Lofty’s Stress-Free Guide to Buying a Rug that Will be Beautiful Forever

IMG_3408

Lynn Starkey owns Stewart-Zacks, a popular home goods shop and interior design firm with a particular emphasis on rugs and textiles located in Traverse City, Michigan, a small community on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lynn’s shop stocks comfortable home decor with the community’s high concentration of summer homes in mind, including rugs and textiles she sources from Iceland and the Middle East. Here, she shares advice for buying the perfect rug, a significant investment that can be a stressful purchase!

Over the years, Lynn has worked with a broad range of clientele, including television personalities, government officials, and automotive executives. She says, “people are all very similar when they are talking about furnishing their home. They are worried about their choices.” To alleviate the stress of making these types of decisions, Lynn suggests that the most important thing to consider when selecting a rug is to truly love the color and pattern, because “you will use it forever, so you should try to avoid design trends that will not endure time.” Also, “make sure there are small, subtle colors within the patterns that you can pull out with your accessories.” Like a great work of art, a beautiful rug is an investment that you will use and enjoy for the rest of your life. What is “hot” at the current moment might not fit your personal taste, and that is okay!

Lynn’s interior design philosophy is simple. When working with a client, her goal is to “help our clients ‘place the space’ – the home tells us what design it needs, not the reverse. That’s the idea of our designs: respect the structure, please the client, and have fun,” she explained. Although, “every new design project excites me, I do have a favorite – a summer home built around 1930 located in the Crystal Downs Country Club” in nearby Frankfort, Michigan. The home is remarkable because it was built with the unique amenities of electricity and plumbing – uncommon for vacation homes from this era in the region.

Traverse City is a popular second home destination because of its proximity to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, voted “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America viewers in 2011. Most of Lynn’s clients are furnishing homes in the area, but people often call when they return home and order something they saw in the store on vacation.

 

IMG_0097 (1) Traverse City, Michigan

 

When Lynn selects rugs for her own home, she says she approaches the process the same way that she would choose art for her walls. “Any area rug can cover the floor. I want a statement of the Old World rug craft: hand-knotted, and one-of-a-kind, where the artisan pulled the yarns in his own choices. One-of-a-kind sizes can be a little quirky (this is a good thing), because they are bound off of the loom by hand, and not made by a machine,” showcasing the hand of skilled artisans who produced these labor-intensive pieces of artwork for the floor.

When produced in the Middle East, these handmade Old World rugs “will often have a visible symbol, like a signature, woven into the rug that identifies the tribe,” said Lynn. This signature is usually enclosed inside of a cartouche. In some communities, “the tribe members all work on the rug at various times, and these rugs often take up to a year to complete.” When completed, the proceeds from the sale of this magnificent rug is traditionally the income for the community.

This Persian Nain rug for sale on Lofty is an example of a rug that is signed inside of a cartouche by a weaver.

When considering the price of a rug made by tribal or local artisans, Lynn warns buyers to “never overlook the fact that rug production is the weaver’s livelihood, and you are paying for their skill,” and your purchase helps keep these communities and traditions alive. Each rug-producing country has different regions that traditionally produce a unique style. For her shop, Lynn sources rugs from the Middle East and Iceland.

When working with dealers in the Middle East, Lynn says that she gets “laughed at because I can’t get color out of my head. Current American color trends are not always available in a traditional rug design.” Trends change, but traditional designs and colors will endure time, so they generally make a better investment.

 

IMG_3425 (2)

This Persian Kashan Hunting Rug is an example of a timeless design that has survived at least 400 years. Thanks to a signed and dated Kashan hunting carpet that is currently part of a collection on display in Milan, Italy, scholars know that the hunting style, depicting an elite sport of hunting and featuring mounted huntsmen and archers set against a lush forested background, has survived since at least the mid-16th century. The origins of this style can be traced to Safavid leaders located in Persia and Mughal in sub-continental India. “The coloring and hunting motif will work with a range of design projects, and the rug will also function as an excellent investment,” explained Lynn.

Lynn also loves this traditional style Lillihan Rug from the Hamadan District, Northwest Persia on Lofty. “Multiple colors within a red field make this a versatile yet traditional pattern for decor,” she says. The use of a “Bull’s eye” central roundel is a distinctive characteristic of rugs produced by this community of weavers.

