Forty years ago I bought three short runner rugs up in the hills in Turkey.
They were not expensive, but I was told they were hand knotted, and that hand knotted rugs would last for 300 years.
These rugs are still in great order, despite being trampled on by all and sundry over the years.
Our editor, Martin, sent me out last month to check out three rug shops in our readers' area. They were all incredibly interesting shops - very different from each other.
First port of call was Designer Rugs in Grosvenor Street, Grey Lynn. What a lovely venue! Beautiful rugs are laid out in a stunning, high -stud old factory. Business owner, Laura Furey, an impressive and friendly woman, and long time interior designer, explained the layout.
There is lovely furniture sitting atop floor rugs, a designer kitchen (by DBJ Design & Gaggenau) from whence came my coffee (thank you Angela), racks of wine from Clark Estate (pesticide free), Calypso infrared heating and more.
Laura and her team have a collaboration with some iconic New Zealanders, who have designed some carpets especially for Designer Rugs. These include Dick Frizzell, Kate Sylvester, Max Gimlett and also with a range of new New Zealand Designers coming through shortly. Although some designs can be pricey, these are stunning rugs that would do any home or commercial building proud.
Laura is an interior designer by trade, and began her association with Designer Rugs of Australia as New Zealand manager, before acquiring the New Zealand distribution rights three years ago. Rugs have replaced walls, defining where rooms once were but still allowing an open flow between areas, Laura explained.
They specialise in 100% New Zealand wool, hand-tufted rugs but they are not made locally due to their specialised design intricacy. The traditional hand-knotted rugs are produced in Nepal with Tibetan wool due to their dying techniques. Their quality is amazing.
Most Westfield malls in Australia and New Zealand use Designer Rugs. They get battered by thousands of feet for several years and then replaced.
Readers should have a look at their building at 1 Grosvenor Street, even if you think you are not in the market for a rug. The whole layout of the building is inspiring, and Laura Furey must be congratulated for her foresight and skill.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Rugs Direct in Carlton Gore Road too, but it is entirely different to Designer Rugs. I met Farah Farahani, the managing director, a charming and vivacious Iranian. Farah’s showroom is jam packed with rugs, including oriental rugs, mainly Persian. She does carry other Asian rugs, but not from China. Rugs Direct also imports a large number of modern and machine-made rugs.
Each year Farah attends a huge rug fair in Germany. She has built up good relationships with some buyers at the fair. Farah stressed the absolute importance of fair pricing, and making sure customers understand exactly what they are buying. Her motto is 'price it low, and watch it go,' she told me. She explains, painstakingly, the difference between tufted rugs and hand-knotted ones. Hand-knotted are the ones that will last 300 years, she says, and hold or increase in value. The secret is to look at the underside of a rug, and you can see the knots if it is genuinely hand knotted.
Farah likes her customers to take their chosen rug home, at least overnight, so they can see it in the setting where it will live when they have bought it. "They must love it," she tells me.
Farah Farahani is regularly called on to value rugs, and is very sad when she has to tell customers that their rug is not what it was purported to be. Usually this is tufted rather than hand knotted. The price difference can be thousands of dollars. All Rug Direct’s stock is on the floor. They do not sell before importing. Farah calls herself New Zealand’s biggest rug queen.
My third rug experience was very different again. I visited Ivy House Rugs in Jervois Road, Herne Bay. They are also in Parnell. Ivy House has a collaboration with Armadillo and Co of Australia to distribute their rugs in New Zealand.
Armadillo was set up by Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst. Sally was originally from Zimbabwe but now lives in the Adelaide Hills while Australian Jodie now lives in Los Angeles. They have built up a great relationship with traditional textile weavers and artisans in Northern India who make all their rugs.
Their goal is to sustain and elevate these age-old methods through a contemporary design process. All their products are hand made using fairtrade practices with natural and sustainable fibres. All purchases benefit local Indian schools in the weavers’ villages.
Armadillo’s rugs are very beautiful, with lovely designs, muted colours and are reasonably priced. They can be custom made, too. The motto of Armadillo is "Our rugs lie lightly on this earth."
Three excellent local businesses well worth a visit. (JOHN ELLIOTT)