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How to buy a rug on holiday and not get ripped off

How to buy a rug on holiday and not get ripped off

I never forgave myself for walking away from Marrakech four years ago without a rug. Ok, so I walked away because I didn't actually need one. Well, I say walked. It was more like dragged. We did have a perfectly good rug at home and we were thinking about moving house (which we subsequently did) so admittedly it wasn't a very good time to be buying stuff like that. 

Still, the memory of those cavernous rooms piled treacherously high with every variation of rug imaginable stayed with me. So two years later, when I was looking at potential destinations for a special kid-free weekend away for my husband's birthday, while simultaneously mulling over what we were going to do with our bedroom in the newly acquired Gold is a Neutral house, I had a lightbulb moment.

I'd been pinning a lot of rooms like this...

 Image via Pinterest - Soho House Istanbul

Image via Pinterest - Soho House Istanbul

And this...

 Image via Pinterest - AVE Styles

Image via Pinterest - AVE Styles

And this...

 Image via Pinterest - HonestlyWTF

Image via Pinterest - HonestlyWTF

Clearly I needed a Turkish rug in my life. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants. And wouldn't you know, it just so happened that the first of these two images, that dreamy hotel room I'd been swooning over, was none other than Soho House Istanbul. Can you see where this is going? Ker-ching! Holiday destination sorted. And sure enough we went, had a lovely time and I came back with a beautiful rug for our bedroom. Bonus! You can read more about our holiday here.

And here's the rug looking very grand in her new home. I've called her Dusty.

 Dusty and a peak of our bedroom makeover so far...it's not finished yet!

Dusty and a peak of our bedroom makeover so far...it's not finished yet!

Now one year on and we've just returned from a long weekend in Morocco's Essaouira...and yes, I finally got my hands on a Beni Ourain rug. I've called him Benny (imaginative) and he is loving life in the Gold is a Neutral house. I have promised hubby that next year's kid free break will not involve rug buying. And that's totally fine. I'm eyeing up Lisbon. I hear it's great for ceramics ;-)

 Benny being a boss

Benny being a boss

Now buying a rug, or any large items of furniture, abroad can be a bit daunting. Not only are you nervous about getting ripped off, some people cringe down to their toes at the idea of bartering for something. I get it. It's not something that comes naturally to some people. But I have to admit, I love it! I get such a buzz out of it and take it very seriously which my husband thinks is hilarious. He's very much a silent, brooding type of barterer aka NO HELP WHATSOEVER.

Ok I'm just going to come right out and say it. I think I'm pretty good at this bartering business. I think my dad might have something to do with this. I've got a really vivid memory of my dad bartering for a lace tablecloth my mum wanted in Majorca and various other things on other holidays (I wonder where I get my travel = shopping opportunity thing from?) You know, that whole walking away, waiting for the vendor to come after you with a better deal thing? He loves it. There's always a deal to be done in Don's eyes. Although this attitude is less successful when he tries it in John Lewis funnily enough. So maybe I get it from him. In any case, having done this a few times now and being the proud owner of two beautiful rugs bought at very reasonable prices. I thought it would be a good idea to share my top tips on how to buy a rug on holiday and not get ripped off.

1) BE PREPARED...

It's a good idea to have a good idea of what you want before you set foot in the shop. Many of these places are vast and stuffed to the rafters with more rugs than you've ever seen. How are you possibly going to choose from them all? You're not. You can't possibly see them all. To make life easier for you and the sellers it's a lot better if you can give them an idea what you are after. If you don't, they'll just start throwing rugs of all shapes, sizes and colours on the floor and you won't be able to see the woods for the trees. Sure, that neon pink and acid green striped Beni looks great hanging from the Moroccan medina walls...but is it going to look as good in your own super chic home? I doubt it. I knew I wanted a pretty classic Beni, but super thick and soft, because my room has enough going on and I wanted the rug to bring some texture and cosiness in comparison to the glam gold and velvet already in there.

So colour and size is a good place to start. If you're about to travel somewhere you think you might buy a rug, measure up the space or spaces before you go. What you definitely don't want is to get a rug all the way home only to find it doesn't fit. Nightmare.

 Many, many Beni's

Many, many Beni's

2) DO YOUR RESEARCH...

This is a continuation of my first point. Before you go, think about what styles you like. So if you're heading to Morocco, google Beni Ourain, Azilal and Boucheourite style rugs to get a feel for what floats your boat. In Turkey check out Ushak, Kilim and Overdyed styles for starters. Incidentally the faded, weathered Turkish rugs that are so hip right now are known as the modern style in the souks. So that's what to ask for if that's what you're after.

