Textile Spotlight: Kilim

By Kate Riley March 12, 2014

Today I’m continuing the Textile Series, and this month the spotlight is on one that dates back many centuries: the kilim patterns found in floor coverings and home accessories. Kilims differ from pile rugs because they are produced through a flatweaving technique that combines various colored wefts and warp wool threads and leaves no pile.

Kilim has a fascinating history, its origins dating back to 3000 BC, many scholars believe even earlier; like tapestries, woven kilims are one of the oldest textiles in history. Kilims are referred to as “slit woven” textiles, a technique of weaving that produces sharp geometric designs and symbols. They are produced by interweaving visible weft with invisible warp strands and are most often made of wool, though cotton and hemp threads are sometimes used.

Different kilims possess cultural meanings that change by region, and the colors and designs also change depending on where they originate. Some kilims are used as prayer rugs, others for decorative purposes. The popularity of kilim is growing in the West as we look to more exotic ways to decorate our homes with textiles from across the globe.

layered kilim glitter guide

amber lewis – the glitter guide

Kilims are most often used as rugs, but also like a fabric to upholster ottomans or benches, or as a decorative pillow cover. While you can still find many suppliers of vintage rugs and pillow covers, retailers are also producing their own versions as the appeal of kilim grows.   

vintage kilim rugs at pottery barn



 kilim rug ottoman

pottery barn / the brick house / rikki snyder via houzz


Despite their centuries old origins, kilim rugs and pillows are surging in popularity all over the world and popping up everywhere in magazines and design blogs. Unique or vintage kilims have become collectibles in recent years and depending on their quality and history, can command very high prices.

kilim rug living room vtwonen

boys room kilim rug mccroskey interiors

kilim rug sydney home design files

vtwonen / mccroskey interiors / the design files


Kilim rugs often possess tribal symbols with various meanings and some are woven with altar designs for the express purpose of use as a prayer rug.

kilim symbols

via kilim.com


Kilim floor coverings are available in brightly colored or earth tone colorways – the appeal is the medley of interwoven geometric motifs throughout. For pattern lovers, a kilim offers an alternative to permanent patterned tile floors and a way to bring warmth to a space along with a global vibe.  

brightly colored kilim

  red tone kilim rug


brown kilim danish design store


eames and kilim rug


kilim rug taylor jacobson

kimberly genevieve / apartment therapy / danish design store via houzz /  madison modern home / taylor jacobson design

If you’re looking for a great kilim, take a peek at these below (some vintage included):

kilim rugs and pillows

toulouse, furbish studio /  kilim runner, le souk/ canyon kilim, dash & albert / tribal turkish pillow cover, sukan on etsy / gianna kilim, pottery barn / vintage kilim cover, pillow me on etsy / turkish blue rug

This article is an interesting read about the process of buying a kilim rug in Istanbul’s Grand Market, an experience on my design bucket list. Are you a fan of kilim rugs? Did you own one before they became trendy?  



  1. I was already crushing on Kilim, I actually bought a pillow last weekend on Ebay, and am waiting for it to come. But after reading this post and seeing all of the gorgeous rugs you featured, I am obsessed! Great post!

  2. I also love these rugs and the character and warmth they add to a space. I recently found one for 5 bucks at a yard sale! That was one of the best finds ever! Mandi from vintage revivals highlighted it on her blog also!

  3. I love how this post shows off the textiles! How beautiful the pieces look in all the arrangements. I’ve been looking for some area rugs to use in my small spaces and these examples are perfect inspirations! Thanks for sharing!

  4. It is funny- kilim has never really ben my thing- but this post actually made me appreciate it a bit more. I suddenly realize it can really add color and texture- not sure how I never noticed this before. Thanks!

  5. I bought my first kilim about 20 years ago, and still have it. It’s been one of my all-time favorite rugs. Very durable, easy to care for, it just looks good all the time! I’ve thought of buying another one to make an upholstered ottoman, but haven’t been able to decide on a pattern/color combination

  6. I have loved kilim rugs for 20 years! This was a great post. I especially like knowing the meanings of the designs.

    • Hi Michelle, if you visit the stores I linked to at the bottom, several carry a good selection of kilim rugs both new and vintage. :)

  7. Any idea in how to get a Kililm rug to lay flat and heavy like a pile rug? I’m constantly pulling ours flat again because, well the room is being used, kids run, and the thing keeps forming waves.

