably could sell them for more than I paid for them. I don’t think you could say that about a contemporary machine made rug.

  • Ewa says:

    Seeing an oriental rug I don’t think: dated, I think: classic, traditional. That’s true they need special effort while arranging a place to think, at the end: beautiful. Or even: stunning. I am making new hardwood floor in my home in july (we bought tiled house and we have lived with it for 8 years, waiting to remodel) and I am looking for an oriental rug for my living room right now, even though a year ago I wouldn’t even consider it at all! Thank you for your advice with cushions, that is just what I did as my starting point for my rearrangement. I took your advice on hardwood floors and I am going for medium brown (you saved me from greyish floors, thank you).

  • Sharon says:

    Thank you for this blog. I couldn’t agree more. I bought a couple of oriental carpets in the 90s with my own money (vs. my ex husband’s!) and yes, its hard to get rid of things you paid a lot for yourself!, funny how that works. And all of a sudden they weren’t current. Instead of getting rid of them, I’ve already layered them over existing carpeting in two bedrooms in our new attached villa in Florida, and after we replace the carpet with hardwood, they are staying as well. Can’t wait to update existing upholstery and bedding with fun, happy colors.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I have to admit that when I first read your original post about Oriental rugs being dated, I was surprised. Because I had seen so many fabulous rooms that had used them on other blogs.
    I had even thought they were considered a “classic”. So your opinion back then kinda threw me for a loop.
    It’s nice to read you’ve accepted them. But…would you consider them a “classic”?

    • Stephanie says:

      I too always thought Persian rugs were classics. I still love mine and am glad to see a great way to use them in a “modern traditional” style (Maria, would that be the name for this style?). Erika’s portfolio is stunning!

  • Miranda says:

    Good to know! I have a large one of these babies and will try to work some of its colors into the room as you have suggested. Btw, I love that striped chair!

  • Joanna says:

    Erika put a lovely, fresh twist on her oriental rugs. It takes the room from dated to “Wow!”.

  • Joanne says:

    As much as I regard you as the Goddess of Color, I was baffled when you wanted to banish all Persian or Oriental rugs. I considered those items classic and am happy to see you can put a refreshing spin on their use. I also have the utmost respect for your willingness to learn from others. That is a great quality!

  • Tara Dillard says:

    Erika is wooowza talented. Do not like the rugs, like what Erika did with them.

    Personal baggage. College graduate ca. 1982, big hair, big shoulder pads, big 8 accounting firms, playing the ‘game’. Those rugs in offices, everywhere. And homes. Much like the mauve used for a decade in hospitals. Nope.

    Whatever, new era, new day, and Erika rocks. Garden & Be Well, XOT

  • Jessica says:

    How can you lump them all together? Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ugly rugs, but they come in all shapes, sizes, quality, floral or geometric. They can be any color. There are classic rugs, made incredibly well that include classic colors. There are cheap imitations from the local Big Lots. There are more recent high quality rugs that tend to adopt current color trends. I think this is where people go wrong. Like the example of mauve, make sure to avoid colors you don’t like. I personally hate peach, but I love blue geometric Persian rugs! Plus if you get a well made rug, it doesn’t shed or show dirt or stains.

  • Judy says:

    It’s not the rug that’s dated it’s what some people put around it that just doesn’t work.

  • Jo Galbraith says:

    I love this post Maria! I have a vintage rug with turquoise, navy and coral/orange which I just can’t part with though to be truthful I wish it was a bit bigger. Recently I’ve added a turquoise couch, two indigo chairs and a mix of turquoise, navy and coral pillows! I love the bright, fresh and bold colors in this room – they make me happy every day. And, I have to say that taking your True Color Expert course inspired me to go bold!

  • J says:

    I was surprised by this post, then amused. So often when you show the pictures of your house or a place you’ve designed, I think how they would be so upgraded if you had added the color, texture, built-in quality of layering either subtly or dramatically, derived from an Oriental rug. I specify “Oriental” rather than Persian since I am definitely including the more geometric designs. Even as an accent in the kitchen or bathroom!

  • Alison says:

    I am a huge fan of Persian and Oriental rugs. I believe they are a true classic and bring so much to a room. I have always thought that they go with all styles of architecture and furniture. I don’t believe that a neutral room with a Persian rug if done properly is dated. I hope to buy a large (genuine) rug for my lounge room in the next couple of years so sorry Maria in this instance I have to disagree with you. I love the first picture of the dining room!