This pre-prep also has the added advantage that you'll sound like you know what you're talking about, rather than walking in completely clueless. Lamb to slaughter springs to mind.

 Keep 'em coming

Keep 'em coming

3) SET YOUR PRICE...

This is a tricky one. But I always try to have an idea in my head about how much I want to spend. Turkish rugs are generally more expensive than Moroccan rugs as there's more finer detail. It really depends on where you are and what time of year as well. In Istanbul, there weren't that many tourists around, which made the sellers keener to strike a deal. It was off season in Essa too, so again I think that worked in our favour. But if you're in the souk in Marrakech at the height of tourist season, you may not get such a good deal. How much you pay depends so much on size, quality etc but you should definitely be aiming to get the initial price halved, and a bit more if you're feeling brave. Benny started out as 4500 dhms and I paid 1600 dhms in the end. So yeah I was pretty happy with that. Dusty was more but I was pushed for time and probably didn't push as hard as I could have done but I loved her. Which leads me to my next tip...

4) BE REALISTIC...

Many of these rugs involve a great deal of craftmanship so don't expect to walk away with one for £20. And if you see a rug you really, really have to have then don't get too het up about getting that extra 10 dirham knocked off just because you'd promised yourself you wouldn't pay any more than that. It's hopefully going to give you loads of happiness in your home so don't cut your nose off to spite your face. And have you seen how much Beni Ourain's go for in the UK???

 Kilim me softly. Sorry.

Kilim me softly. Sorry.

5) ARRANGE YOUR GAME FACE

Keep your cool yeah? If you squeal with delight when you see the rug of your dreams then you're making life a lot harder for yourself. The sellers will instantly add a few hundred dirhams to the price because they know how much you want it. Try to stay calm. Make a selection of five or six and then ask for the prices. It could be that the one you like the best is actually the cheapest.

6) BE RESPECTFUL...

Bartering is a way of life for the rug sellers. They are absolute masters of their art and know every trick in the book. You're right to be a bit wary of that but this is their livelihood so don't just assume they are trying to take you to the cleaners. I mean, don't get me wrong, they will if you let them but that's why it's best to be prepared. They expect you to try to knock the price down. Being rude won't get you very far as a bartering technique anyway. As a general rule don't get into a negotiation unless you genuinely would like to buy something you've seen. But...

7) DON'T BE BULLIED...

Sometimes you do come across sellers whose idea of a sales pitch is to bully you to the point where you feel like you can't walk away without handing over your cash. That's not a cultural thing, it's just rude and aggressive and a generally unpleasant way to behave. Don't ever feel bad about walking away if it's not what you want or you're being made to feel uncomfortable. You'll regret it if you don't. Every time you look at that rug (or whatever) you'll be reminded of that unpleasant experience. When we were in Essa I wanted to buy a straw bag for my mum but the guy was SO aggressive and I walked away. The next day we saw another stall but the bags didn't have the right length handle. So the seller very kindly offered to swap them over. He didn't ask but we paid him extra to do it anyway. And I feel so much better about it than I would have if I'd bought from the chump the previous day. 

 The first time I laid eyes on Dusty

The first time I laid eyes on Dusty

8) TAKE A LIGHTER

Not to torch the place if negotiations aren't going your way! But to make sure the rug is wool  and not synthetic. Ask if it's ok first obviously. But if you hold the lighter very quickly to one of the loose strands. If it doesn't light or puts itself out it's wool. If it ignites it's synthetic. If you pull out a lighter and it's not wool, there's a good chance the seller is going to get quite twitchy.

9) BOOK YOUR RUG A FLIGHT HOME

If you are going away and are pretty sure you're going to buy a rug you can either pay for hold luggage before you go, or do what we did and just book it on the return leg once you are there and you have it in your possession. We flew with Easyjet and it was £15 to book hold luggage for the return flight, which we did the day before we were due to fly home. When we went to Istanbul we didn't pay anything. Dusty was folded up ridiculously small, slipped into a small holdall and because we were flying BA we were able to take it on as an extra piece of hand luggage. Result! Benny didn't fold up nearly so small though and so he was wrapped up tightly and as compactly as possible and checked into the hold.

10) ENJOY IT! 

Don't forget to relax and enjoy the experience. You're on holiday after all!

And if you're not planning a trip anytime soon but would still like to buy a rug, there are some great sellers on Ebay. And I must highlight Edit58, whose carefully selected Moroccan rugs in the most gorgeous colour palettes are the stuff of dreams for a rug addict like me.

Jess x

My budget kitchen makeover has finally started!

My budget kitchen makeover has finally started!

Kid-free weekend in hippy heaven Essaouaira...and many, many Beni's

Kid-free weekend in hippy heaven Essaouaira...and many, many Beni's