What you need to know about picking out a carpet
Anything goes when it comes to styles of rugs.
New Englanders are known to go their own way. And when it comes to what we walk on, it’s no different.
“When I talk to others in my industry, they’re always amazed at what we’re selling,” says Jeff Arcari, buyer/owner of Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting, which has 14,000 rugs in stock at their Framingham, Boston, and Salem, Massachusetts, showrooms.
Andrew Tagavi, founder and owner of Seacoast Rug and Home in North Hampton, agrees. “When I talk to my peers on the West Coast, what’s being bought here in New England isn’t what’s being bought there.”
“Whenever I think we have rugs in stock that are in the ‘right’ trend,” says Fouad Mahfuz, owner and vice president of PRG (formerly Persian Rug Gallery) in Nashua, “they are the ones that may be the hardest to sell. Our customers are looking for what they want—not what they are told to want.”
This reality makes being in the rug business all the more enjoyable. “I love that we can work with traditional, contemporary, Arts and Crafts, and tribal designs; every trend, every style; every size, texture and color,” Mahfuz says.
Because so many options are available and so many design tastes can be accommodated, putting a finger on the “trends” is challenging. “While the rug industry in general is very trendy,” Mahfuz says, “New England marches to the beat of our own drum.”
Tagavi agrees, and although it’s not easy to identify exactly why New Englanders have our own sense of style, there are some interesting hypotheses. Perhaps we’re inspired by the vivid colors of the seasons outside and want to bring those in. Perhaps it has to do with how the country was settled—with Europeans landing in New England. In any case, New Englanders are known for our own eclectic style.
And that style spans not only design trends but the centuries that have created New England’s history. “Our New Hampshire buyers are really into the types of rugs that would have been here in the nineteenth century,” says Barry Featherston, the gallery manager of Peter Pap Oriental Rugs, Inc. showroom in Dublin. “These rugs are ones that work well in antique homes and in today’s modern homes.”
As the rug industry has changed, Arcari says, fewer rugs are being bought on spec. Instead, rug buyers are involved in the whole process: the selection of materials, the design. This combines the traditional quality and stamp of the originating village with the ability for customization. “We work with a lot of designers to come up with unique designs,” Arcari says. “Instead of reacting to trends, we’re doing our own design work. There’s something special that happens when a weaver is involved in the planning. The end result reflects the work of many artisans.”
Even as New Englanders make up their own minds and are looking for the rugs that fit individual styles, there are some common themes.
“We are seeing a strong shift toward a ‘contemporary’ style,” Arcari says. “One that has a different feel, a different sense of balance. The trends for the classic dark colors in Persian rugs aren’t as strong as they once were.”
Traditional Persian-style rugs often feature deeper colors—red, navy, jewel tones—and are generally made of wool or silk. Contemporary rugs can also be detailed in their design but give more focus to the color trends—for example, with cooler colors such as silver, light blue and gray.
In the urban markets, paler palettes tend to dominate whether the customer is buying a new rug or an antique rug, Featherston says. Those colors could include pale pinks, pale oranges and lots of natural ivory-toned wool often seen in antique rugs.
Customers interested in the qualities of both traditional and contemporary are often drawn to the popular “transitional” rug—one with traditional elements but that brings in a cleaner, repeating element.
Peter Pap Oriental Rugs focuses on antique rugs. “Our New Hampshire buyers are really into the types of rugs that would have been here in the nineteenth century,”
says Barry Featherston, the gallery manager of Peter Pap’s Dublin showroom. “These rugs are ones that work well in antique homes and in today’s modern homes.”
This transitional style is a bridge between the small designs and muted colors of the last five or six years, and the incoming requests for strong, contrasting colors.
Tagavi says, industry-wide, he’s seeing customers looking for “cheerful and happy” designs and colors.
Retailers are also seeing a mixing and matching of styles andexpectations.“We are getting requests from clients who are mixing a rustic rug with a modern décor,” Mahfuz says. “Or a contemporary rug with traditional furniture. Our clients aren’t connected so much to the styles as they are to the look.”