  • Elizabeth says:

    My husband and I put out some serious money on some Persian carpets back in the day and I still love them! I frequent our local Goodwill (think of the banker’s who donate!) and have paid as little as $25 for a beautiful, handmade room-sized rug. I love that some people think they are dated! More bargains for me!

  • Suzan says:

    I LOVE MY BIG, RED, SIGNED PERSIAN RUG! It goes with everything. It’s my magic carpet!

  • Lorri says:

    Persian rugs can’t ever be dated because they are timeless.

    The issue with Persian rugs, is that some people don’t recognize that the rug is a bossy element that they must respond to. If you have nothing but white walls and neutral fabrics with a jewel-toned Persian on the floor, you’ve missed the boat. It will look like you just moved and dragged in anything just for the sake of having furniture to sit on. That Persian will make all your white and neutral look sterile and unfinished rather than serene.

    The jewel tones of a Persian demand jewel tones show up elsewhere in the room, in the form of fabric, paint or art.

  • Christine says:

    Love the use of these rugs in these pictures and would never call them dated. With the wrong decor they can look dated very easily though.
    Look at for gorgeous, fresh, modern, laid-back California use of these rugs.

  • Liz says:

    I’m another lover of Persian rugs. They are classic and can work with many styles. We bought a beautiful authentic red one as newlyweds about 50 years ago from a neighbor who was a wholesale Persian/Oriental rug dealer in S.F. It eventually went into storage when I no longer wanted a red and blue color scheme. We sold it about fifteen years ago when we started full-time RVing. When we settled down again after eight years we had to furnish a whole house. At the time we did look at real ones, but the only Persian rugs I liked cost waaaay more than I wanted to spend. We bought a “place holder” Persian look rug from Home Depot…dark chocolate background with red, teal, gold and cream geometric patterns…very complex and rich looking. We still love our $250 fake six years later with our red furniture and teal accents, so I guess its a keeper even though it’s not authentic.

  • Robin says:

    Nope. I think they’re dated looking. The more pattern you add the louder and crazier my brain feels while looking at them lol. Definitely not for me. But if these rugs make your heart skip a beat and you’re crazy in love with them, then I get that of course. To each their own. That is most important. Interesting and eye opening post. I Always walk away with new information and a wealth of knowledge after reading your posts. Keep them coming!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thanks for all your comments everyone! I think I was a little hasty to lump ALL ORIENTAL rugs in the realm of DATED. I have changed my original paragraph from EVERY TIME TO OFTEN. I was really thinking Persian rugs because that particular bitty pattern I don’t happen to like at all, however oriental rugs can certainly look current or dated depending on the colours, pattern, etc. Oushak rugs are also in the category of an oriental rug (which I didn’t realize) and I love them.

    So thanks for enlightening me on the definition! I love my readers! Maria

  • Mary Riggall says:

    Jessica stole my comment – all Persian rugs are not created equal. I have a house full of antique rugs that not only represent a huge investment, but also are the perfect floor covering for my aging dogs if you know what I mean! Nevertheless, some days I want to roll them up and replace them with grass rugs to get a fresher look. Since I live in Atlanta, my next email is going to be to Erika – so excited to find a Maria disciple in the same city and love what she has done with these interiors. Thanks!

  • Bravo, Erika! I could tell from our course together that you were a major player. And…here is the proof! Thanks for sharing! xo

  • mary says:


    You are so wrong about persian rugs! When you say this it is like saying a painting is dated. Your opinions show the limits of imagination.

    • Maria Killam says:

      You are absolutely right! Up until Erika, I could not imagine how to make a Persian Rug look better. It’s a good thing I don’t claim to be an oriental rug expert since I so clearly am NOT. Maria

  • Lora says:

    SO happy to hear your readers love, admire, and value beautiful Persian and oriental rugs. I’ve invested in many of them over the years and wouldn’t think of parting with them. They are works of art, often handmade from beautiful fibers of wool and silk. I’ve toured many a beautiful home (often in the millions) and those rugs are predominantly used. They are truly timeless and classic and no more “dated” than any other beautiful work of art. (Yes there are some ugly ones, but the ones on this post are classic and beautiful). It’s the total look of a room design that brings it all together. Glad to hear you’ve taken a NEW look at this.

  • Susie says:

    Erika’s work is wonderful. I love her tailored look. Persian rugs can be difficult to work into the decor, but I’ve always loved them. I guess they are a bit bossy!

