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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

When a rug is actually a rug….

by Jerry Silverman

After 119 Salons and countless Show and Tells, it’s about time we address the 600-pound gorilla that has so far been almost completely ignored: How do we use these textiles in our homes?

It seems to me that there are only four ways to deal with our collections.  Turn our homes into museums with pieces mounted on the walls.  Stash them in closets, chests, and under the beds.  Put them to their intended use as rugs, wall hangings, pillows, table covers.  Or some combination of these.

The purpose of this Salon is to survey how we Turkotekies actually live with our rugs.  While some of you may be reticent to display the interior of your homes on the Internet, I hope enough of you will participate to make this both a diverting and informative exercise. 

Among the questions I’d like to explore are:
1. What are our attitudes toward placing rare rugs in locations where they will receive wear?
2. Do the colors and patterns of oriental rugs and textiles make it difficult to use them to decorate a room?
3. Is too much ever too much?
4. Do your friends and neighbors think that you’re nuts?  (…with regard to your use of rugs – not for other possible reasons)

Here’s what my wife and I have done. We have a three bedroom condominium in downtown Chicago, about 2,100 square feet, not especially large by suburban single-family standards.  When we bought it in 1980, we were confronted with a living room, dining room, and entryway with vintage -1910 oak strip flooring.  That is what got us started looking at floor coverings.  For about a year we weren’t able to decide.  Then I got a new marketing client, an oriental rug dealer (CaravansAwry).  In the course of learning about their business I necessarily started learning about rugs, too.  Over the next couple years I found a few things from their inventory that I thought would work in our home.  One thing led to another as they will when one gets interested in a subject and the result is the home you see pictured below.

Notice that the main rug is a Caucasian soumak, about 7’ x 10’ – old and unusual.  It has been on the floor for about 20 years and is getting pretty worn in some places.  I suppose this answers the qauestion about how I feel about “using up” a rare rug.  The colors which run toward traditional reds and blues guided me on the selection of the reddish chenille fabric for the sofa and the blue leather for the club chairs.  Finding the “right” red was more difficult than I thought it would be.  As for our friends and neighbors, while they may think us nuts, the comment they invariably make after sitting in the room for a few minutes is, “What a comfortable home you have.” 

The dining room has a mid-20th century Ersari/Afghan main rug under the table.  The choice of color and relative thickness has withstood wear and stains very, very well – so far.

The hallway to Jean’s office and the bedrooms has a couple mid-20th century (or later) soumak runners and a mirror framed with pieces from a Turkish kilim.

We’ve recently converted the kid’s room to an office for Jean.  She’s using an 18th century red-painted pine chair table for her desk.  There’s an early 19th century red-painted pine pierced  tin pie safe and a similar period blanket chest in the room as well. 

My bedroom has a couple huge Afghan Labijar kilims – one used as a canopy over my bed and the other as a curtain to cover the french doors to the balconies.

Our condo is what’s referred to as a “duplex” with a lower level that I’ve used as an office for the last 27 years.  My office is accessed by an iron spiral staircase.  There are some Shahsavan mafrash pieces at the top of the stairwell.

I hesitated to take a picture of my office as it is by far the messiest room.  What you see here doesn’t show the piles of stuff that were moved out of the shot.  The sofa is covered with an Uzbek (?) jajim.  There’s a newish (ca. 1980) Afghan silk and karakul wool rug on the floor.  A 19th century Shahsavan mafrash covers a table at the front of my desk. 

I can go into more detail about the various rugs and bags visible in the photos if you have any questions.

In summary, I think it’s pretty clear that Jean and I have decided to incorporate our rugs into our daily lives.  We try to be reasonably careful with them.  We rarely serve red wine, for instance; and we don’t currently have any pets, although we did have a couple declawed cats for about 15 years.  There’s a lot more stuff that I decided just wouldn’t make very good pictures – some 19th century Indian dhurries, an old ammunition crate stuffed with Shahsavan slit-weave mafrash panels, and a whole bunch of pillows.

Now I’ve shown you mine.  Will you show me yours?



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