Featherston sees similar mixing and matching at Peter Pap, which focuses on antique rugs. For example, Featherston says, well-woven Serapis rugs from the second half of the nineteenth century are considered great works of art by superb, intuitive and creative weavers who were weaving through their mind’s eye. In contrast, the more flowery workshop rugs were being woven on a commercial basis.
“And whether you’re designing a home with a mid-twentieth-century aesthetic or are inclined to design around early American antiques,” Featherston says, “any antique rug from the nineteenth century would fit well in a New Hampshire home—it’s just that Serapis are very popular today.”
In addition, texture can be a factor. Each homeowner should compare and contrast a flat, woven rug without a pile to a thick, plush carpet or a shaggy area rug. “Texture is as important as it’s ever been in our industry,” Mahfuz says.
Caring for the product
Quality, handmade rugs can be considered one of the greenest home choices. “When we visit the villages we work with in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal, we see the villagers shearing their sheep and preparing the wool for the dying process,” Arcari says. Generally, the reds and blues in a Persian rug use indigo; greens, yellows and ivory are generally undyed sheep’s wool.
Once the rug has found its place in your home, professionals advise regular maintenance. Featherston credits craftsmanship and care with keeping the antique rugs from centuries ago beautiful and useable today. “Wool is such a durable fiber—especially when taken care of,” he says.
Taking care of a rug entails a professional cleaning every two (for high-traffic areas) to five (for low-traffic areas) years. “It’s all about getting the sand off the rug,” Featherston says. “Sand is what destroys a rug—it’s like shards of glass in the wool, cutting the fibers.”
During this process, rug owners can see the differences in the durability of rugs. For example, Tagavi points to a style of rug that’s marketed as a “handmade” wool rug, sometimes called “tufted rugs.” These are different than the higher-quality “hand-knotted” wool rug. A hand-knotted rug benefits from a vigorous cleaning, where the rug is removed from the home, flipped over and beaten to get the dirt out.
A hand-knotted rug can also be submerged in water to soak a stain out, Tagavi says, and be better for it. That’s not the case with a lower-quality tufted rug, which can start to break apart after wear.
In between professional cleanings, Mahfuz recommends using cold water to dilute stains and a good shop vac to extract the stain—not blotting.
Featherston remembers another technique that extended the life of rugs in past generations. “There used to be winter rugs and summer rugs,” he says. “Each were used half the year and then taken outside for a good cleaning.”
When you’re looking for a new rug, here are a few tips from the experts.
• Start early. “It’s a lot easier to fall in love with a rug and make the room fit that rug than it is to design a room and try to find a rug that you love that fits,” says Barry Featherston, the gallery manager of Peter Pap Oriental Rugs, Inc. showroom in Dublin. Once a room is finished and a customer’s vision for a rug is specific, it’s challenging to meet that vision. Beginning the rug-buying process earlier in the design development means there’s a wide variety of options.
• Bring pictures. Visual examples of fabrics or colors that are also used in the room offer a stronger view of the space. “Pictures really help me identify what it is that a customer is looking for,” says Jeff Arcari, buyer/owner of Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting in Salem, Massachusetts. “Sometimes customers aren’t drawn to a particular color or design that they originally thought they were looking for, and seeing the room where the rug will be going helps me suggest other options.”
• Know where the rug is going. “The biggest misconception we see,” says Fouad Mahfuz, owner and vice president of PRG in Nashua, “is that an inexpensive rug should go with a high-traffic area.” Instead, he suggests investing in a rug that can withstand daily use and still look good in fifteen years.
• Be patient. Customers rarely benefit from buying a rug the first day they start shopping for one. With so many designs, available materials and differing levels of craftsmanship, it takes time to learn about the products. “If budget allows for a high-quality rug, you’re going to have it for a long time,” says Andrew Tagavi, founder and owner of Seacoast Rug and Home in North Hampton. “And if your budget is lower, that’s quite all right. My goal is education—I want my customers to make an informed choice.”