More loosely woven wool rugs are popular with many of Lynn’s clients in Traverse City for their second homes because their look is not as formal as, say, an Oriental rug with a high knot count and intricate design. For her home, “wool fiber is always my choice,” she said.

Rugs made from the wool of sheep in colder climates, such as Iceland, especially as you go up in the mountains, are different from that of sheep in warmer climates because the sheep in cold weather have undercoats, “the densest, softest wool available,” she explained. The rugs Lynn sources from Iceland are made with this type of wool. They have a more relaxed look and usually a lower knot count than an Oriental or Middle Eastern rug.

An added benefit of a wool rug made from sheep’s shearings, especially for a client furnishing a beach house, is that the material contains a high concentration of lanolin, a sebaceous substance that “sheep naturally produce to repel rain and water, helping the sheep keep their coats dry in rainfall,” Lynn explained. This naturally occurring substance keeps the fibers in the rugs from absorbing spilled liquids without the addition of chemicals, meaning that these rugs are naturally resistant to spills – a valuable quality when furnishing a second home, especially for a client who wants to avoid potentially toxic chemical treatments to safeguard their investment.

 

Lynn

Lynn also suggests wool rugs for her clients because she likes how durable the fibers are. “Wool is a good fiber choice because it stretches rather than breaks,” adding years to the life of a rug placed in a high-traffic area or a carefree second home. Many people do not know that the term “wool” is not limited to shearings from sheep – the material “can also be made from shearings from other animals including alpacas, llamas, and goats.”

This Moroccan Beni Ourain rug on Lofty is made of wool. “Neutral coloring and primitive designs in this wide, long runner make this excellent for a relaxed home,” says Lynn.

Through her years of experience in the textile trade, Lynn has learned that wool-producing animals in the mountainous areas of the world are cared for humanely, and shearing, or trimming the animals’ coats, is a necessary component of the animal’s care. Giving these animals a haircut is a humane process, and consumers can feel good about supporting this industry! If environmentally friendly, durable materials are essential to the customer, she also suggests “cotton, jute, sea grass or flax, which are all grown naturally.” Most artisans also use vegetable dyes to color their fibers, a tradition that “dates back to the very beginning,” of traditional rug production.

A vegetable dyed wool rug currently for sale on Lofty is this brightly colored and intricately woven Persian wool “tree of life” rug. The small size provides the option to display the rug on the wall like a painting, or it can fit nicely on the floor in a variety of room sizes.

 

IMG_3448 (3)

According to Lynn, a high-quality wool rug does not have to break the bank. Sometimes, the reason one rug is more expensive than another is that the fibers in the more expensive rug have been “combed and combed to rid the excess wool, so the rug does not shed. A less expensive rug will shed for up to and beyond a year. This doesn’t always mean the wool is not good; it means you didn’t pay for the pre-sale care the expensive ones are given.” Buying a wool rug secondhand can be a good option for a more budget-conscious client; this way, the buyer can bypass the shedding process and still enjoy a beautiful rug at an affordable price.

Silk is another rug material that is more delicate and often used for very high-end Oriental rugs. Lynn explained, “these rugs are usually made of silk, or silk and fine wool, and are commonly valued using the measurement ‘knots per square inch,’ or KPSI. When you look at the back of a high KPSI rug, the weave is amazingly small.” Lofty’s Specialists always request a close-up image of the reverse of a rug with a quarter on the surface in order to complete an evaluation, because the quarter serves as a measurement of scale for the size of the knots.

An example of a high KPSI silk rug on Lofty is this Ghom Silk Rug decorated with flowering plants and vines. Look at the image of the reverse emphasizing the dazzling tiny knots that make up this design!

The right rug will be a source of comfort and joy for many years. Hopefully, this article has helped alleviate the stress of making this investment! You can see all the rugs for sale on Lofty here. For help selecting the perfect rug for your home and lifestyle, contact a Lofty specialist at support@lofty.com. For more information about Stewart-Zacks, Lynn Starkey can be reached at info@stewartzacks.com.