Category: Chinese – Art Deco

Rugs of the Week

Art Deco American Hooked Rugs

We just love Art Deco rugs. Chinese, of course. European, when we can get them.  But when in considering  American Hooked rugs, can  we get beyond Currier and Ives rustic scenes, favorite pets and elementary pattern  repeats such as the “Log Cabin” design? Yes, but it takes some looking.  In our extensive collection of antique American Hooked rugs, a few from the 1920’s truly partake in the Deco aesthetic.  The narrow red runner with striking elongated medallion and matching corners (6462, 2.6 by 11.7) definitely qualifies. All geometric, with nothing floral or pictorial about it, it certainly looks Jazz Age. Abstraction and potential enlargement without artistic loss are among Deco hallmarks. This runner could be a scatter, a room size, a gallery carpet and still be incredibly striking. We would love to find one in any of these formats. Since hooked rugs are generally one-of-a-kind, even those from professional weavers, the chances are slim to none, but we still can dream!

American Hooked Rug #6462, size 11’7″ x 2’6″

The two scatters (20304) and (20521) are similarly abstract, employing radiating triangles or stepped lightning flashes both with color schemes in the cool blue direction. The design of 20304 closely resembles that of certain Chinese Deco carpets. Was there any connection or just parallel inspiration? Although these rugs are quite small, they can be enlarged to full room size and still retain powerful visual impact. This is one of the criteria for Deco designs: they van be enlarged or reduced without losing graphic integrity. Just try this with, say, 18th century Rococo or Victorian Gothic.

American Hooked Rug #20304, size 5’3 x 3’8″
American Hooked Rug #20521, size 4’5″ x 2’2″

Speaking of potential enlargements, our 20517 with its black field, bold light blue Greek Key border and poly chrome flower centerpiece, looks like it came right out of a spacious salon on a grand 1930’s ocean liner, but it is, in fact, in scatter size. But it would look great massively expanded.This is a fine example of inspired American Hooked rug design.

American Hooked Rug #20517, size 4’3″ x 2’7″

What is more Art Deco than Radio City Music Hall? Our 20529 (c. 1930) is a straightaway takeoff on the machine loom carpeting in the vast spaces there. Even the color scheme is related. One can, again, easily imagine this rug as a room size. Of course, Chinese or European Art Deco carpets are room size, and our examples are much smaller, but they have the same period style. They are an underappreciated strand in the vast universe of antique American Hooked rugs.

American Hooked Rug #20529, size 5’6″ x 2’8″




Rugs of the Week

Chinese Art Deco Minimalism

Today, minimalism reigns in much of the decorative carpet world. No borders, no traditional patterns, no classic design protocols. It is all so new, or is it? You might be surprised to discover that border less carpets, with minimal or even no patterns, in monochrome colors, were a considerable design thing in America in the 1930’s. The Great Depression affected domestic carpet demand. A flood of Persian goods shouldered aside the dominant Chinese carpets in the 1930’s and exports plummeted. Prices fell and manufacturers’ cost had to be reined in. This meant less design and faster weaving times, reducing labor costs. The trend from jazzy 1920’s Art Deco to more hard edged, more graphic 1930’s Art Deco can be seen in carpets from both European and Chinese sources.

Nichols was the leading, most stylish of the American firms in Tientsin, and most attuned to decorative trends. This group of progressively more minimalist Nichols antique Chinese Art Deco carpets is the result. One of the first things is to eliminate the borders, producing a uniform single allover tonality. On this is laid an asymmetric, two corner pattern.  In our number 20288 (11’9″x 8’10”, 1920), the saturated navy ground is open except for two mountain “coins” in one corner and one diagonally across. These are most subtly embedded in tone-on-tone striated segments. The rich midnight ground does the talking here, a minimalism with a real presence.


Minimalism does not have to mean self effacing. Orange-pink, never found in nature,  gives a real punch to our 22091 (12’0″x9’0″, c. 1920) with bamboo fret and writhing dragon  diagonally opposed in the corners. The same tonality appears in number 22131 (15’10″x12’0″, early 1900) which is totally without any pattern, no secondary colors. This is as minimalist as you can get, except the tonality is not. Today, minimalist means taupe, tan, beige, ivory, straw or some other non-color, totally inoffensive, total ignorable. You just can’t ignore Deco Chinese minimalist carpets.


Almost as restrained in pattern is our royal blue carpet number 22616 (13’2″x10’0″, early 1930) with a design wholly delineated by carving alone. The color is magnificent and the subtle pattern makes the viewer’s eye work a bit, which should happen when appreciating a work of art. A close-up picture gives an idea of the subtle style of this piece.


Finally, two carpets with the same open fields, and geometric bud and rectangle opposite corners are number 20997 (11’4″x8’8″ c. 1930, royal blue) and 21781 (11’3″x8’6″, c. 1930, cardinal red) are wholly in the 30’s style, sharply drawn with a pars-pro-toot rendering of floral ornament. The corners cannot be ignored, but the almost minimalist fields easily dominate.



What these and other “minimalist” antique Art Deco Chinese carpets have in common are strong, saturated tonalities, superb physical texture and real personalities. Nothing wishy washy or non-committal about them. They have a commanding  presence. Thus minimal need not be synonymous with invisible or ignorable. They worked with Art Deco furniture, the first Western unornamented furnishing style and they will work with whatever you throw at them!.