  8. How to get a kilim to lie flat on the floor is a great question to you or your readers. It is the reason that I never used the rug I purchased for my home a couple of years ago. I’ve had it stored and have noticed the recent popularity in kilim rugs so I’d like to sell it. My question to you or your readers is how would I go about finding out how to price the rug? Thanks!

    • Getting them to lay flat on the floor takes time like any flatweave, they often don’t have the weight of a pile rug, but over time they do relax – a rug pad of course helps them stay in place. As far as pricing, I’m certainly no expert, I’m sure there is a method that experts use to appraise the value of vintage kilims, I’d love to learn more about that !

  9. Just bought a kilim-type small rug at World Market. It’s actually an indoor/outdoor rug made of recyclable plastic bottles (of all things) – would never have guessed by feel or smell – had to read the label. The pattern is somewhat geometric like kilims thought it doesn’t have a lot of colors (which works for where I’m using it). One of the things I love about kilims and the indoor/outdoor rugs is the flatness of the weave that make it workable in areas where a regular area rug might not. In my case, my office is on thick textured carpet and I have to have an ugly plastic chair mat in front of the desk. This small rug (4×6) has the perfect colors for my office plus the flatness and thinness allows me to place it over the chair mat and still move the chair around – perfect. Love it in the bedrooms in the pictures above too, especially the first one where it appears to be on carpet, a perfect solution to add interest to a room when you’re stuck with unwanted carpet, and it beautifully softens the second bedroom’s tile floor (here in Arizona I’m planning to ditch my #10-envelope-with-multiple-stamps mix of carpet and tile for all tile, and the second bedroom shows how warm and inviting a potentially cold and museum-look floor can be. Thanks for the interesting history lesson and all the inspiration!

    • Thanks Sandy, I always learn something new when I research a textile!

  10. The rug pad I’ve always used with my kilim is very thick (1/4″) felt-like material with rubber on one side. The rubber side goes down on the floor. We walk through this room all the time, and although it does shift a little, it takes a couple weeks before it’s noticeable enough to do something about it.

  11. Ah! I read the article you linked about buying a kilim in Turkey. Their experience made me laugh because they described exactly what it is like! My husband and I just got back from Istanbul and getting a rug was top on my list. The Grand Bazaar was amazing, but after SEVERAL hours of being shown rugs that weren’t what I wanted and them trying to haggle like mad (and lots of apple tea!) we decided it was a fun experience, but we’d buy on ebay! I love kilims, though. So gorgeous. Thanks for the post!

    • Ha Liz! So great to hear that’s what it’s like, I’m looking forward to the experience one day! Good luck in your kilim search, there are so many great ones, it’s hard to choose!

  12. Love the post. My husband and I are currently working on a renovation of our home in the Tahoe area, and I’m hoping to incorporate a Kilm rug to help designate a small foyer in our house. I’ve been keeping my out for just the right pattern, colors, size and price. I think it will bring a great way to incorporate some color and character into the modern farm style home that we’re going for.

  13. So happy to see your blog on kilim rugs. They are my very favorite. I hope to find a vintage one to cover pillows or ottoman. It has to be the right colors and price. Great info and thanks for sharing.

  14. Great information Kate! Rugs are so important to a room and it seems like finding the right one usually means shopping online. Any chance you would feature different types of rugs (jute, seagrass, wool, flatweave, etc) to help some of us understand and make better decisions when buying online? Also, do you have any suggestions for attractive machine washable rugs? I have a dog that piddles on our entry rug every time we have visitors. Also, my mudroom could use a machine washable rug. I have an indoor/outdoor rug in there but it’s tough to get it outside to hose down in the winter months. Thank you!

  15. Ugh! I should know better than to post a question when half-asleep. Thanks for pointing out the Kilim links under the pictures.

  16. I love bohemian, ethnic design. I live with it in my own home and will never, ever tire of it. There is a reason these designs have endured for centuries – beautiful muted color palette and designs inspired by the world around us. I was in heaven while in Turkey in November: kilims to the left, kilims to the right, kilims everywhere – rugs, purses, pillows, upholstery. It was hard to pick just one rug to bring home but we did after shopping (and drinking lots of apple tea) in three shops. We are planning on a return visit.

  17. I recently bought several kilim pillows and love them. They are beautiful and add so much color and character to the room. However, as I should have known, they are scratchy and one would not want to take a nap on them.

    Is there any way to soften the weave without ruining the pillows?

  18. I just purchased a love seat upholstered in Kilim. I love it, except it is itchy. I there anyway I can soften it

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