  • Jill says:

    Maybe there’s more than one meaning to “classic and timeless”. I think in a certain sense Persian/Oriental Rug are classic in that they have been around almost forever (often in affluent homes) and denote a certain sense of taste and maybe economic status and they are well made and if care for properly, are very durable.

    But I think Classic also mean something that goes with almost everything, does not call too much attention to itself, offend almost no one and isn’t too busy – something simple like white subway tiles. I think in that sense, maybe Persian/Oriental Rug may fail the classic test.

    I’m not sure that going forward, Persian/Oriental Rug will be something that people who are gong for a classic look will necessarily want in their homes or want enough to justify the expense. It seems like Maria tells us to use neutral colors with little or no pattern for the things that we will be spending the most money on, usually that mean installed elements in our homes like flooring/counter tops/back splashes/wall color/etc but a Persian/Oriental Rug can also be a serious investment and they seem to violate some of those rules. They may require more care or different care than many people today want to commit to. It seems like Persian/Oriental Rugs often don’t go well with the otherwise casual style that many people seem to be gravitating to in their homes. It seems like the new classic astietic is for things to look light and bright (often lots of white) and maybe even slightly perpetually “spring-y”. Persian/Oriental Rugs often seem dark and heavy and old/stuffy and winter-y (even though they can be really beautiful) . I also wonder if Persian/Oriental Rugs are a statement that many people will want to make in their homes going forward given the fact that the are a very labor intensive handmade item, usually made in developing countries (political ramifications/possible exploitation of workers) for newly made ones. I still think that the really old ones make a good case for themselves, if you are lucky enough to own one and you like it (but maybe not a good enough case to purchase, for what the old ones cost). And then too there seem to be so many bad knockoffs that it kind of brings the real thing down a little. I think things have fallen out of “classic” status in the past because of cheap, bad copies becoming widely available.

  • I have a well loved, slightly lopsided Persian rug in my kitchen and love it. It survived a whole house flood so I know it’s not delicate. It hides all sort of spills, feels great in the morning in bare feet and breaks up the hardwood floor. It’s a bit of surprise whimsy in a pretty neutral home.

    Funny, all of the other rugs in our home are very neutral like wool sisal.

  • Dolores says:

    I would sooner give up all my furniture than my beloved Oriental rugs, so I am very glad that you changed your mind on them!
    If you need more convincing, look at the beautiful, elegant, classic ( and unaffordable) interiors of Robert Kime..

  • Tammy says:

    Oriental rugs aren’t in style right now. You can tell this by how few you see in the shelter magazines like Elle Decor. Or just look on Houzz. Also, prices at auction are lower than they were 20 or 30 years ago. They are suffering the same fate as the “brown” furniture antiques. Personally, I think they will make a comeback since now you can get midcentury furnishings and beni odin rugs anywhere. High end designers are always on the look for something new and luxe, not what you buy anywhere.

    We have some rugs that were an inheritance and just bought an anqitue Art Deco rug at auction. It is tricky to decorate with those items without looking too traditional or stuffy. And I also think the modern rugs aren’t that great anyways. There is a huge difference between a good antique Persian rug and the machine made or even handmade rugs you find now.

    • Lisa says:

      I thought persian rugs were really hot right now. I seem to see them everywhere. Every time I open a blog, the designer is talking about the vintage persian rug they just used in a space.

  • Karen Aamodt says:

    WOW! you took a lot of heat on this Persian rug post. Maybe this will help: my husband and I were in Atlanta on a business trip and across the street from our hotel was a former car dealership; not occupied for ages. You know, the kind of dealership from the 1960s with a fancy showroom but no espresso bar! A man had rented it for a month and was selling oriental rugs. We strolled over and checked out his rugs. Not wonderful quality but good enough so we bought one in gorgeous blues, reds and golds with every other accent color seen in the rainbow. We thought it would do until we could afford a VERY VERY GOOD rug. We had flown down and could not take the rug on the plane with us so we had it shipped via UPS. I was terrified the entire time we waited for it to arrive because we were positive it had been used to ship illegal drugs and would be confiscated by whichever gov’t agency handles that, probably the DEA. Happy ending; the rug arrived and 18 years later we still love it and it is still good enough. Our four Siamese cats love to roll around on it so maybe we had something when we were afraid of the drug angle…….ha ha ha, have a great day!

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